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Entrepreneur is synonymous with BoCo

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October 24, 2018

YellowScene Magazine

Over the last 50 years, the economic landscape of Boulder County has shifted. While employment was largely driven by agriculture, petroleum, and mining before, it is now dominated by high-tech industries like bio-science, aerospace, IT, and natural foods production. One thing that’s always been consistent though, has been the region’s desire for local businesses. It’s been around since Boulder started, the unique landscape often drawing personalities with a mind for high-risk adventure.

Justin Gold was one such individual. Gold came out to Colorado, enticed by the mountains and a proclivity for an active lifestyle.

“As an active vegetarian, I became obsessed with nut butters and was curious why there were only two flavors of peanut butter – smooth or crunchy . . . With only a food processor and probably a little too much free time I started experimenting by making my own nut butters with peanuts, almonds, bananas, honey, maple syrup, you name it! After a few roommates starting eating my ‘experiments’ I had to put my name on the jar.”

Justin’s Nut Butters was born.

“It’s such a rich environment,” Said Sarabeth Berk of CU’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship program. “We have a strong research university and many labs in the area including federal labs. I think we have the highest concentration of labs in the region. We have strong industry and all of that helps the startup community.”

Colorado, as a whole, has been one of the startup leaders nationwide, which has contributed to the state’s economic prosperity. Formation of new businesses is important to economic growth and gains in employment, according to the 2018 Colorado Economic Impact Study. Startups are critical to Boulder County’s economy. Although large businesses employ more people, younger businesses typically add more jobs year-over-year compared with their older counterparts. Newer companies tend to have an inclination toward innovation, which generates greater productivity gains as they continue to grow quickly, which leads to more economic development, the study said.

“I call it the Boulder trifecta. 1) Boulder has a high concentration of successful natural food companies like Celestial Seasonings, White Wave (SILK), Horizon Organic Dairy, Rudi’s Organic Bread, IZZE, Boulder Chips, Wild Oats (at the time), etc, with most importantly, a collaborative community of business leaders willing to share their experiences. 2) A community of residents whom support not only natural and organic products but local entrepreneurs. 3) A vibrant angel investment network that believes in, understands, and invests in natural product companies.”

Unlike other startup cities, the Boulder market is amicable, and willing to help, which really fosters this environment of creativity and generates support for businesses just starting out, Berk said. Justin’s was bolstered up by the Boulder community and given opportunities he said he wouldn’t have necessarily had elsewhere. When he started producing for more than just his family and friends, he used a salsa making facility in Denver to package his nut butters while waiting tables.