Special Series - Dynamic Duos: Denver Style Magazine
Dynamic Duos: Denver Style Magazine
Written by Lacey Spruce || Photos by Tara Polly Photography
Opposites don’t always attract, but when it comes to starting a successful business, sometimes the perfect blend of yin and yang is exactly what’s needed to get an idea off the ground. For Heather Okimoto and Kelsey Bigelow, that couldn’t be more true. Their complementary skill sets and their opposite styles have given them the exact combination they need to operate the next big thing in fashion, Denver Style Magazine. Read on to find out just what Denver Style Magazine is all about, great advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, and how you can get involved in the Denver fashion scene.
I want to start by asking the question I have asked everyone else, what do you think makes you a dynamic duo?
Heather: I think we both come to the table with a diverse background in a lot of different things, and we are out to change the scene with a common goal.
Kelsey: I feel like we both have the same goal, but we both have very particular skills that both of us are good at. And so she’s really good at doing some stuff and I’m really good at doing other stuff and it just works toward the common goal.
And what is that overall goal? How would you describe that?
Heather: I think overall, the big giant goal is to actually create a retail/beauty/fashion industry in Denver, to create jobs, create businesses, create headquarters, create a city that welcomes artists in those fields.
So when you think of Denver Style Magazine, it’s more than just a magazine, what would you say it really is? The heart of it?
Kelsey: The heart of it is a community. Everything that we do, whether it’s a workshop or the magazine or anything that we’re building or doing all comes back to building a community and helping the people that are already here, and bringing in new people that are living in Denver and bringing in visitors to the same community.
So for people who maybe this is their first time hearing about Denver Style Magazine, tell them a little bit about how you came up with the idea and how you got started.
Heather: Denver Style Magazine really came out of a need for an entire community. Kelsey and I both started as bloggers and saw that not only were we bloggers, but there was a whole community of bloggers, stylists, photographers, makeup artists, that kind of just needed a home to share their work, to find each other, to start collaborating together and putting their work somewhere. And we also knew of so many boutiques that a lot of our friends didn’t know about so we started sharing those through social media and behind those boutiques were store owners and those store owners are our neighbors and so Denver Style Magazine is really a community effort that’s a beauty, fashion, style resource for the whole city and beyond. When people come to Denver, we’re hoping that they can use our magazine and our website as a resource to find whatever they’re looking for whether they’re new to the city and wanting to get into the fashion scene or whether they’re just visiting and want to find a new boutique, we hope that we become that resource.
(outburst of laughter)
So, just so everyone can get to know you guys a little bit better, how would you describe your own personal style? Beauty and fashion.
Kelsey: I’m very minimalist. And comfort driven. I don’t like anything that’s over the top. I always want something that feels like pajamas but is not pajamas. That’s basically my style of dressing.
Heather: I want the most uncomfortable and complicated over the top thing to wear.
Kelsey: We’re the exact opposite.
Heather: I like all different types of style. The thing I love about fashion is that every day you can kind of change your personality through what you wear, and so I try to do that daily and when I wake up I kind of try to figure out what kind of personality I feel like having that day and dress toward that. That’s the fun of it. And you also get to create new outfits that way. You kind of challenge yourself to create something new. I love makeup. I would wear it every single day if I had the energy to do it. I started doing makeup for weddings when I was in high school and grew up just kind of surrounded by productions and plays and stuff so I was used to production makeup.
If you had to get rid of your whole wardrobe and you could only keep one thing that’s currently in there, what would it be?
Heather: I would keep my Seamly tie dye dress because it’s the most comfortable thing and you can tie it up to be shorter and it’s just flowy and comfortable, it dries easily and it looks flattering at all times of the month. And year.
Kelsey: I don’t think I have one piece that’s like the all-encompassing piece for me. I would probably be okay getting rid of everything and starting over. I mean I have pieces that are of importance to me, that I’ve kept since like high school graduation, but I don’t think there’s anything that I’m like “I can’t part with this ever.”
Heather: Good news, we work in the right industry to help you start a new wardrobe!
Denver Style Magazine hasn’t been around that long, but in this time you’ve experienced what seems like a lot of growth, what has been the most exciting part of that and the most challenging part of that?
Heather: I think the most exciting part, and I hope this never changes, Kelsey and I continue to talk about this, that we hope that we’re just still amazed every single time we do anything at just the response of people because it still amazes us and anytime we do a workshop or we host an event and more than her and I show up, it’s just amazing. And what’s even more amazing is to see the collaborations come together from this and see what other people have been able to do and how people have been able to meet. That’s what’s really the most exciting part of it. (To Kelsey) Do you think so?
Kelsey: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s really exciting how fast it’s growing in terms of community and that all sorts of people from stylists to bloggers to boutique owners are all sort of attached to this idea, which is really cool. Heather and I always talk about how this is not about us and it never started about us. We’re not trying to run the “Kelsey and Heather Show” and tell people what to wear and how to live their lives because that’s totally not what we’re trying to do, and so it’s just cool to see other people feel something about this idea too and want to propel it forward.
Heather: The most challenging is…It’s like with any business, you experience all kinds of emotions that you never thought you would because you go through situations that you don’t ever expect. There’s no training book that tells you that you’re going to go through these ups and downs and that you’re gonna go through all kinds of different things. And so we’re just figuring it out. I think the most challenging thing is the maintenance while still growing. We want to still grow, and we continue to grow, but there’s still maintenance that needs to happen. We had to sit back and realign when the magazine comes out because we didn’t realize when markets happen. We have to position it based on markets and when things would be available to use and be ready to shoot and be available to the rest of the city to purchase. So, there are just things you don’t realize when you start and that’s kind of the fun of it too. I think that’s why we also enjoy it because we don’t know what it brings and each day you have things to do but you don’t know how that day is gonna end up and you don’t know who’s gonna email you back, you don’t know who’s gonna say yes to you.
Kelsey: You don’t even know what you’re gonna ask for certain times. I think the most challenging thing is how many growing pains we’ve had in such a short period of time and that’s awesome because it means that there’s a need for us here and that’s really exciting for us. We want to be here. But there’s so many things that just popped up that we had no idea were coming and for a long time it was just Heather and me literally, that was the staff. And we brought in a great team of interns and they do amazing work and each of them has their own skill set that they are responsible for, whether it’s events or editorial or social media, they are all just doing their own thing and I think if we did not have them we’d be in a real world of trouble.
Heather: Well, we wouldn’t be able to grow as quickly and we wouldn’t be able to reach the community like we are able to right now and that’s the most important thing and we talk about that in our staff meetings every week is that we want to make sure that we are able to reach our community and that we are in touch with them. We want to know what they’re interested in and that we are giving them that.
Kelsey: At the very beginning of the year, we sat down this this huge board and all of these cards and we wrote down all of these goals, whether it was a goal for January or 3 months or 6 months and we just wrote all of them down, and I think the coolest thing to me is how many of those we’ve done but also how many of them we had no idea were coming. Things like workshops and the continued blogger meetings and all the kinds of stuff we had no idea was even a possibility 3 months ago and now it’s all happening, which is really fun but we have to figure out how to do it. The execution is the challenge.
What advice would you give to someone who has an idea for a business they want to start?
Kelsey: Start. We talk to a lot of business owners all the time and people get stuck on “I can’t start a business because I don’t have this” and really, you don’t need a lot of stuff to start a business. Both of us have started businesses with absolutely nothing. Like this magazine! We did not have financial backing, we did not have knowledge on how the magazine industry worked, we had great relationships with boutiques and things like that but there were certain points where we were googling what our job was. Like, “What does a magazine editor do?” “What does this look like?” Because we had no idea. And I think some people get hung up on all the stuff they don’t have but really if you have an idea and you have a passion for it and you’re willing to work hard, then you can make it happen. And all of that other stuff is gonna fall into place. If you’re willing to work and learn about it.
Heather: I also think about really getting out there and being part of a community and talking to other business owners and talking to other people that are out in the same community and not seeing each other as competition but rather as…you can help each other and you can be there for each other. We don’t have…there’s a lot of us creatives in the city that don’t have co-workers and so we use each other as co-workers and sounding boards to help with ideas and I think that’s really important- keeping in communication with other businesses that are out there and knowing what’s out there, too. It’s so important to know what else is going on not only in your industry, but similar industries. Not only to we take care of fashion, style, beauty, but we’re interested in photography and we want all of our followers to go out to restaurants, so what are those restaurants doing and keeping a handle on a lot of things. It can be overwhelming, but keeping a schedule is helpful and routine is your friend.
Kelsey: And be willing to say that you don’t know something. And know that you have the resources to find it. The internet is a great resource to find things that you don’t know, but being able to say, “I don’t know how this is going to work” or “I’m not really sure what each step looks like” but know that you can figure it out.
What does the future look like for Denver Style Magazine?
Heather: We are really excited to launch Boutiques by Bike, which is our neighborhood two wheel shopping tour and it’s going to be going into five of Denver’s neighborhoods and it’s a tour that takes you to 4-5 boutiques with a style guide that’s also a personal stylist, so they give you personal styling tips in each of the boutiques and then a concierge car comes behind you and picks up your bags returns them at the end. So, it’s a great way to discover new boutiques and shops and get to know the city a little bit more. Take things a little bit slower. We always see those neighborhoods that we pass by and you’re always like “I’ve always wanted to stop over there or see that shop and I need to stop in there” so this is your opportunity to do that. So, grab your friends and we can go on a tour.
Do you have to be athletic for that?
Heather: Absolutely not, no. There will be different levels of difficulty but also different price points depending on neighborhood.
Kelsey: Part of the goal is to bring visitors in and show them the unique personalities of Denver neighborhoods. Plus, it’s just fun to ride a bike around in Denver because it’s sunny and nice all the time!
Heather: We are also working on our second issue that is in the works and being finished. But that is the fun of it and it also is great because you know there is an end to this specific season, so just as soon as I’m done stressing over this, there’s gonna be another season that comes with its own challenges and that’s what I like. I like the change. What else for Denver Style Magazine? Lots of workshops and events!
Kelsey: There are also new features coming into the magazine this next issue too which is really exciting because the first issue was really a trial. We had no idea how any of it was going to go or what needed to be in it or what we should take out any of that kind of stuff and so we’ve added a lot of really cool new features that we’re really excited about.
Heather: And new contributors! Really great new contributors.
Stay in the know with the future of Denver Style Magazine and be the first to know about all fashion and style events in the city by visiting Denver Style Magazine online, liking them on Facebook, and following them on Instagram and Twitter.
Lacey Spruce is the creator of personal style blog My Boring Closet and a Denver Style Magazine contributor.