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September 2014 Issue

Cover Story

Colorado’s 20 “perk”-iest companies

By Maria Martin

FREE HAIRCUTS, NAP PODS, ON-SITE KINDERGARTENS, pools, laundry services. Known to some as “hidden paychecks,” creatively crafted employee benefits have the potential for major payback. As the archetypal workplace evolves, the shift from cookie-cutter savings plans and vacation policies to customizable, service-oriented perks and conveniences has moved mainstream. This is especially relevant for small to medium businesses that must strategically up the ante to vie for talent and as hyper-mobile millenials often job-hop rather than commit long-term. Of course, incentivizing

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Articles

Real estate roundup: Denver brokerage touts money-saving flat fee

"It's your equity -- you deserve it."

By Mike Taylor

Joshua Hunt intends to shake up the real estate industry with a flat-fee structure designed to save home sellers thousands of dollars compared to the standard 5.8 percent commission. Denver-based TRELORA – derived from the letters in “Realtor” – charges clients $1,700 to list a home and allows them to choose a flat fee co-op, commonly $3,000, for the buyer’s agent. Thus, on a $450,000 sale in that scenario, a TRELORA client would pay a total of $4,700, whereas the tab on a 5.8 percent commission would come to $25,200. The flat-fee concept is not new to real estate, but Hunt, 37, says he’s offering something better by combining the flat fee with full services that include a team of trained and licensed. . .

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Dr. Oz and a happy company

It works on the organization of humans -- how about human organizations?

By Pat Wiesner

My wife often watches Dr. Oz on the kitchen TV, so, like it or not, I end up listening to him, too. Even though I would probably deny being a “fan,” I have to admit that he is a very interesting fellow in the way he approaches health from the “you are what you eat” point of view. Recently he was discussing with a researcher and a woman how serious disease, even ailments like cancer in the woman’s case, can sometimes be improved, even cured, by what is put into the body. These “foods” he referenced include ideas and attitudes. The researcher made the case that a truly happy person has more tools than realized to deal with life-threatening illness. She shed light on treatment requiring five minutes each day of positivity to physiologically release endorphins into the body, with the potential of improving one’s health. The woman with the. . .

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Made in Colorado: Meep records, Primary ties, Peacock candles, The LOOP

By Eric Peterson

MEEP RECORDS Adam Baumester has played guitar in Denver bands like Bad Weather California, managed landmark record store Twist & Shout, and collected vinyl records since he was a kid. So he took the natural next step: He bought a lathe on eBay and went into the record-making business with Meep Records in 2012. "Vinyl is on the uptick," he says. "Music sales are going down, but people like records and still collect records." Baumester says he "cuts the grooves in real-time," typically making one to 50 records for customers, and specializes in picture discs that showcase artwork as the record spins on the turntable. "It's a handmade, boutique, limited-edition thing." $20 per record, with volume discounts. Made by Meep Records, Denver, meeprecords.com.

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Executive edge: Dr. Ken Weiner

Denver psychiatrist tackles underserved market of eating disorders

By Lynn Bronikowski

Kenneth Weiner is founder and CEO of the Denver-based Eating Recovery Center, which by year’s end will operate 12 centers in four states, including five in Colorado. The company, founded in 2008, will employ 600, half of whom will work in Colorado. A native of Long Island, N.Y., Weiner moved to Colorado in 1977, when the Tufts University graduate completed his residency at the University of Colorado.  He previously founded three other eating disorder programs specializing in the treatment of anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder. Q.  Why did you choose to specialize in eating disorders? A.  I got exposed to the field when I was in my third year of medical school and did a pediatric rotation. The piece that was most fascinating to me was why. . .

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Taking stock in Colorado

Resurgence of IPOs a reflection of improved economy

By Gigi Sukin

The year 2001 saw many companies — conceived on proverbial cocktail napkins, fueled by investors hungry for a piece of the action — ultimately done in by their inability to generate cash faster than they burned it. Seven years later, the Great Recession hit. The result: The number of Colorado companies traded on major exchanges declined from roughly 150 to around 100 by the latter part of the decade. But as the dust settled, 2012 represented the hopeful turning of a new leaf with initial public oferings from Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage Inc. (NGVC), National Bank Holdings Corp. (NBHC) and WhiteWave Foods Co., (WWAV). Snowballing into 2013, seven IPOs raised roughly $4 billion for Colorado-based companies. “We’ve seen amazing momentum in terms of business growth in the last year,” said Ken Lund, executive director for the Colorado Office of. . .

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State of the state: Agriculture

Misnomer aside, farmers and ranchers welcome farm bill

By Suzie Romig

Farmer Mark Linnebur’s family has been raising wheat in Eastern Colorado since the 1930s, so Linnebur and his five brothers know a thing or two about the ups and downs of agriculture. The family farm totals 8,000 acres near Byers in Arapahoe County, and Linnebur is one of many farmers who is happy the U.S. farm bill, or the Agriculture Act of 2014, was signed in February. With delays and political wrangling now in the past, what the farm bill means to Colorado agriculture is more stability. “Farming is an inherently risky business. This helps make it so families can stay farming, and it will prevent it from going to a corporate farming atmosphere,” Linnebur said. “If we can maintain families in farming, then. . .

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App-based upstarts fight for slice of Denver’s taxi market

By Mike Dano

For close to a century, the personal, on-demand transportation market in Denver and throughout the state has been dominated by a relatively small but dedicated fleet of taxi companies and drivers. But thanks to the smartphone revolution, that might all change. Or at the very least, work a lot differently. Currently in Denver four companies provide taxi services: Metro Taxi, Yellow Cab, Freedom Cabs and Union Taxi, which are allowed by the state to operate a combined total of roughly 1,200 taxis in the metro area. Anyone who has ever hailed a cab knows how the business works: Stand on a street corner until you find an open taxi, tell the driver where you're going and pay in cash (plus tip) at the end of your ride. That driver licenses that. . .

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No end to fast-casual appetite

Modmarket founders see synergies, not saturation

By Mike Taylor

Denver is arguably the nation’s epicenter of fast-casual restaurant innovation, with a roster that includes Chipotle, Noodles & Company, Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill, Qdoba, Tokyo Joe’s and Smashburger, to name a few. Anthony Pigliacampo and Rob McColgan sized up the Front Range landscape and didn’t see saturation; they saw a market where consumers were already familiar with — and receptive to — the fast-casual formula of better-quality food at higher price points and a finer dine-in atmosphere than fast food venues offer. So the duo opened the first Modmarket in Boulder in 2009. Less than five years later, Modmarket, touting a made-from-scratch “farm to table” menu and locally sourced ingredients (when available), has grown to seven Denver-area locations, with additional openings slated for Denver International Airport and Dallas this. . .

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State of the state: A&E

Pitch perfect

By Stewart Schley

Arnie Grossman waited decades for his breakthrough Hollywood moment. It took him all of 35 seconds to get it. That’s how much time Grossman gave himself last November for a carefully rehearsed pitch, describing a movie concept to the agent representing actor Bruce Dern, whose career resurgence was sparked by his Oscar-nominated role as the cantankerous Woody Grant in the 2013 film “Nebraska.” For the 77-year old Grossman, a novelist and political advertising specialist, it was one more pitch in a lifetime pitches, another cold-call message left on somebody else’s voice mail. Ten minutes later the phone rang. Dern’s agent was on the line. He liked the idea – a story about a crusty old man, an odd, homemade. . .

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The Economist: Is there a positive outcome for the Ukraine-Russia debacle?

By Tucker Hart Adams

A few years ago, I was in the Ukraine to collect folk songs with my high school granddaughter and Lena, a folklorist from the Russian Academy of Science. Tongue-in-cheek because I was pretty sure I knew the answer, I asked Lena, “Does the Crimea belong to the Ukraine or Russia?”  The answer was instantaneous: “Russia, of course!  Khrushchev gave it to the Ukraine in a drunken stupor, but it wasn’t his to give away.” I would have gotten the same answer from any Russian I questioned. So, when protests and violence began to unfold in Kiev, I knew there was trouble ahead. Beginning in 1989 with my first trip to the Soviet Union, I have spent many months in Russia. I taught economics at Moscow State University, ran a small consulting firm dedicated to helping Russian companies learn how to do business in the new capitalist society into which they. . .

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Colorado’s 20 “perk”-iest companies: The next seven

By Maria Martin

Moots // Steamboat Springs About the biz:  Moots has been hand-crafting high-performance titanium road, mountain and Cylocross bicycle frames since 1981. Employees: 25 Leadership: President Mike Sanders The big Perk: It only makes sense that a bike-concocting company would focus on keeping its employees fit for any ride. Among the healthy perks: Free bicycle frames awarded every two years, a “champagne powder clause” (if more than 6 inches fall in a morning, employees ski), and bicycle commuting awards. Why so PERKy? “The health of our employees is important, and that they use what we make gives us credibility,” Sanders says. “ ‘Build it, ride it,’ is a big thing with us. And flexibility is important, for powder days and extended lunches for bike rides. We hire well, and we know they’ll get the job done.” Building. . .

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Tech startup: Decibullz

By Eric Peterson

Decibullz, decibullz.com, Loveland Founded: February 2012 Initial Lightbulb Elite-level gymnastics coach Kyle Kirkpatrick always liked to listen to music while working out, but there was an inherent challenge. "I'd never been able to use earphones when doing gymnastics — or rollerblading, or snowboarding," he explains. "The movements are too aggressive. No earphone has a chance of staying in." Kirkpatrick spent close to $300 on a pair of high-end earphones to wear while running, and when they didn't work, he set out to solve the problem himself. He educated himself on ergonomics and chemistry and started prototyping. "Hundreds of combinations" later, Kirkpatrick devised a microwaveable mold that could be shaped to fit the form of a specific. . .

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Creative finance vs traditional venture capital

Need a loan? Small businesses have more options in 2014

By Eric Peterson

Crowdfunding, tech-oriented alternative lenders and resurgent venture capitalists are rewriting the financing rules for startups and upstarts seeking growth capital. Entrepreneurs still need to show investors they can generate sales, and alternative loan rates can be steep, but now those with a vision and the industriousness to make it happen have a better chance of finding financing that fits the stage and scope of their enterprise. Here’s a look at how those funding options are playing out in Colorado: Alternative lending 2.0 After three tours in Iraq with the U.S. Army, Will White started Caveman Cafeteria in Denver in 2012. His business encompassed a food truck and catering business focused on the popular Paleolithic, or. . .

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Sports biz: Improving on the old college try

By Stewart Schley

Congratulations, proud parent! Your kid just scored the goal, blasted the home run, swished the three, leapt over the linebacker, won the heat, blocked the kick or chipped it in for birdie to win the tourney. Later than evening, as you burn a fresh DVD highlight reel in your MacBook Pro, you can almost feel that $30k tuition melting away. But here comes George White, ex-college coach, business executive and all-around connected sports guy, with some advice: Stop right there! “College coaches don’t recruit from highlight videos,” White says. “Everybody makes great plays. What coaches want to see is full game video.” And White should know. As the men’s head basketball coach at Virginia State University and an assistant coach at Stanford, Metropolitan State University of Denver and other programs, White spent plenty of time in front of the screen,. . .

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Colorado’s 20 “perk”-iest companies: The last six

By Maria Martin

FirstBank Holding Co. // Lakewood About the biz: FirstBank is Colorado’s largest locally owned bank. It started with one location in 1963 and has grown to 119 locations in Colorado, California and Arizona. Employees: 2,000 Leadership: CEO John Ikard The big Perk: The bank has donated more than $5 million to nonprofits in 2013 and surpassed more than $45 million in financial donations to local nonprofits since 2000. Paid time off is offered for employees to volunteer. FirstBank also offers investment in training and education programs for employees and their families. Why so PERKy? Ikard says he recognizes that FirstBank is only as strong as its community. “We view our philanthropic investments as mutually beneficial,” he says. “If we can help strengthen our local communities, it makes for a better overall economy and better long-term customer base for. . .

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Colorado’s 20 “perk”-iest companies: The first seven

By Maria Martin

Footers // Denver About the biz: This catering company has specialized in events since 1981. Anthony Lambatos and his wife, April, now lead the family-owned business, which caters more than 600 events each year. Employees: 40 Leadership: Anthony and April Lambatos The big Perk: An “awesomeness room” provides a place for hard-working employees to kick back and play Ping-Pong or basketball. The space is also used for team events, such as best cocktail or pumpkin carving contests. A “party button” is affixed to the wall for the team to celebrate successes together. Why so PERKy? “I think we recognize that since you spend most of your day at work, it needs to be a fun place,” says Anthony Lambatos. “Our team loved. . .

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Putting water to work

Small-scale hydropower eyed for electricity, irrigation

By Allen Best

Gravity being what it is, any water flowing between Colorado’s highest and lowest points, a range of 11,124 feet, has great embedded energy. The question is whether that energy can be throttled and put to use. The answer, of course, is yes. Early gold-seekers used hydraulic mining to blast apart hillsides. Later, turbines were installed in many dams to produce electricity. And now come new efforts across Colorado to further yoke the power of falling water. One such example is near Yampa, a town between Vail and Steamboat Springs. The site is just a few miles from where the Bear River takes a sharp turn and becomes the Yampa River. On his ranch, Gary Clyncke decided three years ago to use the 126-foot drop in elevation of his. . .

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Rundles wrap up: Gluten, gluten, gluten

These days health benefits sell – a lot.

By Jeff Rundles

All you hear these days is “gluten, gluten, gluten.” I hear it and see it so often that it is ringing in my ears as if being spoken by The Swedish Chef from the Muppets in a Fake Scandinavian accent: “Gluten. Gluten. Gluten.” And it all seems as silly as The Swedish Chef, really, in that it has gone way beyond a legitimate and serious disease (celiac) to a multi-billion-dollar fad based on spurious claims that a gluten-free diet offers an amazing array of health benefits, from curing ADHD, to preventing autism and diabetes, to fostering weight loss. I have a family member who suffers from “gluten sensitivity,” although not diagnosed as full-blown celiac, so I am certainly not making fun of the condition. It took a while for her to figure out that gluten was at the heart of her ailments, and at the time is was very difficult to avoid gluten and. . .

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