Dr. Sarah Villafranco risked leaving her profession as an emergency room doctor to start her own company, Osmia Organics. Courtesy photo

By Alicia Lowe
Special to The Sopris Sun 

Editor’s note: Glenwood Springs High School senior Alicia Lowe produced a series of interview with local entrepreneurs for her capstone project. You can find audio versions of the following interview by searching for the podcast “When You Grow Up” online. 

Risk-taking with Dr. Sarah Villafranco
Risk-taking is one of the most important skills for aspiring entrepreneurs to learn. Dr. Sarah Villafranco, the founder of Osmia Organics, a natural skin care company, models risk-taking in her journey from medicine to wellness.

Dr. Villafranco was once an emergency room doctor, but after almost ten years of practice in the medical industry, she felt that the system of Western medicine is broken. 

Doubt about her career threw her into thinking about things differently. Not long after, she took a class making soap and came to a realization. This is what she wanted to do with her life. You may be thinking, soap? Huh? That’s what she wanted to do with her life? Yes. But it was so much more than that. 

Osmia is not just a soap-making company. It’s its own brand of medicine that motivates people to engage in their wellness through skin health and sensory experience. 

“My dream was to heal the world, one bar of soap at a time,” Dr. Villafranco said. She realized she didn’t have to give up medicine to pursue her new dream. She could create a company that inspired healthier habits. 

So she decided to take the scary leap, from the medical industry to the creation of her own business. In doing so, she modeled one of the most important qualities in entrepreneurship: risk-taking. 

When asked if she had any regrets when making the transition between medicine and wellness, Dr. Villafranco said that she had moments when she asked herself what she was doing, but when she thought about what she missed about medicine, it was connected to ego. Being a doctor gave her a sense of importance, strength and capability. When she distilled it down, she realized she was actually doing more good in people’s daily lives through Osmia than she was able to do from the emergency room.

Dr. Villafranco said that learning to trust her instinct as an entrepreneur was one of the biggest learning curves for her, saying “Your instinct is leading you in the right direction.” 

Instinct and passion go hand-in-hand. Every time she gets a note from someone who has had real success with Osmia products, she feels as though all her hard work has truly paid off. 

“Whether it is a beautiful young girl who says our products helped her acne, or a person who has had a case of dermatitis that has kept them homebound months on end because they’re embarrassed, and then they make lifestyle changes and start using our products and see their skin really transform, and they’re able to go out and put their face forward in the world. Those moments make everything worth it.” 

When asked what advice she would give to young people who are looking to become entrepreneurs, Dr. Villafranco said, “Never underestimate the level of hustle required to start your own business.” Her story teaches many valuable lessons. Personal growth can often be peppered with doubt, but working to make a difference will all be worth it in the end. 

Successful entrepreneurs know that sometimes it’s important to take risks. You’ll need to be willing to take a few risks to succeed. So dream big, take risks and trust your instincts!

Knowing how to network with Emma Price
Emma Price, an intern for Ascendigo Autism Services, demonstrates the importance of knowing how to network through her work with a nonprofit in the Roaring Fork Valley. Ascendigo began in 2004 to give equal opportunities to autistic individuals who wanted to participate in sports. 

When asked what trial she faced during her work with Ascendigo, Price said, “I’m a senior in high school, so all my experience with professional communication has been very limited.” Prior to her volunteer work, she had only worked entry-level jobs. 

Helping to organize the Fall Fest fundraising event with the director of development, Julie Kaufman, taught her how to communicate with not only patrons, but also donors. “Working with my community in a way that positively reflects Ascendigo has been a learning curve for me because I’ve never had to do something like that before.” 

Price has always had a passion for helping others, but initially had no idea what the charity and nonprofit world looked like. Going into her internship, she’d only had fundraising experience for her high school golf and swim team. Realizing how humanitarianism sparked her interests made her want to strive to go into a career working with nonprofits. “Working with Ascendigo has been a great experience because I love seeing the connection Ascendigo has with the community.” Building connections is the heart of networking in entrepreneurship.

Ascendigo has been able to make a difference on both the local and global level by changing thoughts around what it means to have autism. This nonprofit has allowed people to realize that having autism does not mean you have to live a less satisfactory life. You can still have incredible experiences, whilst shattering expectations. Ascendigo’s mission is to provide the resources, opportunities and experiences for autistic people to live a life free of boundaries.

Asked what the Fall Fest fundraising event was all about, Price said that it was a chance for the charity to connect back to their roots. Ascendigo has always been based in Carbondale, and so Fall Fest was a way to remind the community that they appreciate all their support through the nonprofit’s ups and downs. Ascendigo can’t do what it does for autistic people without the support of the Roaring Fork community. “It is so important for local charities like Ascendigo to maintain their community connections and, of course, any donations that are brought in go toward making the autistic world a more equal place.”

Price’s nonprofit internship journey sheds light on the importance of networking in entrepreneurship. Being able to connect with others and recognize networking opportunities can take you a long way. So find your passion, build those connections and pursue your dream career!

Emma Price joined Ascendigo Autism Services
as an intern to network within the local
nonprofit industry. Courtesy Photo

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