Entrepreneur Spotlight: Kerry Humphrey

OWNER OF STICKY DRIP WAFFLES

“I needed someone to believe in me when I didn’t believe in myself.”

Kerry Humphrey has discovered the power of second chances. Her successful Denver area business, Pearl Street Lights, is a testament to that. She’s found both a livelihood and a community of love and support. With this opportunity, she’s also realized she’s worth more than she ever knew.

Long ago, she had a plan for her life. That plan did not include going to jail, but shortly after graduating from college, her life took a turn for the worse and that’s exactly where she found herself. That time was awful, dark, and something Kerry would never wish on anyone, but looking back, it transformed her life. It helped her become who she is today: a successful businesswoman whose goal is to give back to the community, particularly community members who’ve formerly been incarcerated or homeless and are eager for their own second chances.

After completing her jail sentence, Kerry was assigned 2,000 hours of community service, which she completed at a Denver shelter for women experiencing homelessness. The shelter hired her for a resident advisor position, where she worked the night shift. The job was fulfilling, but she longed to express herself artistically. 

During the day, Kerry began visiting drop-off recycling bins and bars to ask for all their empty beer bottles. Once a week, she would gather together the bottles, carry the recycling up three floors to her apartment, scrub their labels off, and take them to a studio, where she would cut their bases off and create bottle lanterns. Looking back, Kerry can see why she gravitated toward empty bottles: they were something people threw out but that with a little care, could shine.

In 2014, Kerry’s friend asked her if she could cut the top off a beer bottle and make a candle instead of a lantern. Pearl Street Lights was born. Kerry researched and experimented with flame-polishing cut bottles. She laughs when thinking about it, describing her experimentation with hundreds of bottles, with a few explosions in the process. 

The symbolism of taking something that was going to be thrown out and making it into something beautiful is not lost on Kerry. She remembers joining Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute (RMMFI) for Business Launch Boot Camp classes but keeping her incarceration a secret. Toward the end of the boot camp, she shared her history – expecting to be tossed out and looked down upon. Instead, the RMMFI community – entrepreneurs and RMMFI staff – received her with love and support. 

Just as her boot camp classmates supported her, Kerry wanted to help others in the community as her business grew. In 2014, Kerry’s revenue was $97. In 2015, it was $1,000. In 2018, she increased her revenue to over $100,000. While her revenue is impressive, Kerry insists that Pearl Street Lights belongs to more people than just her. In 2017, Kerry started collaborating with Mile High Workshop, an organization that provides support, job training, and ongoing development for those with the highest barriers to employment in the Denver area. 

When asked to reflect on her personal and business stories, Kerry says her favorite thing is feeling free and worthy of positive things. She would like to tell other entrepreneurs that they are worth every ounce of work they put into their business – and that people really do want to help, especially the staff and volunteers of RMMFI, and even though it’s difficult sometimes, they should let themselves receive help. 

Kerry communicates monthly with an RMMFI mentor for help realizing more of her potential and building a business plan. Her goal is to leverage the 2019 holiday season on her journey to transforming Pearl Street Lights into a national, million-dollar company.

Find Pearl Street Lights online and in shops around Denver.