Made in Colorado 2015: Take 2
Dixie Elixirs & Edibles
Who: CEO Tripp Keber started making marijuana-infused soda for medical marijuana dispensaries in 2009. Five years—and Amendment 64—later, he’s built a showcase production facility in northeast Denver and says he can’t make his products fast enough.
Innovation: “We’ve built what I believe to be the industry’s most state-of-the-art extraction facility,” says Keber. The company uses the resulting cannabis oils in sodas, energy drinks, mints, candy bars and other products. 60 Minutes has toured Dixie’s facility twice and Keber has appeared on CNBC and countless other media outlets
Buzz: Immediately after recreational marijuana became legal in January 2014, “We were selling more in six hours than we were selling in a whole month in 2013,” Keber says. “I don’t think we had any idea how voracious the demand would be.” Growth for the year was around 500 percent. The brand will expand into seven other states via “affiliate partners” in 2015.
Why Colorado: “Colorado has a state’s rights environment,” says Keber. “Regulators and legislators seek first to understand…then be understood. All of that wrapped up in a big red bow—or maybe a green bow—is an entrepreneurial environment.”
Dry Dock Brewing Co.
Who: Kevin DeLange and Michele Reding in 2005 from The Brew Bigger Hut home brewing store with a pioneering model that’s since gone mainstream.
What: “In Colorado, you can have a manufacturing license with a tasting room,” says DeLange. “Nobody had opened up with a manufacturing license and sold all of their beer retail. We were the first to do that in Colorado and now there are probably 150.” He’s since moved into wholesale with cans of Hop Abomination and four other beers, as well as 22-ounce bottles.
Why cans: “It was a tough decision,” says DeLange. “If you do a good job getting the beer into a can, it’s just as good. I thought, ‘If the beer’s the same, which would I rather have?’”
DeLange went with cans for their weight and portability and bought a canning line from Boulder-based Wild Goose in 2009. Five million cans and a $4.5 million production facility later, he says the line is going strong. “Their sales girl says, ‘You’ve abused your line as much as anybody.’”
Who: Bill Swails built himself an “Xpedition Vehicle,” or XV, in 1998 before going into business making up-to $500,000 vehicles that are designed to go literally anywhere. There are about 150 EarthRoamer Xvs on the road today, including one that was delivered to musician John Mayer in late 2014.
Innovation: Rvs usually run on propane; Xvs are solar-powered. “It allows you to be 100 percent off the grid,” says Swails.
Next: An even burlier vehicle: the $1 million XV-HD. Swails hopes to deliver the first one this year.
Lessons learned: The company went through bankruptcy after the 2008 crash. “We were pretty leveraged,” say Swails. He took the opportunity to retool the company, now 26 employees strong and growing. “Now we can stay in business on the service side alone.”
Why Colorado: “The Colorado image and brand is very important to us,” Swails answers. “It’s also a perfect testing ground for our vehicles.”
The ends of the Earth: Many customers have driven their Xvs around the world, but one Australian customer put his to the ultimate test in Mongolia. “You’re not even on roads,” laughs Swails. “You’re just driving on trails at that point.”
Who: Mic and Mollie Heynecamp opened a brewpub in Socorro, New Mexico, in 1999, then migrated north to Buena Vista to launch Eddyline 10 years later. They since opened a taproom in 2011.
Brewing in a whitewater town: “Our first summer was incredible,” says Mic. “It’s amazing how much [Buena Vista] swells with people.”
When they started canning Crank Yankers IPA in 16-ounce six-packs in 2012, demand spiked again. “It just took off. Overnight, we maxed out our capacity.”
The past five years have involved smoothing out this seasonal oscillation. The Heynecamps think they solved it in early 2014 with a $2 million expansion. Mic forecasts production to increase from about 3,000 barrels in 2014 to 7,000 this year.
Why Colorado: “We always wanted to live in Colorado and realized opening the brewery was the ticket,” says Mic. Eddyline also focuses distribution of its cans in Colorado alone. Mic’s motto: “Don’t overextend yourself.”
Next: The ongoing brewing boom, the industry’s third in 30 years, is going to have fallout, Mic says. “There’s only so much shelf space. Packaging brewing is going to be increasingly competitive. The survivors are going to be those with the best beer.” To this end, Eddyline will invest in a pressurized canning line in 2015.
Elevation Organic Ketchup
Who: Real estate agent by day, Aaron Wagner started making his great-great-grandmother’s ketchup recipe in 2012. Three years later, he’s making 100-gallon batches and selling pallets of the stuff to stores and restaurants.
What: Elevation Organic is a condiment for foodies. All ingredients are organic and there’s no corn syrup. An all-new vindaloo-spiced variety launched in late 2014. “Traditional ketchup is more than half corn syrup,” Wagner notes. “I’ll be delivering ketchup this morning that’s still hot because it was made last night.”
Growth: After 500 percent sales growth in 2014, Wagner says he’s looking for more growth at restaurant accounts. He just developed a custom ketchup for The Kitchen restaurants, and Root Down DIA alone went through 125 gallons during Christmas week. “They go through extreme amounts of ketchup,” Wagner says.
Two jobs: With a white-hot housing market in Denver, does Wagner sleep? “Not much,” he laughs.