Owning It: 17 Red Hot Entrepreneurs

Sherry Comes Founder & President

Denver-based baked-goods wholesaler Coffee-Cakes.com is ninety-four percent women-owned and operated, and seventy-one percent, lesbian-owned. So, why do people still expect a straight, white fella pressed and buttoned up in three-piece suit at the helm? Says Coffee Cakes CEO Sherry Comes,"I have been discriminated against a lot more as a woman than I have been as a gay person. I often get letters addressed ‘Dear Sir’ and calls from people looking for 'Mr. Comes.'"

"Mr. Comes" this superwoman is not. After starting Coffeecakes.com in 1995, the business became Denver's Premiere Internet Café. By 2000 the company had so many requests for online orders that it became an exclusively web-based retailer. Unlike most new business owners, Comes, who started the company without a partner didn't think twice about her decision to go it alone. She set out on her entrepreneurial journey armed only with a computer science degree from the University of Colorado and a healthy dose of self-reliance. Thirteen years later, Coffeecakes.com doubled its growth from 2003 to 2004, and has seen a steady 30 percent increase in revenues each year.

"Most people who know me would laugh at the notion of 'free time,'" says Comes, who juggles the business, a full-time career as a technical consultant, a 25-year relationship, mothering two small children and an affair with a Harley Davidson Deuce 1450cc motorcycle! Nothing, it would seem, could slow her down. Even when, two years ago, her now 7-year-old son was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis, a progressive genetic disease that affects the nervous system, Comes found a way to move forward. "Though I felt totally helpless,” Comes says, “I wanted to use my fortune to in some way to help my son.” She partnered with actress Gillian Anderson and the national charitable organization NF, Inc., which is dedicated to finding a cure for the illness. So, whether you're supporting NF, Inc., waiting for the traditional cinnamon walnut coffee cake to arrive or ordering a collection of travel tumblers via Coffeecakes.com, one thing's certain: It's "Ms. Comes" to you. –IJ