Updated: Apr 3, 2019
On May 6, 1998, Danielle Harshman walked out of the Colorado Secretary of State’s office back to her red 1991 Geo Storm frustrated, tired, but determined. She was starting her own business and needed a name. She attempted to register three that day, only to find them already taken. She looked down and noticed an empty Gatorade bottle sitting in her car console. Danielle gathered up her papers, grabbed her checkbook, marched back inside, and successfully registered her new company that afternoon.
And that is how Colorado’s very own Gator Graphics got its name.
— Click to enlarge —
Friends call her Dani.
A dedicated, talented and extremely hard-working person her entire life, Dani came to realize she was never going to get ahead working for someone else. One day in 1997 her paycheck bounced and in that moment Dani reevaluated where she was — and where she was going. Dani saw two roads ahead and made a choice. She decided not to go to back to college, and instead started her own business.
Today, her company thrives and provides a wide range of professional printing products and services including graphic design, custom signs, digital printing, screen printed apparel, storefronts and banners. Gator Graphics even does vehicle graphics (the ones you see on MoveMasters’ fleet), but apparently that's not enough.
Dani teamed up with Kendra Jeronimus, owner operator of Foothills Stone Supply to add real Colorado stone sandblasted signs to the quiver. Kendra's business supplies boulder and flagstone to contractors across the state and creates and sells rock furniture and art too. They call their joint venture in sand-blasted signs, "On the Rock."
Starting a small business is tough … and rewarding. A few weeks ago I visited Dani and Kendra hard at work at Foothill Stone Supply's yard to ask a few questions and learn from their experiences in business ownership.
How is owning your own business different than being employed by someone else?
DH: “Everything is riding on your decisions and your work ethic. It’s a huge responsibility. But I do things on my terms and love the challenge of continual learning. Best of all I get to bring my dogs Alice and Penny along, and work alongside my favorite person in the world.”
DH: “Jim! My business partner and significant other. When Jim and I met in 2000, business totally accelerated because of the unique skills he brought to the table. It was a perfect match. Together, we are Gator Graphics. If we didn’t work together we would never see each other because of the long hours it takes to run a business!"
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Dani credits her parents and friends for her business success. "My mom and dad instilled in me a hard work ethic from a young age growing up in Indiana. They let me start my own fence post painting company which led to a lawn mowing company. In between jobs I sold bait for fishing. As a teenager I branched into car detailing. Friends were key too. Their faith in me convinced me that I could do it.”
Advice for people starting their own business?
DH: “Surround yourself with hard-working people and learn as much as you can about other businesses. Also, manage your time and don’t be too hard on yourself. You can’t please everyone! The worst advice I ever got was that you need to borrow money to get started – you don’t! You just have to dig in, make sacrifices, and work hard.”
KJ: “I would tell people to start small with low expectations. Also to build on success while learning from failure. Starting and pulling through a business is a process.”
— Stand back ... Dani's sandblasting! —
Kendra and Dani both believe that success is achieved by being proud of — and happy in! — what you do for a living. Gator Graphics and Foothill Stone Supply have certainly earned my business for years to come. Check them out soon. I bet they earn yours too.
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Michelle Schwinghammer is a REALTOR®, Notary Public, and Certified Negotiation Expert® who encourages buyers and sellers to envision, plan, and create the future they want; supports local businesses, artists, and organizations that improve lives in Colorado; and provides real estate expertise and reliability to people navigating Colorado's residential real estate market. Learn more here. Referrals appreciated.
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