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Posted: September 26, 2014

Top Company 2014: Consumer Business

Winner: Otter Products

Mike Dano

Consumer Business winner: OtterBox

Otterbox.com

After overseeing several years of frenetic growth, Brian Thomas is working on how to properly scale the business to accommodate that growth and ensure that growth will continue in the years ahead.

Thomas, the CEO of smartphone case maker OtterBox, was the company’s sixth employee in 2003, just a few years after its founding in 1998. Today he’s the head of a company with 1,000 employees (650 in Fort Collins, the company’s headquarters).

Thomas and OtterBox rode the wave generated by the iPhone and other smartphones during the past decade, a wave that has pushed smartphones into the pockets and purses of more than half of all Americans. Many of those smartphone users have chosen to protect their gadgets with cases from OtterBox.

Thomas said the company’s primary challenge now is “continuing to scale the business at the rate it’s growing.”

Thomas said OtterBox is planning to expand more fully into “technology-based products” like its new Resurgence series of cases that include built-in batteries.

Another key element of OtterBox’s growth strategy hinges on its entry into the business-to-business market. “If we’re able to get similar market share in the B2B market as well as retail it would be a big opportunity for us,” Thomas said.

For example, United Airlines recently added 50,000 iPads to its in-flight systems, and that investment could be protected with the addition of an OtterBox case. “There are a lot more companies building software, building systems, around mobile,” Thomas said. Indeed, OtterBox has already developed an iPad case specifically for the education market; school districts that are investing in tablets for students are also looking for ways to protect those devices from butterfingers. That kind of protection, Thomas said, is “a huge and compelling thing.”

Most importantly though, Thomas said OtterBox needs to continue doing what it does best: Meet the needs of its distributor customers, the big-box retailers and wireless carriers that purchase its products and then sell them to end-users. “Our customers are looking to accessories to create more profit for their companies,” Thomas said. “So if we miss a launch, they miss millions of dollars. And they don’t quietly tell us that.”

That requires “operational execution at huge scale,” he said – no easy feat.

Consumer business finalists:

Door to Door Organics

Louisville

Doortodoororganics.com

While many e-tailers are detached from their customers, Louisville-based Door to Door Organics brings a refreshingly human touch to online grocery shopping, with its customer satisfaction ratings exceeding those of popular retailers such as Trader Joe’s. Partnering with local farmers, the company provides customized “contextual commercial technology to deliver fresh, high-quality organic foods,” all with a one-click checkout. DTDO expects to double its revenue year-over-year in 2014.

Schomp Automotive

Denver

Ralphschomp.com

Starting in 1941 with an Englewood gas station, the Schomp name is now regionally recognized for its trio of Honda, BMW and MINI Cooper dealerships. Its “one price” sales model eliminates the haggling and hassle involved in car buying. Schomp intends to continue extending its market share across various brands and categories and remain an active corporate community citizen, assisting programs such as the Children’s Hospital Colorado Burn Unit. Up next: a new state-of-the-art 47,000-square-foot MINI and Honda dealership.

Mike Dano is a freelance writer and the executive editor for the Telecom Group for FierceMarkets, which includes FierceWireless, FierceTelecom and other publications. Mike has been a journalist for more than a dozen years. Follow Mike @mikeddano and on LinkedIn. Mike is based in Arvada.

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