Vanessa and Gideon Osei are called by their faith to action.The owners of Kingdom Countertops and Cabinetry in Highlands Ranch walk the path of devout Christians. This path looks different than some might expect.
Vanessa was born and raised in Colorado, descended from turn of the century immigrants who came to Colorado during the sugar beet migration. Her Russian German forefathers arrived first, followed by her Mexican American grandparents. Her grandfather was both a farmer and a traveling pastor. He held a deep faith in God, and sense of service to his congregants and community. To this day, she dons his fedoras with pride, inspired to carry on his work. Childhood years were spent both in inner city Denver during the 90’s drug wars, and then in Parker. Her experiences in the two extremely different neighborhoods shaped her views of social justice.
Gideon came to the United States from Ghana, West Africa as a young adult. He too is from a family of farmers, both his parents tended farmland just outside of Sunyani. The youngest of seven children, he was inspired to attend University by an older sibling who held high office in the Ghanaian justice system. Gideon attended the University of Ghana, graduating with degrees in Political Science and Sociology. After living in London and New York, Gideon himself was part of a small Ghanaians migration to Colorado for the milder winter weather.
The two met at church when Vanessa was 23 years old with a 4-year-old daughter. Despite growing up in vastly contrasting worlds, they bonded in their abiding love of God and married in 2004.
Gideon had no experience in construction, but quickly became a top salesperson at World of Tile. His sales philosophy was and remains, ‘Work as hard for the small customer as for the big customer.’ He tells a story of a dusty workman walking around the shop one day. Other salespeople resisted approaching him, thinking it would be a waste of time. Gideon willingly assisted him, and only after the sale learned he was a prominent custom home builder. From that grew a fruitful long-term relationship. Out of this time grew another of his founding principles ‘Relationships are the foundation of business.’
As Gideon was building his career, Vanessa was at home raising their children. She became a foster mom, helping 24 teens over nine years emancipate into adulthood, supporting their pursuits in continuing education, the military or trades. She was inspired to return to her own education, which stalled when she became a mom at 19. She enrolled at the Community College of Aurora, then went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at the University of Northern Colorado at Lowry’s Center for Urban Education in elementary education with a culturally and linguistically diverse background. After graduating, she taught at the Global Village Academy in Parker and Pine Lane Elementary school, creating a class in world language, culture, cuisine and beliefs.
For 20 years, Vanessa has also been very active in prison ministry. She now heads her church’s outreach ministry, serving eight prisons in the state of Colorado. Informed by her young years in diverse communities and the differences people of color encounter in the justice system, she fiercely advocates for prison and justice system reform.
Gideon brings a distinctive perspective to racial injustice. As an African, not an African American, he initially felt spared from the historical prejudice Black Americans encounter. But as he spent more time working and building connections professionally, he began to experience the notion of ‘otherness’. He'd hear things like “You’re such a hard worker. Not like them.” At first, this sounded complimentary, but soon he began to see a pattern of erroneous stereotypes in these comments.
But it was raising their Black and bi-racial children that brought this advocacy full circle. “As a white mother of Black children, I never, ever had those things happen to me….it changes how you perceive racism, the impact on my children, the ways they are seen as different. Or how my foster teens are treated” both expressly and in their life circumstances.
“It’s strange some people are confused by us, because we are adamant Christians, but we are adamant social justice advocates.” Vanessa says, “we are all God’s children. There should be no distinction of that in our prisons, in our CEO boardrooms, our neighborhoods or our representation.”
In following their faith, The Osei family lives by these words. “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and the needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9