Makers & Suppliers — Colorado Companies to Watch 2023
Now in its 15 year, Colorado Companies to Watch recognizes second-stage enterprises that are fueling job growth and economic vitality in communities across the state.
This year’s 50 Colorado Companies to Watch winners represent most of the state, with headquarters in at least 20 Colorado cities and operations in 77 locations in the state. They come from seemingly every industry imaginable: aerospace, architecture, engineering, construction, health and wellness, food and beverage, outdoor gear, to name just a few.
The Companies to Watch program was created by the Edward Lowe Foundation to recognize and celebrate the achievements of second-stage companies that might otherwise go unnoticed or underappreciated on a statewide level. This year’s winners were judged the best out of more than 1,150 nominations, so it’s a select group indeed. Read on to learn more about them.
Read on to learn more about our favorite Makers & Suppliers.
Ever-changing liquor laws that benefit large chain retailers, new products and a growing trend toward sobriety are impacting the market for spirits, but Axe and the Oak Distillery’s strategy of building community is helping the company succeed.
Launched in 2013 by friends Jason Jackson, Casey Ross and Eric Baldini, Axe and the Oak’s spirits have won more than 40 awards from around the world. Its spirits include Colorado Mountain Bourbon Whiskey, Incline Rye Whiskey, Pikes Peak Hill Shine, Citra Gin and First Stake Cask Strength Bourbon.
The Axe and the Oak Whiskey House uses only its flagship spirits to create its handcrafted seasonal cocktails, which feature a variety of house-made infusions and liqueurs, freshly squeezed juices and hand-carved ice.
Axe and the Oak spirits are in eight states. Baldini said great banking, strategic relationships and national distribution is allowing the company to expand outside of Colorado. It plans to launch in 17 more states over the next five years.
“Our strength is in the people we hire, the passion behind our products we produce and the out-of-the-box partnerships we have created,” Baldini said. “Our success has been directly associated with how we build community and individuals that support our brand.”
Most corporate gifts miss the mark, with employees and clients receiving generic items they have no use for.
But through Cultivate, businesses can let their employees and clients select the gifts they want through pop-up shops onsite or its online gifting platform, which is designed to help companies deliver appreciation to people’s inboxes while leveraging data, technology and tools to track and measure their Return On Appreciation.
Allowing people to select their gifts ensures everyone receives something they’ll love and use — and remember who gave it to them and why.
“Now, we have a unique opportunity to offer a variety of gifting solutions to our existing clients, new markets and the $240 billion corporate giving industry in the U.S.,” Cultivate Director of Marketing Jenny McGee said.
Cultivate’s gifting experts work with a growing portfolio of Fortune 1000 clients, including IBM, Verizon, Boeing and Charles Schwab.
“We challenge our clients to think about value and measure appreciation in a new way,” McGee said. “We are not a team of order takers. We are consultants who help their clients deliver unforgettable appreciation.”
Women no longer have to wear ill-fitting men’s garb to support their favorite sports teams thanks to apparel manufacturer KadyLuxe.
The company has proven there’s a market for high-quality female fan wear at the college level and now is turning to professional sports.
KadyLuxe is a licensee for the Dallas Cowboys, NBA, NHL and more than 70 NCAA universities across the U.S., including the Ohio State Buckeyes and Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Locally, you can find exclusive Denver Nuggets and Avalanche product collections from KadyLuxe at Ball Arena.
“Our successful program for the last three years with the Dallas Cowboys is making a case for us to earn the entire NFL league license and open up a multimillion-dollar channel,” said KadyLuxe founder and CEO Kady Zinke, a former NBA dancer. “The same goes for MLB and potentially women’s soccer. Female fans are outpacing male fans in many markets, and retailers are trying to find solutions. Retailers need more choices for their female fans. Sports teams are wanting to partner with female founders.”
“The company’s proven track record with royalties and licensing gives it the strength to grow with other powerful licenses such as Disney or Marvel,” Zinke said.
Låda Cube is a wall system engineered from the ground up as a solution to sustainable interior and exterior construction.
Founded in 2013, the company designs and manufactures modern solutions for retail, residential and any business needing innovative solutions with acoustical control, fast buildout and high-level energy efficiencies.
Its walls are pre-engineered and pre-manufactured, giving clients flexibility and function.
“With the current traditional construction environment, the processes are very inefficient, wasteful and plagued with costly overruns and delays,” Låda Cube CEO John Fay said. “Productivity has been flat for decades. By contrast, manufacturing productivity in other sectors has nearly doubled over the same period. ESG (environmental, social and governance) scores and green building requirements are also accelerating the growth of new innovations such as Låda Cube.”
The company has established manufacturing operations worldwide, including in Cape Town, South Africa, and Guadalajara, Mexico.
After spending much time outdoors, Leah Garcia searched for a way to protect her skin against the elements. Garcia assembled a team of microbiologists and clinicians and developed NULASTIN, a skin care regimen that is performance-based, results-oriented, and ethically derived. The team brought NULASTIN to market in 2016, and today the brand has an expanding line of elastin replenishment lash, brow, hair, and skin products.
NULASTIN has various influencers, A-Listers and celebrities using the product, including Billy Idol and Jamie Lee Curtis. The brand leverages social media to help it stand out in a large, crowded category.
“The skincare market and beauty industry as a whole are seeing a push for scientifically backed products,” says Garcia, NULASTIN’s founder and CEO. “Unfortunately, many companies in the space are claiming science without the evidence, thus turning it into a marketing play rather than an actual guarantee of quality and results.” NULASTIN’s claims are based on science and evidence, and the company’s board consists of scientists and experts in the space.
“The NULASTIN team is quickly growing,” Garcia says. “We are hand-selecting the best in the industry to lead us to the next phase of the business.”
Natural products company Quicksilver Scientific has 18 years of experience as a global innovator in functional supplements and integrative health. The company says its delivery systems represent the future of dietary supplements, combining nature’s nutrients with science to pioneer solutions designed to meet modern health goals. Bioavailability is an important challenge in the supplement industry, and the company’s proprietary nanoparticle technology has led to a sophisticated liposomal delivery system that solves the problem by allowing nutraceutical absorption to begin as soon as the product is ingested.
Quicksilver Scientific’s offerings include more than 60 products, protocols and kits across 11 categories: Cellular, Cognitive, Detox, GI, Hormones, Immunity, Inflammation, Longevity, Metabolism, Sleep, and Vitamins and Minerals. In 2022, the company launched Apricō, offering Quicksilver’s nanoemulsion delivery technology to consumers in a more accessible, great-tasting plant-based supplement line.
The company was able to avoid supply chain issues because it focuses on in-house innovation and manufacturing. All products are created on-site at Quicksilver Scientific in Louisville. As a cGMP certified company, Quicksilver Scientific manufactures health supplements according to cGMP regulations and strict quality control guidelines. Many batches also undergo third-party testing to ensure that the safety, quality and potency of products uphold the company standards.
Avid outdoor adventurer Tim Nickles knows that the right gear can help enthusiasts enjoy their active lifestyle. That includes camping, and Nickles set out to develop gear that made sleeping under the stars more comfortable. He designed a rooftop tent for his car, which gave him the advantage of not having to set up poles, fight for a camping spot, or look for a flat spot on the ground.
Nickles borrowed $8,000 from his mother – he has since paid her back – and launched Roofnest in 2017. The company’s mission is to make camping accessible, convenient and comfortable for outdoor explorers of every experience level by designing, manufacturing and selling durable and easy-to-use hard shell rooftop tents. Roofnest has design patents on its proprietary tent designs and has developed several new products. The tents attach to the car’s crossbars like a ski rack or storage box, and range in size to accommodate two to four adults, or two adults plus a dog or child, or other combination. The tents are available in various styles, pop up in a minute and include a ladder.
Sales and employee counts grew dramatically during the pandemic, when customers embraced the outdoors even more than usual.
The apparel company Shinesty has a mission to make the world take itself less seriously. The irreverent direct-to-consumer brand specializes in underwear, and has other clothing with themes such as a Pride Collection, retro ski suits and holiday outfits.
The e-commerce company is in the process of expanding into brick and mortar retail through partnerships with other retailers. There is also a popular subscription business model, which enables customers to automatically buy underwear monthly, quarterly or annually. The brand gained attention when Al Roker mentioned the underwear on the “Today” show a few years ago, and since then Shinesty has built nontraditional partnerships. Earlier this year it announced it had signed a deal with Clemson University basketball player Brevin Galloway, who had suffered a groin injury. Also this year, Shinesty paid the bail and court fees of a streaker who had been arrested after interrupting the PGA Waste Management Phoenix Open while wearing Shinesty’s denim-print swim trunks.
By entertaining and selling, Shinesty has built a strong consumer brand with customers who love the products and the brand’s voice. Revenues and employee counts have been gaining steadily since the company was founded in 2014.
In 2019, winemaker Patric Matysiewski and grape grower Kaibab Sauvage formed a partnership, with a goal to create a new breed of estate winery. They launched Sauvage Spectrum, and the first release was Sparklet, a fruit-forward, affordable sparkling wine. The founders knew that sparkling wines were starting to trend nationally and were underrepresented in Colorado. They also wanted to highlight the area’s premium high desert fruit.
To keep the wine affordable, Sauvage Spectrum uses a proprietary tank method, and lower priced grape varieties that are perfect for sparkling wine. The screen-printed bottle is sealed with a beer bottle-like crown cap, which is easier to open than a traditional cork and cage. The wine is available in a white, pink rosé and a Lambrusco-inspired sparkling red wine that received a Double Gold in 2021 at the Colorado Governor’s Cup Winemaking Competition.
Sauvage Spectrum is a 100% Estate winery, which means it produces wine only from the grapes and fruit it grows. To promote Colorado wine, the business hosts events such as Vino and Vinyasa yoga classes, Sip into Spring: A Celebration of Colorado Wine in Palisade, and the Ouray Winter Wine Festival at the historic Wright Opera House.
The mission for THiN AiR Brands is to make awesome toys that will teach, entertain and inspire, and to make the toys available at every major retailer worldwide. The company offers toys in several brands designed for kids 2 years and older. Nature Bound Toys, such as the Bug Vacuum, are for the exploration of nature. Dr. STEM Toys, such as the Dr. STEM Talking World Globe with Interactive Stylus, are educational. Anywhere Sports, such as Anywhere Three Ball set for football, soccer and basketball, are designed to improve athletic skills in children.
“Innovative toy design is one of our core strengths,” says founder and president Mike Searls, who founded the company in 2014. “We create unique and innovative products that inspire and educate kids across the country.”
The company has had steady growth over the years. Sales were very strong during the pandemic, as e-commerce exploded and in-store displays and promotional advertising increased too. The meaning of the company name, Searls says, “is that great ideas come out of thin air.”
Founded in 2018, Vitality is a woman-owned and family-founded company that creates athleisure clothing for people in sizes XXS to XXXXL. The brand’s mission is “Inspired athleisure designed for everyBODY in their pursuit of a purposeful existence.” The brand uses social media platforms and brand ambassadors to showcase each new collection, and pieces sell out quickly
The company was called Balance Athletica until 2022, when it announced a brand refresh and new name. The change to Vitality represents the opportunity to elevate and evolve nearly four years after its founding by CEO Taylor Dilk, COO Steve Dilk and Chief of Design Chloe Chamberlain. The company began out of Chamberlain’s garage and quickly grew to more than 50 employees and expanded into a 35,000-square-foot headquarters and distribution center in Denver.
The three co-founders have created a community reflective of the founding principles they built the brand on: inclusivity, empowerment and giving back. They prioritize giving back to causes, helping those in need, and advocating for inclusivity and equality for all. What started out as small donations to local families in need has grown into more than $500,000 donations to nationwide nonprofit organizations so far.
Watson Mills designs, manufactures and installs architectural woodwork for luxury residences, or what the company calls the Monumental Market. The work includes design and engineering, sourcing, project management, lumber processing and more.
The company, founded in 2011, has more than doubled revenues over the past few years and added employees to support revenue growth and internal infrastructure. It expanded its capacity to process raw lumber with the purchase of Schacht Mill Works in 2019 and maintains end-to-end control of the shipping process by delivering with company-owned trucks. “Projects are getting larger and more complicated,” says owner Todd Palmer. “This is helpful for us as we continue to expand our capabilities.”
Palmer says the company’s strength is producing woodwork at a very high level of quality. “We walk alongside the design and construction teams to achieve one-of-a-kind designs and products,” he says. “Our passion is creating a generational impact by bettering the lives of the people who choose to work with us.”