The Wright Contenders | 2019

Each year, Something Independent embarks on a mission to assemble a new class of Wright contenders. These outdoor-inspired founders are apt to have started their businesses not on the whiteboard or in the conference room, but rather on the trail, around the campfire, or on the back of a napkin over a whiskey. These companies are set apart not only by their grit and resilience but in their approach to work which we see as honest, committed and collaborative.

Congratulations to our 2019 Wright Winner Oveja Negra

Oveja Negra from Salida, CO: 2019 Wright Award WINNER

Now say it out loud: O-vey-ha Negg-rah. Founded by Lane and Monty Willson in 2012, Oveja Negra (meaning black sheep) specializes in creating bikepacking gear, and manufacturing and sourcing materials in the U.S. With a small but growing team, all bags are made and sewn in their Salida, CO shop. They have a dedicated protocol for every task and step needed to create the products, from ordering materials, to cutting, sewing, and inspecting. The commitment to consistency and quality (not to mention fun designs and colors) has been lauded by bikers around the world. The company’s brand recognition started as word of mouth. As bikepacking has grown in popularity, however, Oveja Negra is becoming a trusted and recognizable name in biking communities near and far.

Posted by Something Independent on Thursday, May 2, 2019

Oveja Negra
Salida, CO

Jelt from Bozeman, MT: 2019 Wright Award Finalist

Only one of seven Certified B corporations in Montana, Jelt is a company that creates elastic belts out of recycled water bottles and also focuses on empowering women. The belts are sewn by women living on rural Montana ranches, and are manufactured at the Women’s Prison in Billings via the Montana Correctional Enterprise Program. Founded in 2014 by Jen Perry, Jelt belts are not only sustainable, but also functional; they are described as virtually invisible (also stylish, comfortable, and grippy) and can even go through airport security! Jelt also maintains a commitment to social responsibility and works with organizations that support veterans, youth, and the environment by donating a portion of annual proceeds to these causes.

Posted by Something Independent on Thursday, May 2, 2019

Jelt (Finalist)
Bozeman, MT

Tailwind Nutrition from Durango, CO: 2019 Wright Award Finalist

Tailwind Nutrition was born in 2012 out of necessity after co-founder Jeff Vierling couldn’t keep food down during the Leadville 100 (don’t worry, he finished). He searched for products that would combine calories, electrolytes, and hydration for endurance athletes, but didn’t find anything that fit those needs. So, he and his wife Jenny decided to create it themselves in their kitchen and have local athletes in their Southern Colorado community test it out. After several iterations, and studying the composition of human sweat, energy needs of the body during endurance events, Tailwind was created. Seven years later, Tailwind is still produced in Colorado and every bag that goes out the door is personalized with a hand-written note just like it was from day one.

Posted by Something Independent on Thursday, May 2, 2019

Tailwind Nutrition (Finalist)
Durango, CO

Noso from Jackson, WY: 2019 Wright Award Contender

We’ve all been there: You’re in the backcountry and catch your jacket on a branch. You know it’s torn before you even look. Instead of reaching for the Duct tape or super glue, a stylish Noso patch will repair the tear even better and look good, too. Noso Patches founder Kelli Jones created functional patches that not only repair nylon gear, from jackets to sleeping bags, but also offer style and versatility. Noso patches are made of ripstop nylon, uncoated and down proof, and are super easy to use at home or in the field. Headquartered in Jackson Hole, WY, the company debuted on Indiegogo in 2016 and has since gained momentum in the outdoor industry, even attracting big brands through a custom patch program. Not only are the patches effective and snazzy, they also create a positive environmental effect by encouraging people to “patch, not trash” their gear.

Posted by Something Independent on Thursday, May 2, 2019

Jackson, WY

Root Shoot Malting from Loveland, CO: 2019 Wright Award Contender

Nestled in Loveland, CO is a 1,500 acre farm that has been in the same family for 5 generations. Father-son duo Steve and Todd Oleander have received numerous accolades for farming, and more specifically for their malts produced from barley grown right on the farm. Founded just a few years ago in 2016, Root Shoot Malting is making waves in the malting industry and took home the Malt Cup at the 2019 Craft Malt Conference. Root Shoot uses a Kaspar Schulz malting system, which is the only of its kind in operation in the U.S., and one of three in operation in the world. The equipment, which has been around since the 17th century, allows for custom-made malt, attracting breweries and distilleries alike as partners.

Posted by Something Independent on Thursday, May 2, 2019

Root Shoot Malting
Loveland, CO

So-Gnar Creative from Denver, CO: 2019 Wright Award Contender

So-Gnar Creative Division is the brainchild of muralist and pro-snowboarder Pat Milbery. The So-Gnar team travels around in the Art Bus, a standard school bus turned iconic piece of mobile art, and collaborates to adorn the walls of dozens of boutiques, breweries, residences, bars, and other businesses in Denver, around the Rocky Mountains, and across the country with vivid street art. With eclectic colors, unique designs, and collaboration efforts with talented artists across the country, So-Gnar is making communities and cities more colorful places to live and play.

Posted by Something Independent on Thursday, May 2, 2019

SoGnar Creative Division
Denver, CO

Mountain Careers from Vail, CO: 2019 Wright Award Contender

Aryn Schlichting is leveling up mountain town workforces and changing the perception that these communities offer only seasonal opportunities for aspiring ski bums. And, while there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, she’s highlighting the variety of jobs and career opportunities that make living in these coveted locations not only a desire, but a reality. In 2015, she launched Mountain Careers – a job board created specifically for employers located in and around mountain towns. Using traditional and digital methods to spread the word to its network of more than 7,000 subscribers, Mountain Careers is helping professionals find their dream jobs and balance their career and lifestyle.

Posted by Something Independent on Thursday, May 2, 2019

Mountain Careers
Vail, CO

Down River Equipment from Wheat Ridge, CO: 2019 Wright Award Contender

If you consider yourself a water sport enthusiast, Down River Equipment (DRE) is a must-know for all river equipment manufacturing and supplying needs. Founded in 1985, DRE specializes in custom fabrication, distribution, and retail for river adventures of all types. Proud of its Colorado roots, the company manufactures and produces all of its DRE gear, including frames, in its home state. A 2017 Colorado Company to Watch award winner, DRE is staffed with river aficionados (canines included) and experienced boaters who can assist with needs ranging from a gear checklist for a day trip on the water, to a boat purchase off the showroom floor.

Posted by Something Independent on Thursday, May 2, 2019

Down River Equipment
Wheat Ridge, CO

FERAL from Denver / Idaho Springs, CO: 2019 Wright Award Contender

To say that FERAL is just a gear shop would be a gross understatement. Founded in 2016, FERAL is a backpacker, camper, and climber enthusiast’s haven. It has consistently ranked as a top outdoor shop with a reputation for affordable gear sales and rentals, and a friendly, knowledgeable staff. This locally-owned and independent gear company calls Colorado home with the flagship store in Denver, and a 2018 second location in Idaho Springs. FERAL boasts several differentiators, including selling its used gear online, its expansive rental equipment options, an Adventure Planning Room with Denver’s largest collection of Colorado trail maps, an ambassador program, and a robust events calendar. With a mission to “Create Adventure,” FERAL provides a welcoming (and affordable) experience for the novice and the gnarled alike.

Posted by Something Independent on Thursday, May 2, 2019

Denver/Idaho Springs, CO

First Ascent Coffee from Crested Butte, CO: 2019 Wright Award Contender

If you have a hard time imagining a perfect cup of coffee in the backcountry, you’re not alone. First Ascent Coffee Roasters is changing that. A company made up of avid skiers, climbers, bikers, and paddlers, First Ascent Coffee comes to the caffeine-loving adventurer’s rescue to create an instant coffee that doesn’t sacrifice flavor and quality for convenience. For both their instant coffee and fresh roasted, the Crested Butte company sources seasonal, specialty-grade beans from small farms and co-ops and roasts them in-house. Both instant and fresh ground can be shipped to your doorstep, and they even offer a coffee subscription if you’re just as adventurous off the trails as you are on them.

Posted by Something Independent on Thursday, May 2, 2019

First Ascent Coffee Roasters
Crested Butte, CO

Harvest Skis from Steamboat Springs, CO: 2019 Wright Award Contender

Harvest Skis compares itself alongside the tradition of small-batch brewing, and farm-to-table cuisine. The skis are made one pair at a time, with maybe 100 pairs made in a year. Eric Baker founded Harvest Skis in Steamboat Springs during a ski and snowboard product design course at Colorado Mountain College where he made his first set of skis on Jan. 1, 2015. His goal was to design and manufacture skis that were environmentally friendly and unique, with locally sourced materials. Formerly an owner of an arborist company, Baker uses locally harvested aspen, fir, and maple as the base for his skis (and provides a 3-year warranty). This grass-roots company has a mission of growing the culture of skiing from tree to ski.

Posted by Something Independent on Thursday, May 2, 2019

Harvest Skis
Steamboat Springs, CO

Holidaily Brewing Co. from Golden, CO: 2019 Wright Award Contender

Holidaily Brewing Company is Colorado’s dedicated gluten-free brewery. A passion project of founder Karen Hertz, the brewery was created to provide great tasting, 100% gluten-free beer. Hertz adopted a gluten-free diet after surviving melanoma and thyroid cancer in her early 30s. She spent years researching gluten-free ingredients and learning about the brewing process to create gluten-free beer that could stand on its own in the ever-growing and competitive craft beer scene. The brewery opened in Golden, CO on Feb. 2, 2016 and is one of 12 completely gluten-free breweries in the U.S. (and the only one in CO). Today, the taproom offers 10 brews, ranging in styles and flavor profiles. This year, Feb. 2 not only marked the three-year anniversary of the brewery, but also the 10-year anniversary of Hertz being cancer free.

Posted by Something Independent on Thursday, May 2, 2019

Holidaily Brewing Co.
Golden, CO

RockyMounts from Boulder / Grand Junction, CO: 2019 Wright Award Contender

In 1993, founder Bobby Noyes ventured from New Jersey to Colorado to feed his passion for bicycling. Recognizing the need for a better bike racks, he set up shop and began producing bike racks by hand. Those first racks, which were sold out of the back of his truck, became a huge hit locally and quickly made their way across the United States. Today, RockyMounts offers a full lineup of bike, ski, and cargo racks along with a complete bike security collection. The company that has called Boulder home for more than 20 years plans to relocate its headquarters to Grand Junction, CO in Fall 2019. RockyMounts plans to allocate $30,000 toward a benefit of Riverfront at Las Colonias Park in Grand Junction to construct a park amenity that will serve as a shared recreation opportunity for the community, park users, and local businesses.

Posted by Something Independent on Thursday, May 2, 2019

Boulder/Grand Junction, CO