Working It 2

You already know who runs the world. Here, seven local ladies that are taking care of business.

We were able to learn a little about what inspired them to begin their businesses, what  they love most about their work, and what keeps them fighting when things get tough. Whether you’re thinking about starting your own business or looking for inspiration to continue in your current career, these women’s stories may be the boost you’re seeking.

Rebecca Thomas | Valor Christian High School

Rebecca Thomas serves as Academic Dean at Valor Christian High School, an elite Christian high school founded in 2007. Thomas began her teaching career at Orange Lutheran High School in California, where she taught a variety of math classes. In 2007, she was chosen for the Outstanding Christian Educator Award. With that recognition, she had the opportunity to move to Denver and be a part of Valor Christian High School’s opening year. The school began with a very small student body, but the population has quickly grown, a process that Thomas has found extremely rewarding. At the end of her first year at Valor, Thomas was awarded Valor’s Excellence in Teaching award. Her career subsequently transformed from full-­time math teacher to Math Department Chair, and finally to Academic Dean. Thomas hopes to serve as Academic Dean of Valor for the foreseeable future and to use her current leadership position to have a positive impact on the student body. “There is no greater purpose for a school than equipping students to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in our world,” Thomas says. She hopes to continue to help Valor students succeed academically, athletically, creatively, and most importantly, spiritually, for a long time to come.

Wendy Tong | Wendy’s Team

Wendy Tong, an internal medicine physician, U.S. Air Force veteran and Georgetown University graduate, recently started her own company to provide household care for elderly people. The company goes by the name Wendy’s Team and is just that: a team of people personally trained by Tong, dedicated to providing senior citizens with quality care services including running errands, transportation, companionship, housework, and quick check-­ins. When Tong began doing home visits as a medical student, she realized how much the pressure of taking care of a loved one can affect a caretaker’s life. A desire to provide some relief to caretakers was a large part of Tong’s motivation in creating Wendy’s Team. Tong’s experience as a U.S. Veteran also helped to inspire the company. After seeing many veterans who had been led to believe they would receive more medical benefits than were actually available, Tong wanted to create a company to improve this situation. As for advice to others who are inspired to create change, Tong says, “Find something you have passion about and truly believe in. Solve a problem that’s real.”

“Find something you have passion about and truly believe in.”

Danna Tullis | The Creative Edge & Colorado Event Design

Danna Tullis has been working as a creative professional in a multitude of ways throughout her career. Today she manages The Creative Edge, a program that offers art classes to people of all ages and operates on the premise that “drawing and painting are personal skills that can be learned.” About a year ago, Tullis expanded The Creative Edge to include two additional branches: The Creative’s Best Friend and Creative’s Profit Studio. Through both of these branches, Tullis conducts workshops around Denver to provide practical advice and inspiration to those looking to turn their passions into profit. Last but not least, Tullis owns Colorado Event Design with her husband and is in her 8th year of producing fine art and music festivals all around Colorado. When asked how she ended up where she is today, Tullis credits many influences, including her high school art teacher, parents, children, husband, best friends, a professional mentor, and, above all else, faith in God. Her advice on starting a new business? “Focus on what you want to do, look for inspiration and be prepared to act on it.” Obviously a motto Tullis has successfully lived out.

“Look for inspiration and be prepared to act on it.”

Maureen and Devin Lake | Trendy Pet

Maureen and Devin Lake are a mother/daughter duo who co-­own Trendy Pet, a company that designs and sells sleek, modern raised feeding bowls ideal for aging pets, pets with injuries, and large breeds. Maureen and Devin share a passion for pet health and greatly enjoy working together as business partners. Devin, a former veterinary technician, operates as the CFO of the company while Maureen, a retired special education teacher, manages their social media platforms, blog (Rosa Doodle), and marketing. The duo’s joint passion for animals runs deep. A lifelong dog­ owner and lover, Devin knew as a little girl that she wanted to work with animals. As an adult, she worked as a certified veterinarian for years but eventually felt that pursuing another avenue of animal health would be a better fit. Maureen also had fallen in love with animals at a young age and was ready for a career change around the same time Devin was looking for an alternative to her vet practice. It just seemed to make sense for them to team up and work together. When asked who has been an essential part of their support system in becoming business owners, they both separately answered that the other one was their most important supporter.

Denise Barnwell | Sotheby’s Real Estate

Denise Barnwell and her husband, Tom, operate as a realtor duo through LIV Sotheby’s International Realty. Barnwell graduated college with a degree in interior design and immediately moved to New York City and later Los Angeles to get quality experience in the field. After meeting Tom and having two children together, Denise and Tom moved back to Colorado. In order to stay home with her young children, Barnwell ran her own small design business from home. Once her children were both school aged, Barnwell decided to join her husband in the real estate business. Barnwell uses her interior design experience to prepare for photo shoots with attractive furnishings and artwork, as well as to create successful ads and print marketing. Barnwell considers the most important part of her job to be taking the time to listen to her clients so she can get to the heart of what they are looking for. “Residential real estate is a very emotional business, and it takes good communication to keep clients happy. Listening to each client’s goals and figuring out how each individual prefers to communicate is so helpful in keeping transactions moving smoothly.” She intends to continue helping people find the home they are looking for for the remainder of her career.

Karmen Berentsen | A Line Boutique

Entrepreneur Karmen Berentsen sold her first company in the tech industry in 2007. An avid fashion collector, one of her prized possessions is a bracelet owned by Audrey Hepburn. When Karmen heard A Line Boutique was closing its doors in 2012, she leapt at the opportunity to transform her passion into a career. A Line has experienced a sustained growth of over 600% in the past three years. Karmen credits her unique hyper-customer focused experiential business model. She says her family is her biggest support system and her best inspiration. “There is nothing more grounding than modeling for my daughter how to be ambitious, yet balanced,” says Karmen. Her words of wisdom: “Create experiences, not merely manufacture or sell a good product or service, but truly enhance lives. Learn to say ‘no’ to the good – to do the great. It’s easy to do the urgent and hard to do the important.”