The Helpers — Colorado Companies to Watch 2023
Now in its 15th 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 our favorite Helpers.
360 Engineering, Inc. is a full-service mechanical engineering firm that leads complex mechanical renovation projects and provides high-quality design that adapts to clients’ changing needs.
The woman-owned company, which is celebrating 20 years in business, works on projects around the country. Its engineers are licensed in more than 35 states, including Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, and can obtain licensure as needed in additional states.
The company’s engineers have a wide range of experience in designing HVAC, plumbing and fire protection systems in multiple industries, including municipal, government, education, science and technology and commercial buildings.
The company is the engineer of record for the new Denver Public Schools’ Ceylon School, where a fully electric, high-efficiency mechanical system produces minimal carbon. Other clients include Open Table, Exclusive Resorts, Denver Athletic Club and the Denver Botanic Gardens.
“We strive to make complex projects simple to understand, instill confidence through expertise and provide client-specific solutions,” 360 Engineering President Denise Dihle said. “The firm’s resiliency through the economic ups and downs has been sustainable based on our long-standing relationships with architects and owners.”
Aneka Interiors designs middle-market and high-end senior living communities at all care levels, including active adult, independent living, assisted living and memory care.
The company offers a design aesthetic geared toward baby boomers who want a luxurious, hospitality-focused environment that’s comfortable and cozy. Aneka has projects in eight states and continues to grow organically as its development partners move into other parts of the country. Aneka is projecting record 50% year-over-year growth for 2023.
While the company’s strength is new construction design for senior living, it also handles renovations, community refreshes and repositioning and procurement of furniture, fixtures and equipment.
“The communities we design are vibrant and engaging with residents who are excited to be living in a community that feels like home yet offers the safety and assurance of 24-hour care,” said Aneka Kerlin, the company’s principal and founder.
By 2060, the number of Americans older than 65 is expected to hit 98 million — double the number of 65-plus adults in the country today.
“This generation of baby boomers is like none the world has ever seen,” Kerlin said. “They have experienced the world, traveled and are comfortable and familiar with technology. They have seen the world change in so many ways, and their expectations for retirement are higher than ever.”
Businesses that want a professional chief financial officer and supporting services are increasingly turning to companies like Ascent CFO Solutions to avoid the high cost of hiring a full-time professional.
Ascent CFO provides the strategic financial expertise of a CFO without adding to a client’s headcount. The company ensures all parts of a business are reflected in its financial plan and develops custom dashboards that provide a complete, real-time look at the company to help leaders make more informed decisions and reach their goals.
Businesses of any size can use Ascent CFO’s cash flow forecasting, financial modeling, fundraising and mergers and acquisitions support.
“There is an increasing acceptance of fractional professionals in all kinds of companies, whereas it used to be mostly technology companies before,” said Courtney Gilcrest, Ascent CFO’s marketing coordinator. “This is especially true in the finance and accounting arena. More and more companies are realizing that hiring a fractional CFO and other fractional professionals is an efficient way to get the job done with a high-caliber team, and it’s very cost effective.”
The company was founded nearly 10 years ago by Dan DeGolier, who has experience as a certified public accountant with a global accounting firm and was a full-time CFO with multiple private companies.
Connects Workspace provides membership-based private offices, coworking, conference room and event space in a setting that encourages community, connection and creativity.
With COVID creating an opportunity for more remote work flexibility, the growth of the coworking industry accelerated. Coworking spaces are expected to double within the next year, Connects Workspace founder and CEO Jennifer Thoemke said.
The company offers two membership levels. Coworking starts at $200 per month, and a reserved desk is $400 per month.
A coworking membership includes access during business hours, two guest passes per month, two hours per month of meeting space and a $15 printing credit per month.
A reserved desk includes 24/7 access, a dedicated desk, four guest passes per month, five hours per month of meeting space, mail service, a $25 printing credit per month and a private filing cabinet.
Both membership levels include high-speed Wi-Fi, parking permits at the Golden location, complimentary notary services and virtual assistance starting at $20 per hour.
But Connects Workspace offers more than just office space.
“We curate community and devote time and resources to member experience,” Thoemke said. “We are poised for growth with a robust and seasoned leadership team. We are looking to grow our model through management agreements with building owners.”
GolfForever is a golf fitness and wellness system that uses an intuitive app and key training equipment to virtually deliver golfers world-class workout plans, recovery programs and performance coaching.
The company has submitted multiple patent applications, led by the GolfForever Swing Trainer. The Swing Trainer package includes a resistance training bar, light and medium resistance bands that can be anchored anywhere and handles to use the bands without the training bar. The company’s intellectual property includes physical training products, mobile application and a digital library of content.
“We are revolutionizing the idea of fitness in the golf industry,” said Jon Levy, vice president of communications and strategic partnerships. “We have created an approachable solution for every golfer that is helping thousands of people not only improve their golf games but improve their health and lives off the golf course.”
The company’s system personalizes exercise and recovery programs to each use. It appeals to the mass market of golfers as well as the world’s best players.
The company has large retail partners such as the PGA Tour Superstore that are building holistic fitness initiatives in their stores around the GolfForever Training System.
“Our explosive growth and brand awareness has led us to creating a new segment of the golf industry that is truly innovative,” Levy said.
Innovest Portfolio Solutions helps clients achieve their goals by providing custom investment solutions, fiduciary protection and a high level of service.
The nationally recognized firm is one of the few independent companies like it in the country as the industry consolidates. Investment advisers providing services to retirement plans, wire house brokerage firms, wealth management firms and insurance brokerages have acquired retirement plan advisory practices in recent years.
“With the purchase price on these deals being at astonishing amounts, it raises questions about how the acquiring firms will generate sufficient revenue to justify the large acquisition investments they have made,” said Kristin Grayner, an analyst assistant at Innovest. “Several firms have reported employing a concerted effort to turn retirement plan participants from retirement plan clients into wealth management clients, which tend to be far more lucrative.”
Innovest has declined offers from advisory aggregators and Wall Street firms and remains one of the few fiduciary advisory firms in the U.S. that adheres to an objective, transparent and conflict-free approach to retirement plan and investment consulting, Grayner said.
“We are not just an investment firm. We are thoughtful stewards responsible for our clients, professionals and community.”
Plumbing, HVAC and refrigeration services contractor Everest Mechanical was formed in January 2019 with the asset acquisition of a similar Estes Park business, followed by the acquisition of a similar company in Loveland in the fall of that year.
The company is developing bot-related software and technology tailored to its particular needs rather than buying it off the shelf and weaving it together.
“This has been a lengthy process but gives us IP in this space that is unique to us,” Everest CEO Rahul Kumar said.
As a young company in 2019 before the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, Everest hasn’t really had a “normal” year in business yet. After the market shut down in 2020 with the onset of COVID, it started opening up in 2021 but was hit by labor shortages and supply chain issues. Last year brought rising interest rates that are a continuing theme into 2023.
“As a result, we are seeing project closures taking longer and also a few project cancellations come through on the back of financial viability in a rising rate environment,” Kumar said. “With COVID, we have also seen a larger push towards adoption of technology in the industry and a slow move toward consolidation.”
Managing IT involves much more than telling the user to try turning off, then turning on, their device when it’s not responding. LeafTech Consulting is a Managed Service Provider (MSP) that recommends strategy, provides network monitoring and support, and helps businesses increase productivity. LeafTech’s IT consultants lead clients’ digital transformation through careful planning and effective execution of the outlined IT strategy.
The firm assists with enterprise architecture, digital strategy and optimizing the technology portfolio. In the current economic environment, clients look to leverage their technologies to be more efficient. LeafTech Consulting also offers managed services, IT compliance, cloud services, and more. The team strives to make itself the experts in every facet of IT services, so that clients don’t have to be.
Cybersecurity has become a focal point for many businesses, and LeafTech’s cybersecurity solutions have helped the business grow while keeping costs down for clients. The team provides threat evaluation, real-time detection, and active prevention. LeafTech’s IT experts build relationships with clients that have enabled them to succeed and driven the growth of LeafTech in an ever-changing industry.
Here’s another industry that gained popularity during the pandemic: private jet travel. Moser Aviation is an on-demand, private air charter that is certified by the FAA to fly throughout the 48 contiguous United States, Alaska, Canada and Mexico. The company offers luxury and convenience for people who would rather not fly on someone else’s schedule. The focus is on creating value for the people who fly and for the companies that serve them.
“Our clients value their privacy, but include professional athletes, globally recognizable entertainers, cabinet level politicians and Fortune 500 executives,” says CEO and founder Martin Moser.
A sister company, Sentinel Data Analytics, developed proprietary software and data analytics tools that help on-demand, private airlines sell more flights and maximize fleet utilization. “We believe the whole market for private flights is inefficient,” says Moser, who founded the company in 2009. “Technological innovations, like what we’ve invented with Sentinel Data Analytics, will create the dominant on-demand private airlines of the future.”
The consulting firm Point b(e) Strategies helps nonprofits and social-change organizations get the support they need. Many nonprofits had to lay off staff at the start of the pandemic, and then the George Floyd murder drove an increased need for diversity, equity and inclusion training. Point b(e) Strategies offers several services, such as training and team development for staff and boards of directors; grant writing to help develop effective proposals and help the organization think critically about its work; strategic planning processes that range from half-day to two-day sessions; and program development and evaluation.
The firm’s catalysts, or consultants, have spent their careers supporting the social change sector in various capacities in nonprofits, as board members, executive directors and consultants. This broad spectrum knowledge has allowed Point b(e) Strategies to offer a holistic approach to clients. The firm has increased staff levels in recent years to meet the need for top-notch consulting for the social-change sector in Colorado, and will continue to adapt as the sector’s needs shift while maintaining a focus on equity.
Point b(e) Strategies helps nonprofits do everything from complete their to-do lists to clarifying their vision to changing the world.
Machine shops have gone high-tech. Reata Engineering is a technology-driven company that provides contract manufacturing such as precision machining and assembly services. Its clients represent industries including aviation and aerospace, health care, semiconductor capital equipment, defense, retail and industrial products. The company is investing in robotics, cloud-based quoting and estimating software, CNC machine programming software, CNC machine monitoring and metrics software, automated quality inspection systems and a paperless ERP system.
All of this gives Reata a competitive advantage and is the driving force behind its mission of elevating the customer experience. The technology enables it to run parts more efficiently at lower costs. Investments in new machinery, along with technology and automation, have increased Reata’s overall capacity without it having to increase its footprint or add additional shifts. Automation provides opportunities for employees to learn new skills and advance within the company, earning higher wages and adding value to the overall process and final product.
President and CEO Grady Cope founded Reata in 1993 by using a credit card to purchase a used manual lathe and mill for $6,000. The following year Reata added its first CNC mill and has consistently added equipment and people since.
Small businesses that are trying to lure their workers back to the office have to offer more than free coffee. Shift Workspaces has three coworking spaces in Denver, and each is designed to promote workplace happiness. Local real estate investor Grant Barnhill launched the coworking operator in 2012, with the belief that people respond positively or negatively to their environment‚ views are preferable to walls, light is preferable to dark offices, and working outdoors brightens everyone’s days.
Shift Workspaces provides deluxe spaces with amenities such as high-speed internet, bike storage, outdoor seating, fitness studios and more. The furnishings and aesthetic are intended to replicate a boutique hotel or resort stay, to foster workplace wellbeing. By infusing an element of ease into the workday, Shift helps teams work productively. The workplace provider caters to mid-career professionals in need of office suites for teams of two to 10 people.
Being a good environmental citizen is also important, and Shift Workspaces has recycling, intelligent HVAC controls, LED lighting, and a zero carbon footprint goal. Two locations are in Denver on Corona Street and Bannock Street, and one is in Littleton in Old Town on Main Street.
Tierra Group International provides engineering design and consulting services to the mining industry. There has been much focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) on the mining industry’s potential liabilities associated with tailings dams around the world, which has accelerated the demand for Tierra Group’s expertise and fueled its growth over the past several years.
Matthew L. Fuller, an engineering geologist, and Peter E. Kowalewski, a principal engineer, founded Tierra Group in 2012. They had worked together in various small and large engineering firms, and decided they wanted to provide high-quality customer service with a smaller team-oriented professional group.
One of the keys to providing strong customer service is to maintain good employee relations. Fuller says Tierra Group extends its entrepreneurial roots through a novel business model that distributes company profits to every full-time employee throughout the firm, without requiring the employees to make a financial investment such as a stock purchase. The approach fosters and rewards teamwork, and builds camaraderie and pride of ownership.
“Tierra Group’s rewarding culture, unique business approach and continued growth is best captured in its company credo,” says Fuller, who is founding principal. “Our clients are first, the team is second, and I am third.”