Colorado Companies to Watch 2020: The Makers & Suppliers
These companies are changing the way that products are made
As a certified B Corporation, Bolder Industries innovates sustainable rubber and plastic solutions that address the global waste-tire problem by providing new product outputs from recovered tires.
The company’s flagship product, BolderBlack, replaces petroleum-derived carbon black as a rubber reinforcing agent and a black pigment in plastics. BolderBlack is 100% produced from post-consumer or post-industrial tires and rubber scrap.
The company broke ground July 9 on a 17,000-square-foot addition to its existing facility in Maryville, Missouri. The expansion will nearly triple the company’s production capacity and enable it to add 10 advanced manufacturing jobs to the community in the northwest corner of the state.
Other growth initiatives include the addition of Swan Chemical, an industrial rubber specialty chemical manufacturer and distributor, and the addition of a full-scale rubber development laboratory in Punta Gorda, Florida.
Over the last three years, the drinkware maker BruMate brand has grown by more than 12,000%, a phenomenon CEO Dylan Jacob attributes to the company’s innovative position in the drinkware space and an “epic” marketing team that is passionate and constantly pushing the boundaries on what has been done before.
“We are a group of passionate hustlers that truly love the brand and culture we have created and are excited to get up in the morning and get the day started,” Jacob says.
BruMate sold about 7,000 vessels designed to keep wine and beer cold in 2016, a number that increased to 100,000 in 2017 and skyrocketed to 1 million by 2018. The company also sells coolers and accessories such as stainless steel straws and wine aerators.
In 2018, the company’s rapid growth forced it to upgrade its warehouses three times in less than a year. It ultimately brought on a partner that took over logistics completely, allowing BruMate to focus on what it’s good at — innovation and marketing.
“The following 12 months after we did that, we grew 900% without a hiccup,” Jacob says. “We are firm believers in outsourcing what you’re bad at and doubling down on what we are good at.”
Landing its first international account in Singapore showed EcoVessel that the world is ready for reusable drinkware.
The company’s flagship Boulder line has at least four features that aren’t found in the bottles made by its largest competitors. Those features include TriMax Triple Insulation, integrated strainers, dual-opening insulated lids and an integrated silicone bumper that protects the bottle from dings and dents. EcoVessel also gives companies the option of customizing its water bottles and mugs with their logos for promotional materials.
“We are obsessed with developing unique products, and we believe that innovation is part of our DNA as a company,” EcoVessel CEO Jon Fox says. “Everything we do starts with us thinking about how we can make our products more advanced and different than everything else on the market.”
The company’s partnership with 1% for the Planet, a global movement inspiring businesses and individuals to support environmental solutions, added structure to its mission to reduce single-use plastics. EcoVessel also gives 5% of its online sales to charity.
Sloane’s Carpet Secret sells mid to high-end carpets with slight imperfections, at half the prices of other retailers. The company has built direct relationships with carpet mills.
Sloane’s has invested heavily in digital advertising. “Sloane’s recognized early that Google and online advertising would be crucial and that online presence mattered far more than physical location,” says Josh Alban, third-generation owner. In 2005, Sloane’s began investing in organic search performance and cost-per-click conversions. More recently, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sloane’s introduced virtual sales capability, allowing customers to use their desktop, phone or tablet to tour the warehouse, select carpets, purchase carpet and padding and schedule an installation.
Josh Alban’s grandparents started the company in the 1950s. A fun fact, Alban says, is his grandparents carpeted Casa Bonita, the iconic restaurant. Today consumers are looking for more than just low prices, so the retailer also offers a high level of customer service. Sloane’s Carpet Secret is looking at new locations along the I-25 corridor to bring its innovative direct-to-factory pop-up model to other Denver sites, and Castle Rock and Fort Collins are up next. “As word gets out about this family business, the sky is the limit,” he says.
They might look like fans, but VAIREX Air Systems compressors are high-performance machines that meet the demanding needs of the fuel cell industry for high pressure and high efficiency air flow while being compact and durable.
CEO Ski Milburn founded VAIREX in 1987 as a contract R&D company focused on compressors for diesel engine manufacturers in the U.S. and Europe. In the 1990s the company got into the fuel cell industry through the Department of Energy’s fuel cell vehicle development effort. The company pivoted away from contract engineering and toward manufacturing its own products.
The product has evolved over the years. Early compressors had hundreds of parts and were expensive to design, tool and manufacture. VAIREX began making a regenerative compressor, which has one moving part but can generate over 10 times the pressure of the centrifugal compressors it resembles. It operates at moderate speeds, not requiring exotic bearings, motors and power electronics, or extreme tolerances or high precision assembly.
VAIREX has become a key supplier to the largest developer of fuel cell forklifts in the industry. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, and consumers increased their online purchasing, large companies deployed these forklifts to move products around warehouses. VAIREX also has sales offices in Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai.
Founded in 1972, Westland Distributing is the leading distributor of manufactured housing supplies in the western United States. In 2017 the company was acquired by Ogdon Ventures, a family-run private equity firm.
At the time, the business had 21 employees, and there was a concern that they would not be interested or able to transform the business to a more modern version of itself. The fear turned out to be unfounded, and the company successfully modernized. Faxes gave way to text orders, and key performance indicators (KPI) were introduced to help the team determine where dollars were spent most efficiently. New enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, sales strategies, team members, products and customers also transformed the business. In 2018 Westland Distributing merged with Arizona Home Supply and Nevada Home Supply, and now serves the entire U.S. with a selection of 2,000 parts and supplies.
Today Westland Distributing has 67 employees and is more profitable than ever. Technology and data are a key part of the equation, but the team and attitude leverage those for success.
The cannabis industry is still relatively new, so manufacturers are working not only to develop products but also raise consumer awareness about all of the possibilities for what the plant can do. Wana Brands has a mission to help people enhance their lives physically, creatively and emotionally through the responsible use of cannabis. The company makes medical and recreational products that are available in eight states.
The products include Quick Fast-Acting Tincture that will offer a discreet and cost-effective alternative to smoking cannabis flower. There are also gummies with CBD (cannabidiol, which is non-psychoactive) and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive constituent of the cannabis plant).
Wana Brands is working to improve bioavailability of cannabis products, so that consumers could have more consistent results with cannabis in the future. The company is also working on CBD-THC ratios, and a greater use and application of minor cannabinoids‚ such as CBN, CBG, CBC and others and how they can best work with proprietary botanical terpenes to target conditions affecting sleep, pain and anxiety.
For employees, Wana has a talent development program, and invests in employees’ professional development to support its goal of promoting from within the company and developing a more skilled workforce. The company reimburses employees for continuing education, seminars, industry or functional-job related training.
The family-owned YellowDog opened its doors in 2005 in the Santa Fe Arts District and focused on printing services. The company prints everything from brochures to large signage, and lately has been printing social distancing floor decals, large “Curbside Pickup” signs, and other items to help businesses reopen safely.
Over the years the company introduced digital services, then entered the creative space. In 2019 YellowDog moved to a 7,400-square-foot warehouse complex in the Clayton Neighborhood east of RiNo. This move allowed the firm to upgrade machinery, and the first machine installed in the new location was a Xerox Irridesse, which prints with metallic and specialty inks.
To compete with large print company chains, YellowDog offers better customer service. Each customer is assigned an account manager to oversee each order, assuring quality and satisfaction. The company competes with high-end creative agency services by being personable, affordable and unassuming, which small businesses and nonprofits appreciate.
YellowDog is a Certifiably Green Denver Company, and offsets 100% of its electricity use, vehicle use and other carbon emissions through renewable energy credits. The company has a goal to obtain woman-owned business certification in 2021, as Jennifer Mulligan, who is president, is 51% shareholder of YellowDog. The agency’s namesake dog, Maggie, was owners Jenny and Dan’s first yellow labrador, and YellowDog allows up to three dogs in the workplace each day.