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Posted: March 01, 2011

19th Annual Colorado Ethics in Business Awards

The awards have been renamed to honor the late cable
TV pioneer Bill Daniels

Mike Taylor

PPR_CEBA_Daniels_Mar11.jpg

The Colorado Ethics in Business Alliance awards luncheon this year will introduce a name long associated with honesty and integrity in business: Bill Daniels.

The CEBA Business Ethics Award has been renamed the Bill Daniels Business Ethics Award in memory of the late cable television pioneer.

Daniels' community efforts included founding the Young Americans Bank in 1987 and collaborating with the University of Denver to incorporate ethics, values and social responsibility into the business school curriculum. The school was named the Daniels College of Business in 1994.

When Daniels died in 2000, his estate transferred to the Daniels Fund, making it one of the largest foundations in the Rocky Mountain region. The naming of the award is in recognition of financial support provided by the Daniels Fund to the CEBA Annual Business Ethics Awards.

"Bill Daniels firmly believed in ethics and integrity and the importance of absolute ethical principles," said Linda Childears, president and CEO of the Daniels Fund. He always based his decisions on what he believed was right - not on what he thought was best for himself or his company. This attitude and way of conducting business earned Bill Daniels incredible respect and loyalty throughout the business world."

The Colorado Ethics in Business Awards program was founded by the University of Denver, ColoradoBiz and the Samaritan Institute. Winners are profiled on the following pages. CEBA will celebrate them at the 19th annual awards luncheon on March 31 at the Denver Marriott City Center.

Kazoo & Co. Toys
CEBA Business Ethics Award

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Diana Nelson bought Kazoo & Co. in 1998 with a loan from the Small Business Administration, and the single mother of two has pushed the Denver business well beyond its Cherry Creek North brick-and-mortar confines.

A year after acquiring the store, Nelson recognized the potential of online sales and launched kazootoys.com. In 2007 she landed an agreement with the Army & Air Force Exchange Service to be the U.S. military's exclusive online toy retailer. And then in 2008 she launched a licensing division and sold a franchise location at Denver International Airport, which Nelson says is thriving.

As for her Ethics in Business award, Nelson, 54, says, "We wouldn't be around this long if we weren't an ethical company. I'm a pretty old-fashioned person. You still can do a business deal on a handshake. I think when you meet with people and you tell them you're going to do something, you do it."

Nelson employs about 30 people at the 13,000-
square-foot store, many of whom have been with the company more than a decade. Others have spent their high school years working at the store, gone off to college and come back to work at Kazoo & Toys over the summer. Some have become full-timers.

"People stay with us for a long time, which I think says a lot about the attitude of the business," Nelson says. "It's very family-oriented. And being a single mom with two teenage boys myself ... I mean, they've grown up in the toy store."

Sandy Vechazone, the company's operations manager who has worked at the store for 12 years, nominated Nelson for the ethics award.

"She's probably the smartest businesswoman I know," Vechazone says. "She's gotten to where she is not only because she is smart, but I also consider her a very ethical person, a very fair person. She's very well respected not only in this community but in the toy industry in general. People call her from stores in other states for her opinion. If you go to New York to the Toy Fair, she's very well known."

Nelson says Kazoo & Co. has weathered economic downturns and low-cost competitors like Wal-Mart by offering unique toys the big-box retailers don't stock, including dozens of stuffed animal species - polar bears, crocodiles, walruses, platypuses and more.

"Something you're not going to find anywhere else," says Nelson, who was invited to China last year to help one of her green-toy manufacturers plan its 2011 offerings of toys made from bamboo.

Given her constant research on toy trends, it only makes sense to ask Nelson what toys will be hot in 2011.

"You know what's really coming back? Magic kits!" she says. "You know, the old magic-trick hats with the bunny coming out of the hat, and the red table with 40 magic tricks in it, and the disappearing wands and all that. They're really hot this year."

It's not surprising that Nelson finds her work fun. And, she says, "I like watching other people have so much fun doing what they do."
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Mike Taylor is the managing editor of ColoradoBiz. He writes about small-business money issues and how startups are launched. Email him at mtaylor@cobizmag.com.

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