The culture of entrepreneurialism is strong in Colorado, economist Patty Silverstein told more than 300 business leaders at State of Small Business on Monday. People who run their own business make up over 26% of all workers in our state, compared to just over 23% nationally. That’s more than 1 million people.
“That is just amazing,” said Silverstein, president and chief economist of Development Research Partners.
The event, hosted by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center in partnership with the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative at the University of Colorado Denver Business School, focuses on entrepreneurialism and the economy – particularly how small businesses make an impact.
“Our small businesses are really our biggest business in Colorado,” said Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kelly Brough.
And the update on the economy showed other bright spots. Colorado is continuing to add jobs – ranking 11th for employment growth and on track to add more than 50,000 jobs across the state. And, wages are growing – the 10th fastest in the country. With just the first three quarters of the year’s data tracked, Silverstein said she anticipates Colorado will finish the year stronger.
Sectors leading job growth included transportation, warehousing and utilities (largely because of the addition of the Amazon warehouse in Thornton); professional and business services (which added the most jobs); and natural resources and construction.
Running a Small Business as a Force for Good
Linda Appel Lipsius, the event’s keynote, has focused not just on growing a successful business but on ensuring it is serves its community, neighbors and the planet. The daughter of serial entrepreneurs, Lipsius learned everything she needed to know about business from her parents. After selling everything from aloe juice to brooms, they created Orange Glo and Oxi Clean.
“They had the right product at the right place at the right time,” said Lipsius, the event’s keynote, the co-founder and CEO of Teatulia Organic Teas and founder of the mamahood.
As the family business was being sold, a friend from Bangladesh was staying with them – and he was exploring starting a tea business based in his home country.
Lipsius offered to help them with a market analysis. She quickly learned that tea as a category was expanding, as were organic products. The tea garden not only regenerates the soil but also ensures “we can guarantee accountability, freshness and transparency,” Lipsius said. In addition to focusing on sustainability in Bangladesh in their now 3,000-acre garden, Teatulia pays higher wages and offers training opportunities to their employees there, and their product packaging is biodegradable or compostable.
In addition to the women they employ in Bangladesh, Teatulia employs 17 people locally.
“As far as I’m concerned there is no better place in the country to start a business than in Colorado,” she said. “The collaborative nature of the community here is unparallel.”
She challenged attendees to follow their dreams, particularly in business: “There’s never a perfect time,” Lipsius said. “The realization of your dream just might make the world a better place.”
Bob Hottman Named 2019 Bill Daniels Ethical Leader of the Year
Bob Hottman also believes in improving communities by bringing together others with similar values. He has a saying: There is no right way to do the wrong thing. It was his strong ethics and servant leadership that led University of Colorado Denver Business School students to select Hottman, a partner at Plante Moran and 2015-16 chair of the Chamber, as the fifth Bill Daniels Ethical Leader of the Year.
The award is named in honor of Daniels, the cable television pioneer, and the ethical principles he stood for: integrity, trust, accountability, fairness, respect, transparency, viability and rule of law.
“Bob’s ethical principles guide his leadership style and business practices,” said University of Colorado Denver Business School interim Dean Gary Colbert. “Bob understands that ethics and business are not at odds with one another, and they indeed are complimentary.”
Hottman said he was humbled by the recognition. He encouraged audience members to consider servant leadership – putting the needs of others in front of yours – and of surrounding yourself with people who live similar values.
“The legacy that (Bill Daniels) created for our community, not only with his ethical thinking and beliefs, but also the legacy of giving that he’s give to our community, I hope it continues on for decades and decades to come,” Hottman said. “I’m really happy that his legacy continues and that I can be a little piece of that.”
Learn more about Hottman:
Sara Crocker is the communications manager for the Denver Metro Chamber.