Steamboat Living: 20 Under 40-Ashlee Anderson |

Steamboat Living: 20 Under 40-Ashlee Anderson

20Under40: Ashlee Anderson
Joel Reichenberger

After traveling the country for five years, living in no place longer than six months, Ashlee Anderson was looking for a community where she could put down roots.

She found that perfect place when she traveled to Steamboat in 2012 to attend a memorial service for her friend Alan Panebaker, a local who died in a kayaking accident.

“It was mud season, and the only people here were locals,” Anderson recalls. “The community really came together, and it was beautiful. I listened to people talk about Alan and how he grew up here, and I thought ‘this is a place where I can have roots.’”

Anderson moved to Steamboat that September, and quickly established herself in the community by opening babysitting business Sun Babies Childcare.

When Anderson first arrived, she was pursuing a massage therapy degree, working at a local massage studio and babysitting on the side. “I quickly saw the need for childcare in this town,” she says. “I had more people call me to babysit than call me to say ‘I want a massage.’”

With free business consultation from Colorado Mountain College’s Yampa Valley Entrepreneurship Center, Anderson was able to get her business started, and it’s grown phenomenally in a short time.

“Sun Babies grew from a seed to a full-grown tree in eight months,” says Anderson, who began with two independent contractors and now employs 22 babysitters. She contributes the growth to the extreme need for childcare in the community, word of mouth and the fact that ‘moms talk.’

It was these moms who nominated her for the 20 under 40 honor.

“Ashlee has grown a business and community relationships at a rate that I have simply never seen in the six years I’ve lived here,” says mom and customer Chris Richardson. “She began her business with humble intentions and has come to be a friendly force in the effort to address childcare shortages.”

Sun Babies is a registered and insured babysitting service that allows parents to choose a babysitter based on profiles posted on the Sun Babies website. Babysitters, who go through background checks and are CPR and first aid certified, are encouraged to spend time with kids outside with no “screen time” allowed.

“I tell my sitters that they’re part-time moms,” says Anderson, who’s also a member of the local Young Professionals Network. “You are there to provide guidance, security and love. Kids deserve your full attention. And I want my babysitters communicating with the kids and parents.”

Right now, the majority of Anderson’s time is spent building her business. When she does have time off, she enjoys trail running and rafting with her Husky, Sitka.

And what motivates the 28-year-old entrepreneur to succeed?

“I believe in working hard,” Anderson says. “I’ve supported myself since I was 16. My mom was sick and I didn’t have a dad and so I lived with my grandparents. I’m working so hard now to give my children what I didn’t have. I’m working for adopted Sun Babies and my future children.”

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