just past the entryway of The Fresh Ideas Group is the main room, not a lobby or a boardroom but a kitchen with a large butcher-block table surrounded by six cushioned stools, and coffee or tea brewing on the counter.
Sylvia Tawse, president and founder of the 10-year-old Boulder-based communications firm, says she designed it that way not only for sampling clients' products, but because the kitchen is where people naturally gather to talk.
Though she's in the business of speaking for others, Tawse did as much listening as she did talking in the past year with regard to her own company, which specializes in representing companies and interests in the natural-products industry. After years of incremental growth that roughly mirrored the industry she represents, Tawse created a senior adviser group in January 2006 to help her plot her business' future.
She credits that group with helping her firm generate a 73 percent revenue jump last year over the previous year, to $970,000, and increasing her firm's client base from 12 to 21. She also doubled her staff, from five to 10, to put the firm in a "state of readiness" for more business.
"They really guided me to decide, 'Syl, it's not really just about this year. Where do you want to be 10 years from now?'" Tawse says of the advisory group. "And that led to a commitment to growing the agency in the next three to five years into a mid-size agency. It was really like giving myself permission to grow and to grow pretty swiftly versus kind of staying the same size."
The advisory group includes Paul Repetto, who co-founded Horizon Organic Dairy in 1991; business coach Larry Bangs; Tawse's chief financial officer Jim Locatelli, and her husband, Lyle Davis.
"These are all people who know me really well and will be brutally honest with me," Tawse says. "But they're really keen business minds as well."
Tawse's firm took a giant stride toward more growth in February when Whole Foods Market named Fresh Ideas Group its agency of record for the Rocky Mountain region, just weeks after the upscale natural-foods retailer announced it was acquiring Boulder-based Wild Oats.
It made sense that Whole Foods would look to Boulder and to someone with a long record of devotion to the natural-products industry. This is a prosperous but pivotal time for organic and natural foods, and especially for Whole Foods, the industry leader with annual revenues of more than $5 billion.
Only a few years ago, the organics...