Colorado cool stuff: Salted caramels, 3D buttons, recycled bags, monsters to love

“I’m a Colorado native and I wanted to do something to give back,” says Debra Wilcox, co-founder of the 3D Printing Store in Denver. Her vehicle: a 3D-printed button that incorporates the Colorado flag and mountains into one distinctive bit of flair. Wilcox – who launched the 3D Printing Store with Kenton Kuhn in 2012 – gives a portion of each sale to Parkinson’s Disease research at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. They’re taking off, gracing the lapels of notables like Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. They continually sell out, so they keep printing more – demonstrating the power of 3D printing technology. “The Colorado button is my story,” says Wilcox, whose father suffers from Parkinson’s. “It tells who I am.” $7 retail.

Made by
The 3D Printing Store
(303) 443-3733
Also available at The Concoctory (1875 S. Broadway in Denver)

After Ellen Daehinck worked for McKinsey & Co. and Sun Microsystems for most of the 2000s, her husband Chris urged her to go pro with her homemade caramels in 2010. Three years of triple-digit growth later, Ellen has made a name for Helliemae’s small-batch confections. “You caramelize the heck out of the sugar to start with,” says Ellen. She adds salt and chili powder, cardamom or coffee to create her four year-round flavors, and also makes seasonal flavors like Harvest, due out in August. Says Ellen: It’s like eating a caramel apple without the mess.” So what’s with the name Helliemae’s? “I wanted that connotation of old-fashioned and handcrafted, but that also screamed post-punk, hell-on-wheels intensity.” About $10 for a two-ounce package retail.

Made by
Helliemae’s Handcrafted Caramels
Also available at Hazel & Dewey in Denver and Bella Vida in Evergreen.

An intelligence officer in the U.S. Army by day, Emily Núnez makes bags of repurposed military surplus (namely retired parachutes, sleeping bags and other gear) by night with her sister Betsy. But it’s not work, she explains. “I’ve got so much passion for it, it doesn’t feel like a job.” Based at Fort Carson, Núnez says her upbringing made her keen to surplus often being burned instead of recycled. “Growing up in a military family, I knew how much military surplus went to waste,” she says. “I was inspired by other startups that were incorporating recycling into their business models.” A recent Kickstarter campaign netted about $300,000 – the initial goal was $20,000. “We were just blown away,” says Núnez. $30 to $259 retail.

Made by
Sword & Plough
Colorado Springs

Ray Tollison and his twin 11-year-old sons, Ben and Sam, have been making monsters since 2011 – with a charitable twist. For every monster they give one of their cuddly abominations to a child in need. “Whenever you buy a monster, you give a monster away,” says Ray, a photographer whose day job is in international relief work. The three have made about 1,000 Monsters to Love in the two years since, with Sam doing most of the sewing and Ben creating the bulk of the monstrous designs. There are stock Monsters and Blobs available, and the Tollisons can also handle custom requests of whatever horrifying thing is hiding under your bed or in your imagination. $25 and up retail.

Made by
A Monster to Love
Fort Collins