CBS4 and the Denver Business Journal are teaming up to profile companies that are “Making Their Mark” in Colorado communities.
DENVER (CBS4) – Small business is booming at Denver International Airport with the success from some entrepreneurs. They’re serving a customer base of 53 million passengers.
“This is a lot … it’s life changing … it’s my dream coming true,” Muluye Hailemariam said.
From a jewelry kiosk at DIA to her very own store front, Hailemariam will be selling a very popular pretzel, but she’s not the only one who is proud.
“All of my brothers and sisters, they are proud of me, and I have a very good husband. He is my supporter,” she said.
“She’s going to partner up with Concessions International, a concessionaire that’s been at DIA for quite some time. They operate in airports across the country. They’re going to partner up together and open Wetzel’s Pretzels,” said Leah Older, acting director of operations and analysis at DIA.
Older says after a year of running a kiosk, Hailemariam is taking the next big step.
(I’m) just dreaming big all the time. When I was young I (was) just dreaming to be a successful businesswoman. When I see my dream coming true it makes me very excited,” Hailemariam said.
Hailemariam is one of the few minority business owners who is graduating from a kiosk to that next big step.
“Mulu started with the RMU program, the retail merchandising unit here at DIA. It’s a cart and kiosk program intended to allow small businesses an entry point into the airport without having to go through the competitive bid process,” Older said.
“Several years ago we started the process of allowing small business entrepreneurs to open up kiosks and carts at DIA, basically,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said. “It’s a way to get small business people into DIA in a very real way without a great deal of expense. So we’ve had some successes and as we begin to let out some of the bids were seeing some of these entrepreneurs step up.”
Hancock says the cost has served as a major barrier for small businesses.
“It’s very competitive, but it’s also very expensive,” Hancock said.
Even with all those barriers, Hailemariam wants to see other women in the disadvantaged minority owned businesses have success at DIA.
“Don’t give up, just work hard,” she said. “Continue dreaming.”