The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Business Awards celebrate organizations from across the region who are leading in their field and making an impact in the community – writing our next chapter as a great community to live and do business.
Meet the 2018 Small Business of the Year finalists: BrieBug, Coffee at The Point and StickerGiant. The winner will be announced live on April 27.
BrieBug Brings Thought Leadership to Tech Industry
The software developers at BrieBug are always asking, what’s next? It’s the curiosity and desire to lead in their space that sets them apart.
That culture was created in part because they’re a “software consulting agency that was built by software developers,” said COO Bill Baker. The company has gone from launching in Lakewood with Baker and CEO and Founder Jesse Sanders in 2009 to now employing 18 developers and serving Fortune 1000 companies.
The Chamber was one of their primary resources after they launched, Baker said: “For us it has really been the network of people.”
They work predominately in MongoDB, Express, Angular and Node.js coding languages, developing web and mobile software solutions for businesses, with the goal of helping in-house developers understand how they can best use those solutions – and build more – to strengthen their business.
“It’s really more about creating a community than just being a consultancy,” Sanders said.
The name of the company itself signals that. When starting the company, he merged the name and a nickname of his two daughters (Briella and Iris, who is nicknamed Bug). He wanted something unique, but it’s also “a meaning that’s very near to my heart,” Sanders said.
In addition to this partnership approach, they also regularly host meetups focused on Angular and bring in national experts to speak about what’s next in tech.
“One of our primary goals is to be a thought leader here in the community and nationwide,” Sanders said.
For those speakers, they ticket the event and give the proceeds to KidsTek, which works to increase technology literacy among students at Colorado’s highest-needs schools. It’s one way they hope they can play a role in building the workforce of tomorrow. When it comes to doing business in Colorado, they’re optimistic looking forward.
“I think the future’s bright,” Sanders said. “It’s never been more exciting to be a business in Denver, especially in the technology space.”
Coffee at The Point Brews Optimism, Community in Five Points
Before opening Coffee at The Point in 2010, Ryan Cobbins, drank just a few lattes a year. Though he’s learned to love coffee after opening the café and wine bar, what he is most passionate about is creating a community gathering space in the historic Five Points neighborhood.
“We take great pride in being that central hub of the community,” owner Cobbins said. “Everyone can feel welcome.”
Inspired by his three young daughters, it was important for him to start a business that would mean a safe space for them and others in the community to hang out. Their approach to the space and providing excellent service has solidified their presence in the neighborhood; whether its teachers grading papers, book clubs, artist meetups or game nights, people from across the neighborhood and the city fill sweeping space on 26th Avenue.
That connection to the community means they donated 97 percent of their meeting space rentals and Cobbins gives his time on boards that support business in Five Points and that nurture early childhood education.
And, when Coffee at The Point needed the support of their community, they returned the favor. When their espresso machine was on its last legs, they launched a crowdfunding campaign. They “received a crazy outpouring of support and love” and met their $25,000 goal in a matter of weeks, said Coffee at The Point Marketing Director Hilary Zwart.
Cobbins credits the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center, a Chamber affiliate, with helping him strategically grow Coffee at The Point. And, he was able to dive deeper on his own leadership and community engagement through the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation’s Leadership Denver.
As he looks forward, he hopes to help his team meet their goals for personal growth and continue to share that importance of community spaces and the relationships they can foster: “I consider myself an eternal optimist,” Cobbins said. “There’s nothing more optimistic than sharing a cup of coffee or a tea with somebody.”
StickerGiant Stuck on Success
When John Fischer printed his first sticker in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election, he was making a statement – but he didn’t anticipate the company he’d build as a result.
Today, StickerGiant has grown to a 50-person online sticker and product label printer that serves 50,000 small and medium-sized businesses across the globe. “It’s really turned into something amazing,” Fischer said.
Hundreds of stickers dot the walls of their Longmont office, cover parts of desks, drawers and even their sticker printers. A collage of stickers overlay each other to form their logo. Oh, and the world’s largest sticker ball? It’s Guinness World Record-certified, and calls StickerGiant home. So, to say they’re excited about stickers is a bit of an understatement.
And, that playful attitude of the items they create is a key piece of their culture. Fischer compared their workplace to going to summer camp, and says they shine among competitors because of their fast, fun approach.
“At StickerGiant everybody’s on the same team, we all know where we’re going and we all know what success looks like,” Fischer said. “Because of that you have a culture that is inclusive and people get to exchange ideas freely and everybody gets to turn and face the customer.”
Transparency is critical to their success, he added. That means open-book finance, ensuring their entire team understands where they stand with their goals: “You’re going to know every week whether our revenue is on track or off track,” Fischer said. He anticipates they’ll surpass their $15 million revenue goal this year.
StickerGiant is focused on giving back in the Longmont community, partnering with Meals on Wheels and the Left Hand Brewing Foundation. They also hear pitches from Westview Middle School students who are building and programming robots – and students see how that kind of learning can be applied by touring StickerGiant’s factory.
That involvement is a no-brainer for Fischer to ensure their future success: “Without a great community I’m not going to have a place to run my business.”
Sara Crocker is the communications manager for the Denver Metro Chamber.