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Wild and woolly company wins big

Wool apparel manufacturer Voormi took home the winning title Tuesday as the state’s top outdoor lifestyle entrepreneur of the year at Something Independent’s 2013 Wright Awards.

“At its heart, Voormi is a brand built around wool and built around the southern Colorado back country,” said Timm Smith, director of brand marketing, in the company’s 90-second nomination video.

The Pagosa Springs-based company sources all its wool in Colorado and all other materials in America. 

“It’s a micro brew strategy … [which gives us] tight control on the quality,” said Voormi’s managing director, Dustin English.

The brand’s high-performance clothing and gear was recognized alongside 13 contenders as the business that best exemplified what Something Independent co-founder Chuck Sullivan called the “intersection of lifestyle and commerce.”

In 2011, Sullivan and his events and media company launched the S|I Entrepreneur Award, now called the S|I Wright Award.  This year, more than 200 submissions were narrowed down to 14 through company-made videos created to convey the core business proposition for each of the recognized candidates:

  • Badfish SUP(Salida)
  • Boa Technology  (Denver)
  • Colorado Malting Company (Alamosa)
  • Fishpond/Lilypond (Denver)
  • Jiberish (Denver)
  • Kota Longboards (Denver)
  • Loki USA (Grand Junction)
  • Optic Nerve (Wheat Ridge)
  • Panda Bicycles (Fort Collins)
  • Peach Street Distillers (Palisade)
  • Silverton Mountain (Silverton)
  • Topo Designs (Denver)
  • Viktorian Guitars (Denver)
  • Voormi (Pagosa Springs)

“What I find interesting is the story that shows the blurring of the lines of traditionally defined industry sectors,” Sullivan said. “Take Peach Street Distillers. As a craft distillery, they are by classification a manufacturer. They are also a significant tourism drive for the West Slope. They employ design and technology in the development, production, bottling, of their spirits. They partner with local fruit growers and are planting their own trees. That’s agriculture."   

The three finalists selected the night-of — Fishpond, Voormi and Optic Nerve — participated in a Q & A session with a panel of seven judges.

“The voting was not based on revenue or number of employees … but a specific state of mind. It’s not quantitative, but qualitative,” Sullivan said.

As the finalists responded, the first-place prize money doubled. An anonymous donor added $1,000 to the original $3,000 prize, Colorado Tourism Office Director Al White added another $1,000 and the Office of Economic Development and International Trade did the same.

Voomi is preparing to launch its inaugural winter season. 

“They are a fantastic representation of a Colorado company operating at the intersection of lifestyle and commerce,” Sullivan said. “They are making and living their story.”

The event began at the soon-to-open eatery Session Kitchen on South Pearl Street with a toast from Gov. John Hickenlooper, who launched Colorado’s first brewpub in a formerly barren Lower Downtown in 1988.

“Here is to the wonderful energy you are creating,” he said.  “Here’s to the entrepreneurs of Colorado.”

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Gigi Sukin

Gigi Sukin is an Associate Editor at ColoradoBiz. She can be reached at gsukin@cobizmag.com.

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