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Posted: July 01, 2011

Celebrating diversity in business

Finalists for Minority Businessperson of the Year

For 16 years, ColoradoBiz has been celebrating minority businesses at an annual breakfast and awards program. This year, we're proud to present our newly renamed 17th Annual Diversity in Business Breakfast.

The name change reflects our desire to broaden our focus to recognize not only great minority businesses but companies that promote diversity through their hiring and business practices.

On the following pages, we present three finalists for Minority Businessperson of the Year and three finalists each for Diversity Corporation of the Year in the small-to-medium and large categories.

We'll announce the winners July 13 at the breakfast, from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at the Seawell Grand Ballroom at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, 1101 13th St., in downtown Denver. (Visit the events page at www.cobizmag.com for details.)

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Minority Businessperson of the Year finalist
Deborah Quintana,
World Wide Money Exchange

As president and owner of World Wide Money Exchange, Deborah Quintana has to know more than how many dollars to the Euro. She also has to know federal anti-money laundering rules, which countries might have a coup, and how to find employees who can count cash in the age of credit and debit cards.
"We have to make sure we know what we're doing," she says of her business, which has three locations at Denver International Airport. "There's a lot that's going on, and we have to keep us safe."
Twenty years ago Quintana was selling insurance and running a brokerage company. She wanted to try to win a contract with the city of Denver, so she earned certification as an Airport Concessionaire Disadvantaged Business Enterprise. (Quintana is from Alamosa, where her great-great grandfathers were Spanish settlers.) When the city issued a request for money exchange and insurance services at Stapleton Airport, she won that contract.
Today, World Wide Money Exchange offers currency exchange, check cashing for DIA employees, and lottery ticket sales, including seven winners over the years. Currency exchange is still the majority of the work. Tellers stock 65 to 75 currencies, and the most popular are the Euro, Mexican Peso and Japanese Yen. She doesn't stock currency from politically unstable countries such as Venezuela, but she does stock the Iraqi Dinar. "People buy it as an investment scheme," she says.
The company has about 14 employees, mostly college students with strong skills in cash handling and customer service. World Wide Money Exchange recently won a seven-year extension of the DIA contract and hopes to open a location in Concourse C. - Nora Caley, photo by Marc Piscotty

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Minority Businessperson of the Year finalist
Mowa Haile, Sky Blue Builders

Mowa Haile, president and CEO of Sky Blue Builders, knows how
to handle change. In 1980 he and his brother, sister and parents escaped from the African nation of Eritrea, which was then part of Ethiopia, and moved to Denver. He learned English, adjusted to American culture, attended school and got used to snow.
"Adapting might come easier to me," he says. "But you learn that from business as well. If you do not adapt you get left behind."
Haile and two business partners launched the general contracting and construction management firm in 2007. The company won its first home remodel contract through a bid process, and in its first year generated revenues of $80,000.
A year later the housing market began its decline, so Sky Blue Builders shifted its focus to commercial and government work. The principals met with the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center, which helped set up meetings with government procurement representatives. Since then, Sky Blue Builders has done everything from replacing keypad door locks in Enterprise Rent-A-Car locations to building restrooms at Berkeley Park and Vanderbilt Park as part of the Better Denver Bond Project.
Haile, who earned degrees from Colorado State University and the University of Phoenix, says Sky Blue Builders is on track to reach $4 million in revenues this year. Next year the company, a strategic partner of Saunders Construction, will begin working on the Denver International Airport Rail Station and other construction in the South Terminal Redevelopment Program. He attributes the firm's success to customer service, taking care of employees, and community work, which includes volunteering as well as mentoring other small-business owners.
"It really comes down to treating each person with respect," he says. - Nora Caley, photo by Marc Piscotty

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Minority Businessperson of the Year finalist
Pancho Hansen

Francisco "Pancho" Hansen founded Trebol Soccer Club in Lafayette in 1995. Hansen, who is from Huehuetan, Chiapas, Mexico, played soccer professionally in Mexico in 1976 and 1977, then coached soccer teams in Mexico.
He moved to Lafayette in 1988 and worked for the city of Lafayette as a recreational youth soccer instructor.
"I saw a need for children to have the opportunity to play soccer at a more competitive level," says Hansen, who is now Trebol Soccer Club's coaching director. "It has always been a priority for me to make soccer accessible to and inclusive of all of our children in the community regardless of their playing level, their income level or their country of origin."
He says Trebol Soccer Club started with 100 children playing on seven teams. Today, 600 kids compete on 35 teams. All the kids who try out win a spot on a team, and the teams are arranged by age and by developmental to competitive levels. Trebol Soccer Club is a member of the Colorado State Youth Soccer Association, and teams travel within Colorado and southern Wyoming.
For high school players, the club plans to participate in showcase tournaments, where scouts can watch the students play. The club also hosts the Colorado Shootout, an annual tournament at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
Trebol has three full-time employees, two part-time employees, and about 50 parent and community volunteers. The club is bilingual in Spanish and English, and some children are eligible for need-based scholarships.
"We never turn any child away due to financial restrictions," Hansen says. - Nora Caley, photo by Marc Piscotty


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