The Boulder Chamber's Espirit Entrepreneur week is an inspiring series of events that is capped by an evening celebrating innovators who have built successful companies. This is my second year to attend and I am struck by what a special place Boulder is for nurturing new businesses.
Frasca Food and Wine co-owners sommalier Bobby Stuckey and Chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson were honored as Entrepreneurs of Distinction. Stuckey joked that friends in Napa Valley tried to do "an intervention" when he talked of leaving the Bay Area to start a restaurant in Boulder.
But Frasca, conceived as a neighborhood restaurant like an Italian "frasca," has thrived. Mackinnon-Patterson was recognized by the Beard Foundation in 2008 as Best Chef in the Southwest. Stuckey is one of 100 in the world to receive a Master Sommelier Diploma.
Chamber President Susan Graf said many other communities visit Boulder, wanting to reproduce the environment that has supported so many successful companies. But the combination of community support and the university can't be exported, she said.
Common traits I observed in these successful entrepreneurs:
*They had a vision of what they wanted to build
*They learned their industry and worked hard
* They figured out how to get help to make their businesses succeed.
"Pick your right partner," advised Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Mark Retzloff, who co-founded Alfalfa's in Boulder and Aurora Organic Dairy. He recognized long-time associates who helped him build successful companies as well as his wife who supported him in the long hours it takes to make a new venture succeed.
The importance of giving back was also celebrated. David Cohen and Brad Feld were recognized for supporting new businesses with the Entrepreneurial Accelerator Award. The two founded TechStars, a three month boot camp that offers mentorships and $18,000 in seed funding to promising new entrepreneurs. Only a fraction of those who apply are selected. They help these business owners pitch angel investors and venture capital firms for the funds needed to take their companies to the next level.
Congratulations to all the honorees. Their success has translated into many jobs and a thriving business community.