Colorado companies to watch.

Author:Ryckman, Lisa

Meet the innovators, the disruptors, the risk-takers, the success-seekers. Chosen from more than 1,000 nominations, this year's 50 Colorado Companies to Watch (CCTW) are second-stagers ready to power their businesses to the next level in increasingly bold and imaginative fashion.

Some appear to have gone from zero to success in 60 seconds, such as tech upstart Parkifi, founded in 2014 to help drivers find parking spaces in congested cities. Others have been around for years but are flourishing under new management, as is the case with the fourth-generation brother-sister team at Polidori Sausage, who still use their great-grandma's original recipe from 1925.

"Each of the 50 companies being celebrated as a Colorado Companies to Watch winner earned this honor as a direct result of relentless focus on growth and innovation," says David Tolson, managing partner at Capital Value Advisors and CCTW Presenting Sponsor. "They're putting themselves and Colorado on the map by creating valuable new products, services and industries."

And speaking of the map: This year's crop of companies represents every region of the entrepreneurial hotbed that is Colorado, from GO Alpine in Steamboat Springs; to clothing manufacturer VOORMI in Pagosa Springs, from Durango's Serious Texas Bar-BQ to Loveland's Canyon Bakehouse.

"Statistics indicate there are more than 46,000 second stage companies in Colorado," says CCTW Chair Sean Nohavec, senior vice president of one of the program's four Platinum Sponsors, UMB Bank. "These are the companies fueling Colorado's economy through job creation and capital investments."

Now in its eighth year, the Colorado Companies to Watch program selects winners through a rigorous two-stage process that examines each company's leadership, innovation, growth and commitment to the community. From Golden to Grand Junction to Greenwood Village, the cream of Colorado's up-and-coming companies are using creativity, determination and optimism to turn a spark of success into a roaring economic fire.

Read more about the companies everyone in Colorado should be watching.



Base: Boulder

The all-natural and organic food company creates nutrient-rich products including granola, oatmeal, muesli and cereal.

Elizabeth Stein--the "Elizabeth" in purely elizabeth--started her company in 2009 in a New York apartment with two employees. When they moved, the company did too.

"I think the culture I have built is one where everyone feels equal and heard," Stein says."We like to work hard but play hard, too. We have an open office where everyone feels they are contributing to our success and growth."

The company's pivotal moment came in 2013, when its products were added to Whole Foods stores nationwide.

Stein sees ingredients such as ancient grain, superfood seeds, coconut sugar and coconut oil, as their differentiators on the crowded cereal shelves. The company continues to stay ahead of the curve by launching new products, such as a first-to-market probiotic granola.

Says Stein, "Our strong branding beyond our products and into creating a lifestyle brand--via 'Eating Purely' cookbook and our monthly magazine--gives us the ability to grow way beyond the cereal category and into any category in the supermarket."


Base: Boulder

Quinn Snacks is in the business of reimagining classic snacks, such as microwave popcorn and pretzels.

Three days after becoming a mom to son Quinn, Kristy Lewis decided to start a business in 2011.

"I don't recommend that, by the way," she says. "We started it because we wanted to clean up microwave popcorn."

The company had a simple rule: Use only ingredients our grandmothers would recognize. That meant kicking to the curb GMOs, flavorings, preservatives and chemicals. The company's close relationships with its farmers and suppliers ensures a clean, transparent supply chain.


The Quinn Snacks Pure Pop Bag is made from a paper mechanically pressed to make it naturally grease proof. Removing everything that wasn't natural resulted in a few industry firsts: First microwave popcorn bag free of synthetic chemicals; first compostable microwave popcorn bag; first microwave popcorn bag without a susceptor (metalized plastic foil patch).

The company's Farm-to-Bag, pre-popped, non-GMO project verified popcorn allows customers to see the origin of each ingredient. The latest snack to get the clean treatment: gluten-free pretzels.

"Any snack you can reimagine, we're doing it.", Lewis says.


Base: Loveland

Makers of gluten-free baked goods, starting in 2009, Christi Skow suffered from celiac disease and missed the taste and texture of real bread. So she and husband Josh partnered with their friend, master baker Ed Miknevicius, to create gluten-free breads using high-quality, non-GMO ingredients.

What started in Whole Foods' Rocky Mountain Region has now spread to 8,000 stores across the U.S. and Canada, including Target and Kroger. Brownie bites, bagels and focaccia are now part of the Canyon Bakehouse product line.

The company works closely with the Boulder Valley School District to provide gluten-free, whole grain breads for school lunches to help families worry less about their children's food allergies.

Hiring talented team members is Canyon Bakehouse's key to success. The company has worked to establish a culture and environment that encourages personal and professional growth, hiring top talent, and providing equal measures of direction and autonomy to foster results and innovation.




Base: Federal Heights

In 2004, Epicurean Butter Co., created a line of flavored butters for specialty retailers.

They call it "butter with a purpose." After 20 years as a fine-dining chef, John Hubschman developed a line of flavored butters for restaurants, bakeries, produce companies and sandwich assemblers. While he handles the creative end, wife Janey uses her marketing and sales savvy to drive continued growth.

A recent organic certification spurred a new retail product line of organic finishing butters. But don't look for the products in the dairy case. The company prefers placement near the products they enhance: Lemon Garlic Herb Butter, often used in shrimp scampi, in the seafood department; Black Truffle Butter for grilled steak in the meat department; Garlic Herb Butter and Chili Lime Butter, great on mashed potatoes and corn on the cob, in the produce department.

Down the road, Epicurean Butter plans to create single serve squeeze packs of its butters.



Base: Windsor

The family-owned and operated disaster restoration company handles everything from fires to floods to mold to asbestos.

In May 2008, a mile-wide tornado hit Windsor. It was a pivotal moment for the company--founded in 2002--which helped residents dig out and rebuild.

Technology has made an impact in the field, where technicians armed with tablets can enter a flooded home and use a program to tell them how much equipment to place and how long dry out will take. The company can then send drying logs and pictures to adjusters easily, providing transparency throughout insurance claims. An investment in a Fireline system allows crews to efficiently clean even the most fragile items damaged in losses, salvaging items that previously would have been destined for a landfill.

To promote camaraderie, the company holds "Technician Days" where the bosses cover the workload while techs spend a day at the lake or go-carting. For 10 years, the company has run an annual month-long campaign to raise breast cancer awareness. In 2015, it hosted the UC Health Pink Lifesaver, a mobile mammography bus, at its headquarters and offered free mammograms to all clients.


Base: Aurora

Since 1992 Colorado Medical Waste has collected and transported medical waste for disposal to generators along Colorado's Front Range. The company has been a pioneer for responsible, sustainable medical waste management and disposal. In 2014, the woman-owned company introduced ozone processing technology at its facility, reducing waste volume by 90 percent with zero emissions. Ozone is proven to be 100 times more effective than steam and offers an eco-friendly alternative to toxic incineration, but it took CMW nearly four years to obtain the necessary state and local clearance to open its facility.

CMW hosts site visits to educate and promote environmental stewardship for medical waste disposal, with interest coming from across the nation and around the world.




Base: Breckenridge


In 2002, serial entrepreneur Chris Renner and his wife, Shannon, found themselves facing a decision: He had just cashed out of the Texas internet company he founded, leaving them free to live anywhere in the world.

So, they chose Breckenridge, where they had met and married years before. And Chris Renner, whose resume includes businesses ranging from technology to education, brought his varying experience to a new industry, starting in 2005.

Within six years of inception, Pinnacle was named "America's Best Builder 2012" in Builder magazine, published by the National Association of Homebuilders, one of just four companies recognized nationwide. After 10 years of business, Pinnacle maintains 90 percent of its projects under budget and 100 percent of clients on its reference list.

Pinnacle's project managers meet weekly, comparing notes and contributing to the company's "Master Project Checklist"--an 80-page manual of quality control and best practices, compiled over more than a decade of solving each problem once and documenting for the future.

Pinnacle has been...

To continue reading