Recognizing the best in the Denver metro area, six outstanding organizations were recognized today for their work in business and the community at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Business Awards, presented by BOK Financial.
Footers Catering, Pearl Street Lights, Prosono, SAME Café, We Don’t Waste and Xcel Energy were selected as the 2019 Business Awards winners honoring organizations from start-ups to nonprofits.
“Our business community stands out as one of the smartest, healthiest, most productive and creative communities anywhere – and these organizations are great examples in our community,” said Denver Metro Chamber President and CEO Kelly Brough. “We thank all of our finalists and winners for making Colorado a great place to live and do business.”
Meet the winners:
Xcel Energy is the Green Business of the Year, sponsored by Danone North America
After 150 years in Colorado, Xcel Energy is looking to the future, with an ambitious plan for renewable energy. As the largest utility in Colorado, with 1.4 million electric customers, Xcel provides its customers the safe, clean, reliable energy services they want and value at a competitive price. Case in point: Colorado residential electric bills have fallen nearly 15 percent in five years (and are 31 percent below the national average).
Xcel’s work in Colorado has laid the foundation for moving to greener energy options. They launched a utility-wide goal of zero-carbon electricity by 2050 – and are the first utility to set such an audacious milestone.
“We’ve just had 600 megawatts of wind brought on to our system, what we call our Rush Creek Project,” Jerome Davis, regional vice president for Xcel Energy Colorado said. “It was the largest wind farm project west of the Mississippi to come online, a $1 billion economic development project.”
But, they also know the most valuable energy is what people don’t use.
“Conservation is really number one,” Davis said. “We really work closely with all of our customers … on how we can become their energy-trusted provider to show them how they can use less of our product.”
And, they’re working to lead their industry.
“By 2025, we will achieve a 60 percent carbon reduction on our system and we’ll be at 55 percent renewables,” said Alice Jackson, President, Xcel Energy Colorado. “That’s the highest percentage of any utility in the world, period.”
Pearl Street Lights is the Minority or Woman-Owned Business of the Year, sponsored by Xcel Energy
Kerry Humphrey was able to rebuild her life through small business and is working to empower others to do the same.
Pearl Street Lights creates and manufactures hand-poured soy wax candles with crackling wooden wicks through a nonprofit job training organization that hires and trains individuals with barriers to employment.
Humphrey founded Pearl Street Lights in 2014 after her release from prison – launching the business was a part of her healing process.
“I saw a wine bottle lantern, and it got in my head that I wanted to recreate it,” Humphrey said. “At the end of three days of trying to figure out how to cut glass and sand the glass down, I ended up with a wine bottle lantern. For the first time in a really long time, I had a spark of hope.”
That spark has allowed her to be that light for others who face barriers to employment. She partners with Mile High Workshop to produce her products – not only providing a job but a place for people to rediscover the possibility inside them, Humphrey said – and each candle has the signature of the person who created it.
She’s looking forward to growing her business: “As a woman-owned business, we have some amazing aspirations … one of which is to have Pearl Street Lights candles available in retail stores all across the country and provide a lot of opportunities for amazing individuals who need a little extra support in our community.”
2019 Minority or Woman-Owned Business of the Year finalists also included 360 Engineering and Cesco Linguistic Services. Watch more about the finalists:
Footers Catering is the Small Business of the Year, sponsored by Transworld Business Advisors-Rocky Mountain
Footers Catering is changing the hospitality industry with its approach to culture. Their passion for amazing events and an unprecedented company culture has elevated Footers to become a top business in Denver. For over 36 years Footers has been committed to cooking all their menus fresh on-site for the best quality possible. Each year they serve more than 75,000 guests throughout Colorado.
“We cater more than 650 events each year in the Denver metro area and mountain regions,” said Anthony Lambatos, who is the second-generation owner of Footers Catering with his wife April. “We feel very fortunate to be part of life’s celebrations for many people.”
Footers is creating a unique, team-driven company culture that is driving employee retention. They never use temporary staff and hire and train their team to ensure not only a great experience but also a close-knit team. One perk that fuels that? The Footers Annual Vacation all-inclusive trip for their team and Culture Club – where team members visit companies whose culture they admire.
With a staff of 30, their mission is to “Make it Better Every Day.” This has led to the MIBE TRIBE, their hospitality coaching company, which will launch a yearly conference for the hospitality industry on how to increase employee retention and engagement.
“Our goal is to go out and be able to spread what we’ve learned to the hospitality industry and hopefully, make some waves with lowering the turnover that the hospitality industry faces because there’s definitely a labor crisis in Denver,” said April Lambatos, Footers owner and COO.
Good business and doing good in the community go hand-in-hand for Prosono, a business strategy and social impact firm. Headquartered in Denver, and serving clients nationwide, their experienced team uses organizational agility methods to collaborate with purpose-inspired clients who are looking to accelerate rapid growth or change. Delivering strategy and implementation, Prosono’s work drives measurable outcomes and positive impact for businesses and the community.
“Prosono means to let your purpose echo,” said Co-founder and CEO Jesus Salazar. “We do two things, we either help companies grow or change by figuring out how to be agile at scale or we help not-for-profits and social enterprises figure out how to be more sustainable in the long-term.”
They’ve grown at least 120 percent each year since they launched in 2016.
“So for us, it’s about running a ton of experiments, be focused on learning while having this long-term goal,” Salazar said.
They’re also focused on how their business impacts the community with their Social ROI program. For every dollar paid by a client, they want to show $5 of societal value through that work by 2027. But, they also ensure their team can give back now, whether offering 100 hours of service to a nonprofit or creating a philanthropy pool.
“As we reach our business objectives we fund a philanthropy pool that employees can choose where those funds go to,” said Julie Seltz, a principal at Prosono.
In 2018, Prosono made $30,000 available for their employees to support their nonprofits of their choice.
SAME Café is the Small Nonprofit of the Year, sponsored by Southwest Airlines
SAME Café offers a different take on food access with its donation-based, fair-exchange restaurant. At the East Colfax restaurant, people can donate volunteer time, money or produce in exchange for a healthy, locally sourced lunch. SAME Café, short for So All May Eat, believes that everyone should have access to healthy food, regardless of ability to pay.
“Healthy food is not a luxury. Healthy food is a right, and we want to make sure that everybody understands that – and everybody has the right to access healthy food,” said Letisha Steele, operations officer and chef for SAME Café.
Launched in 2006, SAME Café has served as a model for 60 restaurants across the country. And, on May 9 they’ll launch a food truck to expand their reach beyond the restaurant – doubling the meals they served in 2017.
“There are so many food deserts around Denver,” Steele said. “So, the concept with the food truck is … go into these neighborhoods with our pay-what-you-can model.”
They also launched a Cook-to-Work, a six-week food prep training and food safety course to help those who are gaining skills by volunteering at SAME Café to find jobs.
“[Cook-to-Work] is helping people move from homelessness or poverty into, hopefully, a set of skills that can lead to a career,” said SAME Café Executive Director Brad Reubendale. “Our goal in the next few years is to launch another site in Denver to be able to see what is transferable from our location to another and then use that as a franchise-type model.”
We Don’t Waste is the Large Nonprofit of the Year, sponsored by Fireside Production
Bringing fresh, quality foods to those in need, We Don’t Waste is an innovative food provider for the hungry. They gather excess food from venues, caterers, restaurants and other local food purveyors, and redistribute those healthy items to underserved populations in Denver and across the Front Range.
“As foodie, I started talking to people who were in the restaurant business and I said, ‘What do you do with the food at the end of the night?’ And they said generally that they threw it away. And I said, ‘Well, would you mind donating it?’” Executive Director Arlan Preblud recalled of the simple start to We Don’t Waste in 2009.
They have provided more an estimated 11 million meals to people since then. By gathering and redistributing excess food and placing it in the hands of the hungry, We Don’t Waste promotes a sustainable and resourceful environment directly benefiting those in need.
Last year, they added more food storage equipment – allowing them to safely store perishable foods, and more importantly, no longer decline any donations. Because of that, they distributed an additional 3 million servings of food. And, they’re meeting people where they’re at with a Mobile Food Market in food deserts, starting in Globeville-Elyria-Swansea.
“In the past, as a community-based agency, we would deliver to the agencies and they would put the food out,” Preblud said. “Now, we got the experience of seeing the delight of families who get to shop with us, and it’s all free.”
Sara Crocker is the communications manager for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.