On Friday, April 29, this year’s Insight Tour, hosted by Something Independent, took a diverse group of participants on an up-close tour of four local businesses with the company owners and/or founders. The tour was designed to give attendees a unique opportunity to see the ideas, the vision and the process behind each Denver-based business operation at work. The participants consisted of 10 people from a diverse range of backgrounds including students from the University of Denver, Daniels Entrepreneur Society; Economic Development officials; staff representatives from the Governor’s Office; and leaders from the local business community.
The businesses involved included Battery621, Seattle Fish Company, Never Summer Industries and Great Divide Brewing Company. We spent about an hour touring their facilities, learning more about their operations and production, while also hearing about how each business got started, and how they’re growing and staying competitive. These are all companies that are poised to not only grow here and provide jobs here, but to inspire other entrepreneurs to start or move their businesses here. Entrepreneurism is ingrained in the Colorado spirit. Collectively, we’re making Colorado not only a great place to live, but THE place to start and grow a business.
The group met at Battery621, where Something Independent resides, for a tour of the building. Battery621 is one of the most talked about new office collaboratives in Denver. Companies that call Battery621 home include The Public Works, Wink Inc., Spyder (showroom), Icelantic Skis, Jiberish, CondorCam, Artist’s Creative, CompanyBe, 5280 Agency, Drumbeat and Something Independent.
From there, they traveled together in a van to their next three stops, the first being Seattle Fish Company. Seattle Fish Company is a third-generation, family-owned and operated company founded in 1918. The fish was originally shipped by railcar from Seattle to bring fresh seafood to the landlocked state of Colorado. The company is the Rocky Mountain region’s largest supplier of fresh seafood for local grocers, restaurants, hotels and caterers.
The group toured the facilities with third-generation owners, James and Chelsea Iacino, and Derek Figueroa, COO. Highlights included seeing the lobster tanks (and getting to hold the lobsters), and watching one of the employees slay a whole 120 lb tuna into filets with a samurai sword in a matter of minutes!
The second stop on the tour was Never Summer Industries, a Denver-based snowboard and skateboard company founded in 1991, owned and operated by brothers Tracey and Tim Canaday. They first started out building snowboards out of their parents’ garage and selling them out of the trunk of their car in parking lots at ski mountains. Never Summer is now the world’s premier independent snowboard company, known for using the highest quality materials and constructing each board by hand at their facility in Denver.
The highlight was seeing the overall craftsmanship and all of the production steps it takes: exactly how labor intensive it is to hand-make and finish each board that they produce.
Our last stop was Great Divide Brewing Company, founded in 1994, by Brian Dunn. Dunn set up shop in an abandoned dairy-processing plant at the edge of downtown Denver and began brewing the beers that would eventually carry Great Divide to its status as one of America’s most decorated microbreweries and would help transform Denver into an international destination for beer lovers.
Brian Dunn took us on a tour of the brewery, showing us how each beer is made, and although the brewery itself is relatively small in size, the beers are big in quality, highly unique, and very flavorful. We found this out first-hand when we got to taste the beers after the tour, which was the highlight of this one!
EVOL burritos provided the delicious shredded chicken burritos we had for lunch along with our beer at Great Divide. EVOL is also an independent company from Boulder, Colorado, and was founded in 2002 by Philip Anson, a University of Denver graduate. In 2002, EVOL became the number two natural frozen burrito brand in the country.
Something Independent is an initiative promoting Colorado as a global hub of innovation and entrepreneurism. Colorado-based, independent-minded enterprises are at the heart of this initiative. We would like to thank our partners for making events like this possible: Colorado Office of Economic Development and Trade, Colorado Creative Industries, Colorado Small Business Development Center, the City of Denver, and Dorsey & Whitney, LLP. A special thanks to our sponsors for this event: EVOL Burritos, Free Lunch Photography, and Event Transportation & Associates.