Member Profile: Upstairs Circus


Upstairs Circus is an eclectic community space to gather with friends, curate creative projects, and imbibe in delectable libations. In 2013, Kelly Johannsen founded the concept of Upstairs Circus, the first location opened in LoDo and continues to grow, with a newly opened location in the Denver Tech Center and a location in Dallas, Texas currently in the works. It’s space to create projects, from leather and wood-working to jewelry making in a social setting rather than a traditional style class. Friendly staff are there to guide and empower you on your crafting journey. If you’re looking for a place to gather with friends, colleagues or create gifts this holiday season, this is an experience you won’t want to miss! Learn more about our member Kelly Johannsen and the inception of Upstairs Circus.



Why did you decide to join the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce?

My main reason for joining CWCC was the opportunity to be a part of the CEO Forum. I have struggled to find a community of people who shared a lot of the same business challenges and goals as myself, namely, both relying on and managing a team of people while scaling. The CEO Forum is full of people who have similar challenges- with varying points of views- that I can relate to and learn from. Thus far, it’s been both an enlightening and supportive community for me!

How was the concept of Upstairs Circus conceived?

I often say Upstairs Circus was created because I enjoy making things and I enjoy a good cocktail- it’s the easiest and quickest way to explain Upstairs Circus.

In actuality, Upstairs Circus is a concept based on creativity. We believe creativity is unbelievably important- from art, to inventions, to creative problem solving- creativity can and does make the world a better place. We believe the more we practice creativity, the better we are at it. And the better we are at it, the more potential we have to change the world.

Upstairs Circus gives people the time, space and inspiration to creatively experiment- and we do it in a way that makes people think less about the- often terrifying- idea of being creative and think more about simply having a good time.

What are some challenges you faced opening a business in Colorado?

Upstairs Circus is the first of its kind in what we now call it the “DIY Workshop meets Bar” vertical. There are MANY challenges that come from trying to start a business that has not been built before or proven in the past. Some of our biggest challenges came with climbing this mountain of the unknown business model. We had to convince everyone who we do business with- from bankers, to property owners, to vendors- that we were worth taking a risk on. Then, once we were done convincing all our business partners to work with us, we had to educate and convince customers to come in and try out something new. We spent the better part of our first three years in business constantly selling ourselves- sometimes successfully and sometimes not- to anyone who came across our paths. It started out exhilarating, but can be quite exhausting after a while!

What are your creative outlets and what inspires you?

I often have something I call, “creative angst.” It is a build-up of, or a nagging need to create something. Typically when I hit red-line creative angst, I make very large paintings. I often like to use my hands over paint brushes, which makes the experience more tactile and expressive. For me, there is release in taking a blank canvas and translating everything that is going on in my head (aka my Upstairs Circus) into color, shapes, movement and an overall composition. I like to see the transformation of my stress, emotion, ideas, physical energy, etc., into a form of art. They don’t always turn out awesome, but in the end I got rid of my creative angst and got a piece of art from it!

::: Looking to learn more or to book your next holiday social, visit Upstairs Circus :::



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