Colorado Businesses Trailblaze a New Economy Amidst COVID-19

The State of Colorado has always been proud of its identity as resilient and innovative. Now, more than ever, Colorado businesses are showing their heart in the face of crisis. While COVID-19 has changed the economy across the nation, Colorado business owners are stepping up and transforming the way they operate to support their communities.

A Bike Manufacturer Transformed

When the global health crisis hit Golden, Colorado, Bill Mueller and his company Yeti Cycles began searching for ways to help support the State. Though Mueller and his team knew they had limitations, such as a lack of supplies and machinery for making face masks, they were hopeful that they could make something work. Mueller explained, "We are small and nimble. We can move fast."

The bike manufacturer is now producing protective face shields, a critical piece of equipment used in conduction with N95 masks, to distribute to local health care facilities. The team has converted their entire bike assembly operation, with staff members spaced out accordingly, providing safe working conditions to create a widely needed product. Mueller announced that the first round of 10,000 shields is nearly complete, with the materials for another 10,000 on their way to the manufacturer.

In addition to the shields, Yeti Cycles has been able to source masks and surgical gowns from their clothing supplier. These supplies along with the shields are being delivered to local healthcare providers by the company’s demo drivers in their sprinter vans.

Hand Sanitizer for Chaffee County

As hand sanitizer shortages have dramatically increased across the country, four businesses in Chaffee County have connected their supplies to combat this increasing need. The partnership started with Sterling Stoudenmire, the CEO of PureGreens, a wholesale cannabis cultivator. Stoudenmire had a large inventory of isopropyl alcohol, one of the main ingredients in hand sanitizer. Outreach to Christian Koch, founder of Elevation Beer Co. provided another key ingredient, hydrogen peroxide, which is normally used in brewery cleaning protocols. To meet the 95% ABV alcohol content, the Salida Mayor and co-founder of Wood’s High Mountain Distillery stepped in with more than 150 gallons to contribute. The final ingredient, glycerol, was provided by an unlikely candidate: Pursell Manufacturing Corporation, a company that produces supplies for Christmas tree lots. 

These four businesses’ entrepreneurial spirit is shown through the uniqueness of four different industries reimagining how individual components from products used in their normal business operations can be combined to solve a critical community need. The collaborative partnership has already produced and distributed 1,500 bottles of sanitizer to Emergency Medical Services and other organizations with critical needs in Chaffee County. 3,500 more bottles are underway and will be available to the public in Salida and Poncha Springs.

A Buy One, Feed One Boutique

When all nonessential businesses were asked to halt their services, owners of Trunk Nouveau, a hip boutique with locations in Denver and Aurora, felt that they had been completely cut off from their community. Owner Stephanie Shearer described how heartwarming it was when she started receiving emails of support from customers, “I was completely flabbergasted that our community would want to know that not just the store- but that our entire team- was okay too.”

Shearer and her team responded quickly to the unexpected outreach by starting a “Saturday Afternoon Check Up” Facebook live stream on her store, Trunk Nouveau’s page. The check-ins feature games like Name That Tune, trivia and charades. In addition to providing viewers with a source of entertainment and fun during serious times, viewers also win gift cards to the boutique. However, there is a twist. The winners may either keep their gift card, or donate the amount to #DenverFeeditForward, a grassroots initiative that helps support local restaurants and frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Shearer noted that nearly every winner has chosen to donate their money.

Overwhelmed by the generosity of their community, Shearer and her team started brainstorming ways to widen the reach of their impact. They are now hosting pop up sales, live streamed from their basement, where they offer products from local makers with a “buy one, feed one” deal. With every purchase, a meal is donated to a doctor, nurse, or support staff at a local hospital in conjunction with #DenverFeedItForward. Shearer’s goal is to provide an entire meal service for one hospital, totaling $1,000. Shearer says, “It's a high goal, but we have such an amazing and generous community that we are hopeful we can come together and pay it forward.”

Shearer and her team believe that small businesses within local communities can bring people together and do big things while supporting each other. Learn more about Shearer’s boutiques and view her live stream community events.

Colorado Mask Project

New Center for Disease Control guidelines show that Do-It-Yourself (DIY) masks can help limit the spread of COVID-19. In response, Public and private sector leaders, including Governor Jared Polis, created the Colorado Mask Project to ensure that all Coloradans have access to masks that increase public health and safety in the midst of the COVID pandemic.

The Colorado Mask Project has operated fully on a donation basis to allow all available state funds to be deployed on medical-grade personal protective equipment for health workers and first responders. These donations are crucial as all masks are being donated to Colorado’s most vulnerable populations. Many essential workers - such as assisted living centers, domestic violence safehouses, public school workers providing meals for low-income families, and veteran care centers -  experience a high risk of exposure and have limited access to protective equipment, The Colorado Mask Project seeks to fill that void.

Colorado has been overwhelmed by support from donors across the state. Hunter Douglas, a window blinds and shades manufacturer based in Broomfield, CO is donating 50,000 masks to the Colorado Mask Project in addition to 50,000 more to various hospitals and clinics. A partnership between small businesses Phunkshun Wear, a ski buff and google cover manufacturer based in Denver and EcoEnclose, an eco-friendly packaging company, have come together to donate over a thousand masks delivered in 100% recyclable packaging. Another partnership between two backpack and apparel companies, Topo Designs and Deuter USA, combined fabric donations from Dueter and mask making from Topo Designs to contribute to the project. Another backpack manufacturer, Osprey based in Cortez, Colorado, has been critical in anchoring donations in the SouthWest corner of the state.

Throughout the mask donation process, a critical role has been filled by volunteer Murray Smith, a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialist who created a living GIS heat map to track supply, demand, and logistics for the Colorado Mask Project.

The Colorado Mask Project could not be made possible without the time and donations from individuals and their businesses all across the State.

These stories illustrate the trailblazing spirit that is synonymous with Colorado and inspire us as we look to stabilize and rebuild Colorado’s economy.

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