Colorado Companies to Watch 2020: The Communicators & Educators
These agencies are using their voices to tell stories of brands and people
CHC Training’s Denver location gives it a leg up on the competition because the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment has some of the most stringent air regulations in the nation.
From asbestos training to OSHA safety, CHC offers everything the abatement, construction, restoration and demolition industries need to gain a competitive edge and ensure compliance and employee engagement.
Operating in a state that takes air quality regulation seriously enables CHC Training to expand nationally, acquiring approvals and market share with ease. The company’s future growth will primarily be in online learning where it will provide the most current classes and maintain state approvals. Coursework includes a focus on the disciplines of the past as well as innovating to make sure each time OSHA introduces a new rule or standard there is a class ready to explain it.
“Our approach to the most recent COVID-19 response classes did exactly that,” CHC CEO Danaya Benedetto says. “We worked around the clock to compile guidance documents from OSHA, John’s Hopkins and the World Health Organization into a practical and easy-to-use online class and another quick-view video.
“The pandemic and the shift from an entire industry that trained in the classroom to needing immediate online solutions has defined our future capacity for growth.”
Fruition’s industry-leading tool set enables digital marketers to efficiently gain visibility to their websites and track and manage campaigns.
Among Fruition’s pivotal moments was in 2012 when the company embraced neurological diversity and hired its first employee with autism. Eight years later, that employee is still with the company working as a mathematician and researcher.
“This moment spurred us to expand the types of thinkers on our team, which has enabled us to tackle difficult and diverse problems with innovative cognitive solutions,” Fruition CEO Jim Collins says. “At the same time, it encouraged Fruition’s leadership to slow down and think about what each individual needs to be successful in their role.”
The company drives its growth by focusing its efforts in the right areas. Eighty percent of its energy is focused and disciplined, while the other 20% is spent shooting for the stars, Collins says.
“We have a no-nonsense, bare-bones approach to setting goals, monitoring progress toward those goals and evaluating wins and misses along the way,” he says. “This approach allows us to spend 20% of our energy and time and budget on innovating our own software, trying our hand in a new industry and/or taking risks such as hiring a new leader.”
Play-based learning and instructional tool maker Kodo Kids refuses to compromise the quality of its products to make them cheaper despite big distributors’ suggestions to switch to plastic and move manufacturing to China.
“We focused on building our brand as the high-quality, innovative leader and took our products to market ourselves,” Kodo Kids President and partner Lauren Barthen says. “We also vowed to keep manufacturing in the USA. This guided our strategy and is who we are today.”
Maintaining that integrity led to the partnership Kodo Kids formed earlier this year with Teaching Strategies, among the largest curriculum companies in the United States, giving the company tremendous credibility and cementing it as a high-quality material provider. Kodo Kids creates product bundles that support Teaching Strategies’ curricula, and Teaching Strategies sells the products alongside its curriculum to their customers.
Kodo also is leading the movement to bring natural materials back to the classroom. For example, the company shies away from brightly colored objects and plastics that mimic wood to natural earth tones and real materials and textures.
“Schools everywhere are re-evaluating their aesthetic and environments to ensure they provide environments that support 21st century learners,” Barthen says.
For churches, live streaming was important even before COVID-19. Resi — formerly known as Living As One before a rebranding in August — offers reliable and affordable streaming solutions that deliver high quality video from one site to many sites. For religious organizations, that means streaming church services to remote locations so congregants can watch and even participate and communicate with other participants.
The company offers multisite platforms and web platforms that can overcome internet bottlenecks and even internet outages. The key is to deliver a high quality video stream without buffering wheels, jitters or stopped video, because people watching the video will abandon it after the first hiccup. Also, the platform is designed to be easy to use, even for volunteers, with just a few clicks needed for streaming and playback.
Resi has saved churches much money, and the company also works with other entities. It provides an event streaming platform to corporations that want to stream their events, meetings or conferences. The company has several patents.
“We started streaming to the web 1 ½ years before COVID, and during COVID, everyone needed live streaming,” President Collin Jones says. “We have doubled our growth since COVID started. We are sad that it happened and of course we want it to stop, but we were well-positioned for it.”
Digital marketing agency SmarterChaos recognized subscription services as a niche opportunity that competitors were not addressing. The firm established itself as a top marketing agency for subscription-box-service brands, and for direct-to-consumer companies. The company manages the chaos of digital marketing for clients including Casetify, Shipt, and others. Its diverse services in online marketing include affiliate, influencer, search and social media, to help clients reach their entire potential customer base.
During the COVID-19 crisis, SmarterChaos focused on clients’ online strategies. The efforts maximized marketing budgets, generated online sales, raised brand awareness and stabilized revenues while the brick-and-mortar retail industry was critically impacted. The firm accelerated promotion of direct-to-consumer products and subscription services that consumers could quickly purchase and receive at their doorstep, while traditional retail products were inaccessible.
SmarterChaos applies a pay-for-performance model and focuses on the cost to acquire a customer rather than media costs. With the pay-for-performance model, SmarterChaos is invested in the success of its clients.
In July SmarterChaos announced Digital Media Solutions (DMS), a Clearwater, Florida-based provider of technology and digital performance marketing solutions entered into a definitive agreement to acquire SmarterChaos. The high service level will remain the same, the company says in a press release, and the Colorado team will become a remote workforce.
In 2020, corporate and organizational leaders are faced with a number of new challenges when it comes to their preparation, strategic planning and decision-making. The first is the sheer volume of information that is available to them. The second is the accuracy of the information, and third is the amount of time they have to make decisions. The pandemic has only amplified these challenges.
The AI-powered software that Greenwood Village-based Turbine Labs has developed changes the way people access and use information to get smarter, make better decisions and improve results.
“Most organizations have a pretty good handle on their internal information — sales, supply chain, finance, HR, etc.,” says Leigh Fatzinger, founder and CEO. “We use AI to collect and filter the massive amount of external information — news, social media, regulatory data — and synthesize it into formats that decision-makers can use to be more effective and feel less overwhelmed and fatigued.”
Turbine Labs has been in business since 2014, selling primarily to large enterprises and political organizations. Growth has accelerated in the last two years, and through the pandemic. The company has launched several new products in 2020 at lower price points.
Verblio provides blog and web content writing services, but it’s much more than a freelancer marketplace or a gig work platform. The company, which rebranded from its original name BlogMutt in 2018, offers a subscription service that combines a marketplace of skilled freelancers, a SaaS-based platform, and a professional services team.
CEO Steve Pockross explains that the solution is much like the process of making dinner. Other services are like grocery stores that offer the ingredients one needs, but it requires more effort to produce an actual meal. The Verblio model is a subscription service, similar to Blue Apron in the dinner analogy, delivering a full solution for the client to assemble.
The client can select written content about a topic each month, or more complete services such as a bundle that includes text, photos, and back-end search engine optimization, which involves boosting technical elements of a website, not just keywords, to improve SEO performance. In 2019 Verblio acquired Automagical, an AI video platform to expand the company’s product offering to multimedia content.
Verblio has 3,000 freelance writers who can cover 38 different areas of expertise. They write blog posts, e-books, press releases, newsletters and other web content, but not term papers or social media.
VOCO launched in 2008, which was not only the start of the Great Recession, but also a time when no one really knew how to use Twitter and Facebook. “So we reserved a room at a public library, sent out emails to everyone we knew, informing them that we were doing a workshop for businesses on how to use Twitter for their small business,” says managing partner Juli Dimos. “We became a social media marketing company before people knew what that was.”
Two years later, Pinterest and Instagram launched, and so did the need for gorgeous food photography. Small natural food brands that were VOCO clients needed visuals to build strong numbers of followers, so VOCO built a team that could provide beautiful, fast and effective photography and video that launched brands on social media.
More recently, as COVID-19 affected the advertising business and the global economy, VOCO adapted quickly, setting up virtual events, multi-week webinars and adapting campaigns for clients to the new reality.
“As a woman-run agency with no background in the advertising industry or connections, we made up our own rules and created processes that were based on efficiency and common sense instead of precedent,” says Jennifer McGhee, also a managing partner. “We were marketers first and believed creative needed to support the marketing, not the other way around.”