Sustainable Start-Ups & A Dreamcatcher

I digress from my food musings for a moment to share something else of equal intrigue. Good food often takes me on a tangential exploration of sustainable businesses, innovative products, and inspring design projects and the event I attended last week most certainly belongs in all of those categories. Through a serendipitous chain of events, I had the opportunity to attend the i4c Campaign Summit in Denver on Friday night. If you just said to yourself, what exactly is i4c? don’t worry, I didn’t know either until I arrived, settled into my seat and let the evening rollout. Had I known earlier I was going to learn about 10 Colorado-based start-ups that are beyond-words inspiring, I would have probably told each and every one of you about the event in the form of an ecstatic phone call. However, sometimes being blindsided with inspiration like this cannot be planned for and we are better off for it. i4c is sponsored by Galvanize, an upcoming communal workspace and community for burgeoning entrepreneurs in downtown Denver (think The Hub in San Francisco). Also think: your days at coffee shops could be over… in a good way.

The i4c Campaign is Galvanize’s impact investing platform through which they rally local entrepreneurs and connect them with impact investors. The goal is to inspire and facilitate entrepreneurial growth in America’s cities. Basically, 10 Colorado companies were given the opportunity to pitch their businesses to an opera house full of people and five “sharks”, or, impact investors, ranging from the CEO of Otterbox, to the founder of The Unreasonable Institute, were on stage to grill, and ultimately, select three winners who won $50,000 each, immersion into the Denver business community, as well as a year of free space at Galvanize’s soon to be new digs. Not a bad deal, right?

THE THREE-FOLD TAKEAWAY:

1. I learned about 10 mind-blowing companies and they are listed below, with links. Seriously, take the time to check them out.

AYZH – giving women in developing countries have access to affordable birthing kits.

BOULD – providing entry-level LEED project building experience for students and professionals who need hard skills to enter the workforce.

INSIDE GOOD – nonprofit feedback management that works (and even made sense to me).

DABBLE – pursue your interests and meet new people through affordable classes. (winner)

SWIIM – changing the face of integrated crop and water management.

PANGEA ORGANICS – same amazing skin care products but with a new business model in the works. (winner)

GIVEN GOODS – sells (amazing) products from companies that do more and shows you on a savvy graph how YOU do more.

SIMPLE ENERGY – motivating people to save energy through social networking and game mechanics. It works better than the utility companies themselves. Who would have guessed (wink, wink)? (winner)

WASTE FARMERS – a revolutionary soil company. Get yourself a bag, now!

FUNDING LAUNCHPAD – letting people like you and me be investors in companies instead of just donating to them (think Kickstarter, except eventually you get a return in the form of a check).

2. My thoughts on local business – Highlighting local entrepreneurs means they are drawing on local resources including capital in the form of people, knowledge and often dollars. Entrepreneurs are highly connected people and that is one great way to create community. Do you see where this is going? Supporting local entrepreneurs is good for everyone because it brings communities together, and as that happens, place by place we become a stronger nation and world. But, it truly means doing the groundwork in each place. We cannot just come up with a one-size-fits-all concept to apply like a band-aid across the U.S. Just like restaurant concepts that work in SF do not always translate to NY, in fact they rarely do, so it goes for community building efforts. We have to work with the intricacies and oddities that each place holds in order to create sustainability on the local and then the macro level. I’m inspired, humbled, and have plenty to learn.

3.  On a tastier note, (did you really think I wasn’t going to mention food in this post?) I ran into my friend Sean, the Rocky Mountain face of Runa Tea, pouring their energizing guayusa teas at the event. Runa’s Fair Trade guayusa is grown by indigenous families in the Ecuadorian Amazon. They are creeping into coffee shops and gourmet food markets around the country so check them out! I happened to have a whiskey on the rocks in my hand and so Sean brilliantly poured their lemon-lemongrass tea into my cup to make an outstanding cocktail on the fly. Word has it that guayusa not only gives you a natural energy boost (think mate), but also contributes to vivid dreaming. I’ll take it…and call it a Dreamcatcher.

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