Stephanie Bryce and Krissy Borcher were sick of wearing jeans and sweatshirts to work. As two of the few equipment operators at Black Thunder Mine, they dressed to fit in with their mostly male colleagues. Inside, they missed feeling pretty and dressing up like girls.

A couple years ago, the two friends, who met at the mine more than a decade ago, decided to fill a perceived niche in the community by providing an online retail store. Using social media, they bought retail clothing in bulk and would sell it out of their homes. When their inventory outgrew their storage, they needed a storefront.

“There’s nowhere really in town to find stylish clothing other than chain stores,” Stephanie said, noting that shopping locally often meant looking like everyone else in town. They wanted cool, diverse boutique clothing that you really couldn’t find without driving pretty far to a bigger city.

As they had suspected, there was a demand and when business began to take off, they rented their own retail space. Now, just over a year later, they have expanded yet again into an even larger retail space on Miller Avenue, where they also provide space for other vendors.

Currently, Red Daisy Gifts showcases more than 50 regional vendors and artists, selling everything from clothing, food and drink, to jewelry and home décor.

“The community is definitely supporting us,” Krissy said as word of their business continues to spread.

Along with running the store on their days off, they also have hired staff to help keep things afloat. “We provide local jobs and give other vendors a space to sell their creative designs and products,” Stephanie said. “We wanted to make other people’s dreams come true, too.”

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Working for Wildlife

Kristen DaVanon is one of the few people around who can say she’s working her dream job.

She didn’t grow up hunting with her family in Illinois, or even camp very often. Although, she did do a lot of fishing. It was her love of animals and her desire to move West that slowly led her to Wyoming.

DaVanon said she’d never even been to Wyoming before interviewing for the position as Game Warden for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD). But, now that she’s here, she doesn’t think she’ll ever leave.

She moved to New Mexico for college and earned a bachelor’s degree in wildlife science, and then a master’s in biology.

She enjoyed New Mexico, but found herself missing fall. Still wanting to live in the West, she focused her job search on Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado, while working as an adjunct instructor at a Texas community college.

She laughs when talking about missing fall and ending up in Wyoming. But, she says there’s still more fall in the Cowboy State than there is in the desert.

“My plan was to be a wildlife biologist,” said DaVanon. “I didn’t want to be a game warden, because in Illinois their role is strictly law enforcement.”

The role of game wardens in Wyoming is different from a lot of other states, incorporating law enforcement along with wildlife biology and public outreach.

“When I found out there was a job that encompasses absolutely everything I’ve ever wanted to do, it’s just fitting that I got lucky enough to get this job,” DaVanon said.

When she started with the WGFD three years ago, she was one of only four women in the law enforcement basic class at the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy, and the only female game warden in her class of 35.

“Of course, you’re outnumbered, but no one treated me differently,” DaVanon explained.

She said in her current position, the positive comments have far outweighed the negative.

“I think here in Wyoming people are used to women pioneering and persevering,” she added.

Wyoming game wardens have the same authority as any other law enforcement agency. However, the Game and Fish Commission regulates what enforcement action they take, ensuring the focus is on laws pertaining to fish and wildlife.

DaVanon said the training she’s received in her short career has prepared her to handle any situation.

“The thing that most people don’t realize is that 99 percent of the people I talk to have a gun, usually right there out in the open. So, that’s something we’re always aware of,” she said.

Uber Driver Leaves Ride-Sharing Market to Fill Greater Niche

Kerry Byrd was Gillette’s fourth Uber driver, until she launched her own food delivery service, Byrd’s Food Angels, in November 2017.

“My dad was an Uber driver in San Antonio, Texas. He earned a solid income and I thought, ‘why not?’” Kerry said. “I made good money with Uber, too... in the beginning.”

Uber now employs over 112 drivers in Gillette.   

As the number of local drivers was on the rise, the earning potential began to drop. Significantly. Looking for alternative earning opportunities, Kerry reached out to Uber Eats and Grub Hub to bring food service to Gillette, but both declined. 

“I decided, hey! I can deliver food,” she said.

Kerry turned to her husband, Lance Byrd of Byrds Handyman Services, for help. Lance already owned his own local business and also had a background in the food service and hospitality industry.

“He thought it was a great idea and has supported me at every step along the way,” she said. Together, they opened Byrd’s Food Angels, a smart, easy way to order all different types of food online.

“We handle all the details of getting your food to your home or business with no hassles,” Kerry beamed. “However, we don’t handle catering. We leave the large jobs to the restaurants and caterers. You can order online at byrdsfoodangels.com or give us a call. We’re here and we really want to help.”

One client, an older man who lives independently, orders meals through Byrd’s Food Angels twice daily.

“Scrambled eggs, bacon and hash browns from Lula Belle’s for breakfast,” she said, “burger with mustard, pickles and onions only, no cheese, no potatoes, later on, also from Lula Belle’s.”

“He knows what he likes,” she smiled. The reality that he must also like her service, too, appears to dawn on her. At age 50, Kerry is humble and kind beyond her years.

  She went on to say the people of Gillette, as a whole, are fantastic. “I’d love to have more restaurants sign on as affiliates,” she said, “but, for now, it’s really all about the people. That’s why we do it.”

  The Byrds employ a staff of six and continue to expand. “If you’re an Uber driver and want a job, just give us a call,” she said with a laugh. 

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Thankful I Landed in Gillette

Twenty years ago, when I decided I would start my own practice as a certified public accountant, I didn’t know what I wanted it to end up being, but I knew what I did not want it to be.

    I did not want to use ‘accountspeak’ to confuse my small business and not-for-profit clients. I wanted to explain accounting results in language my clients would understand, using plain English whenever possible.

  I did not want to frustrate my staff the way I had sometimes been frustrated by prior employers. I wouldn’t expect them to only grow to fit the job I had for them, or to limit their dreams and goals to fit my needs.

    I did not want to be the last to warn my clients that their current financial situation is dangerous and they need to do something today to change their fate.

  I did not want to perpetuate the low salaries and mandatory overtime that I had experienced in other public accounting practices as para-professional staff.

What I did want was to build a business that helped my clients, hundreds of whom have been brand-new businesses, to establish and grow their dreams and financial goals. I wanted to hire positive and enthusiastic women and teach them the skills they would need to do the job. I wanted to support my staff by being flexible in helping them deal with their own challenges, and to support the community and our not-for-profit entities with service, advice, and aid.

I am thankful I landed in Gillette, Wyoming, in 1981. It has become the hometown I never had growing up. I am especially thankful for Gillette College because, without the opportunity to finish a B.S. in accounting through Regis University, which qualified me to sit for the CPA exam, I would certainly be working for someone else and dreaming of how things could be better.

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Specializing in Criminal Law

Growing up in Crook County, Christina Williams said both of her grandmothers set the bar pretty high by earning bachelor’s degrees in an era when women typically didn’t consider higher education as an option.

Following suit, she attended Black Hills State University to obtain a degree in education. After a year of teaching, she decided to go back to college and become an attorney.

It was a career she’d never given a second thought until her sister gave her a little nudge by heading into law school herself.

“That’s the best thing I ever did,” she said. What she found was a previously untapped love of both constitutional and criminal law.

Before opening her own practice in 2013, her first job as an attorney was working for a judge. From there, she moved on and worked as a prosecutor in Pennington County, South Dakota, and also in Campbell County, before becoming a defense attorney specializing in criminal law.

Williams said she can’t imagine practicing law anywhere else. Her clients are hardworking people who deserve the best legal representation possible.

Now, with new offices beside the courthouse on Gillette Main Street, she said, “I will analyze your case from top to bottom and give you a realistic expectation of the risks, so you know what to expect.”

She loves Gillette and said that, “Having worked in other communities makes you realize and appreciate what Campbell County has to offer.”

Most of Christina’s free time, like any working mother, is spent with her 10-year-old son, whose newfound passion is snowboarding. She’s proud to say that he’s now the sixth generation born and raised in Wyoming.

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Strength

The strongest woman I’ve ever met was taken from me far too early. She changed oil and ran large equipment during the day and came home to nurture and care for our family at night.

I lost my mother at 18. The following months swept me into a flood of emotions and difficult changes. I became a young mother, a full-time student and employee.

The first 12 months of adulthood, while the most difficult, forced me to dig deep and find grit and tenacity. I decided to carry on my mother’s legacy. A legacy not of wealth but of honesty, integrity and perseverance.

Fast-forwarding almost 20 years, I’m now a small business owner, mother of three and a wife of over 17 years. I attribute my success to those defining moments. The desire to make my mother proud energized me through my undergraduate program, as well as a series of graduate courses. With each step, I felt her strength and support.

There is power in a story, but there is movement in leadership. When you enter my agency, you will be greeted with kindness, integrity and a commitment to provide exceptional service. I’m honored to be a part of this community and relish the opportunity to pay these gifts forward.

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A Defining Moment

In 2004, my family had a decision to make. I worked at a local coal mine and my husband, George was employed in the energy industry. At the time, it appeared that our work schedules would seriously impact our time with our kids.  We chose to make the most of the time we spent together and decided to purchase Gillette Printing & Engraving Company.  I left the role of employee and stepped into the role of business owner and employer. Having been on both sides of the fence, I feel has helped me tremendously in navigating the day-to-day operations. George has been my strongest support system, even while continuing his career in energy.  I’ve learned that owning a business is not always a walk in the park. It’s about hard work, long hours, commitment and patience. But, it is even more so about professional and personal successes, accomplishments, and relationships that are built within the community.

I have been blessed with strong role models in my life. The first, my mom,  who raised me and three older brothers as a single parent. She never shied away from the responsibility, and, in fact, worked a full-time job while most times holding down at least two other part-time jobs to supplement her income. She instilled that work ethic in us: work hard, be honest, and act with integrity.  Although she has been gone over 20 years, I never lose sight of the fact that I will always be her daughter and to live my life in a way that would make her proud.

I also want to recognize Susan Jerke as another strong role model. Through the process of purchasing Gillette Printing & Engraving Company from Susan, I grew to admire her and realized that she had set the bar for me to emulate in my day-to-day business operations. Over the past 14 1/2 years, Susan has been a  mentor, providing logical thinking, education, and the occasional sounding board. A defining moment for me was when she told me she was proud of me. Imagine that!

In our time as owners, we’ve expanded the business to include engraving services and vinyl products. As proud as I am of these additions, it could not have been possible without my team! It’s our staff that has made all the difference at Gillette Printing & Engraving Company. Their willingness to embrace change and be experts in different products is what makes the company a success. In all these years, we’ve never missed a deadline! It’s their professional commitment to customer service and quality, as well as their willingness to do what it takes to get a project completed.  The staff is the true heart of Gillette Printing and Engraving Company.

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