Colorado Companies to Watch 2019: The Foodies
Six companies to feed your hunger
When Fire on the Mountain talks about growing, its conversations are all guided by an overarching commitment to its core values: environmental sustainability; great customer service; taking care of its people; and community support.
Of course, this is all done with a bottom-line commitment to high quality, ethically sourced, delicious food, owner Andrea West says. If we are profitable while meeting these values metrics, we will know that our growth is on the right track.
The Certified Green Restaurant, which is opening a second Denver restaurant, values profitability and environmental sustainability equally. It prides itself on offering benefits to all and working with like-minded vendors.
For us, attracting great employees has meant supporting efforts to raise the minimum wage,” West says. “We all do well if we all do well; business owners can’t make honest profits while campaigning to keep wages low in a city with skyrocketing costs of living. By paying staff a living wage, we retain good people who can actually afford to live in the place they work.
A company-wide, comprehensive training program for new hires and current employees clarifies and continually revisits expectations for everyone, thereby reducing mistakes, improving productivity and consistency, creating a path for advancement and ensuring greater employee and customer satisfaction. A Volunteer Program connects staff with Charity of the Month Partners and other nonprofits in need of volunteers, and employees help guide charitable giving.
Laws Whiskey House has gone from first sales to becoming one of Colorado’s largest distilleries in less than four years.
A top-notch sales team and a strategic approach, combined with a high quality, differentiated and premium product, allowed Laws to penetrate the market rapidly and establish itself as one of the strongest brands in its industry in Colorado. It is expanding nationally as well, targeting markets in Illinois, Texas, California and New York.
Laws’ company culture reflects the idea that it takes a village to make great whiskey. The management team believes in servant leadership practices to provide the best possible resources available to allow its talented village members to shine. To emphasize the village mentality, Laws also recently launched an employee ownership program.
The company donates whiskey, gift baskets, tours and event space to a wide variety of charitable organizations and donates several barrels of whiskey annually, which raises as much as $15,000 each for specific causes.
Food ingredient innovation company MycoTechnology produces novel new ingredients based on a patented food processing platform that leverages mushrooms for fermentation. In its new 86,000-square-foot facility in Aurora, 20 scientists focus on greatly reducing the need for sugar and salt and creating highly sustainable new sources of plant-based protein.
Our goal is to use natural fermentation to make better products that not only taste good but are good for you,” CEO Alan Hahn says. “We are developing over 20 new products that will have huge impacts on health and wellness worldwide.
In addition to generous benefits, MycoTechnology provides a company gym, rail passes, daily snacks and breakfast plus lunch once a week. Employees participate in Habitat for Humanity on an annual basis.
In 2009, OZO began roasting its own coffee, a concept that was an instant hit. Today, OZO Coffee Roaster has more than 200 retail relationships and counting. The company opened OZO Coffee Lab and Training Center five years ago, becoming one of the first Specialty Coffee Associations-certified campuses in Colorado.
Community is king at OZO, which supports schools and other nonprofits with fundraising opportunities, coffee and silent and live auction donations and of course, coffee. OZO participates in the Trip Tracker program, giving students coupons for riding their bikes or carpooling to school. It also supports the Future Arts Foundation, which supplies musical instruments and art programs to students in need. And OZO raises money for its own farmers for a cyber cafe in Honduras, drying racks for Peru and goats for Burundi.
Smirk’s imports more than 100 different food ingredients, including dried fruits, nuts and seeds, from farmers and processors around the world to its warehouses in Colorado, California and New Jersey. It offers organic, conventional and kosher products, all of which are subjected to certifications to verify safety and quality.
Much of our growth in the past and projections for the future are a result of many years of friendship, transparency and support that have solidified in a business relationship,” President Nicholas Erker says. “We don’t make anything or touch any consumers, but (we) have earned the trust of our partners to help bridge that gap.
To date, Smirk’s has never had to recruit a salesperson; they have all approached the company. “We are all about having fun and have succeeded in creating a workplace and culture that fosters this on a daily basis,” Erker says.
Smirk’s gives to numerous charities with monetary and food donations.
My favorite story is when we donated almost 16,000 pounds of a chocolate item we discontinued to Gleanings for the Hungry, Erker says. “This ended up going to some orphanages and Catholic Charities in Mexico and brought an Easter smile to needy children.
Imagine this: You arrive at your production facility on delivery day to find that two of your three delivery vans have been stolen. The thieves left the third one — but took its battery.
A lot of other companies would have thrown in the towel on the deliveries that day,” Founder Zach Johnston says. “But we all loaded spices into our personal vehicles and a rented U-Haul and made it happen.
That can-do attitude, a knack for innovation and a commitment to a great company culture have helped propel The Spice Guy’s phenomenal growth from the new kid in town to majority market share in less than a year.
The company can make changes quickly and effectively via technology-based applications that are accessible from mobile devices that all team members have.
I like to say that we are as agile as a speedboat while our competition often shares a turning radius with the likes of the Titanic,” Johnston says. “We are using complex systems that I have designed by Frankenstein-ing together different pieces of different apps to make them work perfectly for what we need.
Giving back is always part of the mix: The company sponsors several food-based nonprofits, and for two weeks a year, it donates all e-commerce sales to No Kid Hungry and Share Our Strength, Colorado.
From its humble beginnings as a corner coffee shop on Longmont’s Main Street, Ziggi’s Coffee has spread across Colorado and neighboring states with shops and drive-through locations. In 2016, founders Brandon and Camrin Knudsen began offering franchise opportunities as well.
Since then, Ziggi’s has doubled in size, with 17 locations currently operating in Colorado, Arizona and Oklahoma. A total of 29 franchise agreements have been signed and additional units are in development for communities in California, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Arizona and Colorado, Brandon Knudsen says.
Even as it grows, Ziggi’s adheres to the idea that its employees are part of a family.
Our brand promise is to be the best part of your day, and that promise is not only fulfilled for our customers, but also our employees and our franchisees,” Brandon Knudsen says. “We strive to be the best part of each other’s day by maintaining a company culture that is rooted in honesty, authenticity, fun, friendliness, passion, collaboration and support.
As Ziggi’s grows, so does the company’s commitment to giving back. Special discount days throughout the year show appreciation for teachers and veterans, and the company makes frequent contributions to local organizations and schools in the areas. For the last two years, Ziggi’s has contributed to the Colorado Friendship organization in Boulder County, which delivers food and clothing to low-income and poverty-stricken children and families.
This article is part of the 2019 Colorado Companies to Watch. Read more about the other winners:
THE FIXERS | THE TECHIES | THE MAKERS & SUPPLIERS | THE HELPERS | THE COMMUNICATORS & EDUCATORS | THE ORGANIZERS