Hi, I'm Kayvan
I am a proud product of Denver, by way of Lincoln, Nebraska. I come from a small, middle-class family that is, in many ways, emblematic of the American dream and the American struggle.
My father, an immigrant from Iran, and my mother, born and raised in a small Nebraska town to parents who were among the first to organize employees at Goodyear’s local tire and rubber plant, taught my brother, Hassan, and me the importance of hard-work, family, and ambition. College sweethearts, my father earned a degree in Civil Engineering before becoming an upscale chef, while my mother worked for more than two decades as an office manager and bookkeeper before transitioning to entrepreneur, owning and operating a bakery and hotel in Cooke City, MT since 2004.
Like most families, we went through difficult times.
When I was 10, my parents divorced, in large part due to my father’s gambling addiction. Shortly thereafter, we filed for bankruptcy, lost our home, and my mother took a second job to make ends meet. During those next six years, growing up in a single-mother household, I witnessed a perfect example of courage, effort, and leadership that changed me as a person. My mother lifted my brother and I up even when the road ahead was seemingly insurmountable. Because of her strength, despite the turmoil, I excelled in school and started my first business online at age 14 during eBay’s first year.
When I was 15, my mother remarried and gave me the choice to move with her to Montana, or finish high school early and remain in Nebraska. I stayed, accelerated my class schedule, and graduated from high school at 16. I was now on my own. Within a year, I had enrolled at Southeast Community College, and at 19, I graduated with a degree in Architectural-Engineering Technology. Three days later, I accepted a draftsperson position with a local engineering firm, that ultimately transferred me to help start their Denver office a week after my 21st birthday.
Shortly after moving to Colorado in 2004, I purchased a home in Denver’s La Alma / Lincoln Park neighborhood where I’ve lived ever since. I immediately fell in love with Denver and started immersing myself in my new home.
I sought out volunteer opportunities and friends and discovered S.A.F.E.R., a group aiming to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis in Denver. Frustrated that 11,000 people went to jail every year in Colorado for low-level cannabis possession, creating barriers to succeeding in their lives, I got involved. This began a decade-plus of advocating through volunteerism and business for forward-thinking social policy that is more compassionate in how we address drug use and homelessness as matters of public health.
The relationships formed during this social policy work also crafted the next chapter in my life as I ventured again into entrepreneurship.
In 2008, I left my position as an associate of the engineering firm and exhausted my life’s savings to buy a struggling pizzeria in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. It was a risk and having never run a restaurant or made a pizza, this move also left me with no income. Because of this, I rented out my home rather than lose it and moved into a tent in my backyard. I gave away all my belongings and spent three months in that tent before moving onto a friend’s couch in Capitol Hill for another six months. Today, Sexy Pizza has three locations in central Denver and will celebrate its 10-year anniversary in 2018.
In early 2009, I was able to move back into my home, at which point I co-founded Denver Relief with $4,000. Denver Relief would go on to become the longest continuously operated cannabis business in Colorado and a national industry model for creating positive value to communities and promoting environmental stewardship until its sale in 2016 to Willie Nelson. Denver Relief also became a model for other best practices in this nascent industry. I was fortunate enough to help spread these across the country through Denver Relief Consulting (DRC), which I co-founded in 2011. Over the next five years, DRC would become an international leader in cannabis policy and business startups, assisting clients and partners in more than a dozen states, DC, Puerto Rico and Canada. Along the way I co-founded Sexpot Comedy in 2011, Birdy magazine in 2015, and art& in 2016 as a way to empower Denver creatives.
I wanted to do more for our city with my business and policy experience, so I joined the board of directors for many organizations near and dear to my heart.
I have pushed myself, joining the boards of the Harm Reduction Action Center, Colorado Youth Symphony Orchestra, Art District on Santa Fe, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, National Cannabis Industry Association, Resource Innovation Institute, and Minority Cannabis Business Association. I’ve continued to give and learn as co-chair of a committee within the Denver Department of Environmental Health that produces an annual sustainability symposium, and holding the same position for the Alternative Solutions Advocacy Project, which brought to fruition Denver’s first tiny home village in 2016. I’ve also been a mentor in the Denver Kids program for almost a decade and am in the process of adopting two young girls who will desperately need someone when their 86 year old mother is unable to care for them any longer.
It’s working with this wide array of people that opened my eyes to the inequity that is being built in Denver and the lack of leadership in preventing more harm.
I am running for Mayor to fight for those around me and to serve the city I love - the city that over the course of the past 14 years has provided me with the opportunity to make something of myself, to be engaged with those around me, and to find ways to help others. I want Denver to work for all its people the way it’s worked for me. More than anything, I believe this campaign isn't about me. This campaign is about the people of Denver and a movement of people who want to be heard and want their city government to work for them. I hope you'll get involved in any way you can. Each person has a valuable way to contribute and we'll need everyone doing what they can to make this movement a reality. So, please, join us. Let's secure a Denver that works for all its people.