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ShadeScapes gala spotlights entrepreneurs

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Photo by Pat Sunderland Maggie Maxwell, Colorado Companies to Watch, presents Jo Edmondson and the team at ShadeScapes Americas with an award acknowledging the company's growing influence. Recognizing that her small-town business is not the only one in De

This summer, ShadeScapes Americas was named a 2017 Colorado Company to Watch. The award acknowledges the drive, excellence and influence of ShadeScapes Americas as a growing company developing valuable products and services, creating quality jobs, enabling new industries and enriching the community of Hotchkiss and Delta County as a whole.

The firm was selected from 600 qualified nominees for one of the 50 awards presented annually. Jo Edmondson, founder and CEO, said the "surprise" element of an international company doing business in rural Colorado helped the company stand out. But she recognizes that Shade-Scapes is not the only business in Delta County that's reaching out regionally, nationally and internationally. So when it came time to celebrate the Colorado Companies to Watch award locally, Edmondson and her team decided to hold a celebration with purpose -- a gala event that would highlight all the companies in Delta County that are tapping into the entrepreneurial spirit and small-town energy vital to success. They invited several of those local entrepreneurs to share their stories at an event titled "Local and Beyond."

"The more stories we share, the more we work together, the more we can inspire others," Edmondson said.

So the storytelling began, with dedicated, hardworking entrepreneurs sharing their successes and challenges with one another and with guests from Colorado Companies to Watch, the governor's Office of Economic Development and International Trade, Region 10 and Delta County Economic Development.

Steve Ela of Ela Family Farms started the conversation by talking about a business model that's gotten people excited about food and fruit. Ela Family Farms not only sells fresh fruit, it has a commercial kitchen to can and bottle shelf-stable products that can be sold all year. He left shortly after his presentation, en route to the Front Range where he sells 95 percent of his products through farmers' markets, CSAs and Whole Foods.

Beth Delehaunty, the "chief recycler" at the Elisabethan in Paonia, transforms reclaimed fabrics into fashionable clothing for women and children. She first sold her clothing in juried art shows, eventually expanding to 100 stores nationwide. A year and a half ago she opened the Refinery in Paonia. She said her concept is proof that you can have a business and do the right thing for the planet, too.

Shawn Larson, the head hard cider market at Big B's, talked about the explosive growth of the business owned by the Schwartz family. Big B juices are available in almost every Whole Foods store across the country. Locally, Delicious Orchards is the face of the company. The Paonia location offers special events, tasting room, a café, u-pick fruit and vegetables, and a farm store that includes Big B's newest product, apple cider vinegar.

Merrily Talbott is developing a texting service called Savvy that will connect college students with trained counselors who can empower students to solve their own problems. She tossed out samples of "Placebos," mints with a lighthearted message that will provide a revenue stream for the fledgling business and eventually be used for marketing Savvy's services.

Amy DeLuca and Chelsea Bookout said they've filled a niche in Paonia with a three-in-one business known as Cirque Cyclery and Remedy. The business occupies a renovated building in downtown Paonia and is a popular gathering spot where the two women spread the word about all the North Fork has to offer.

Brent Helleckson is the owner of Stone Cottage Cellars, which he and his wife purchased in 1994. Stone Cottage is one of nine wineries in the West Elks AVA, but Helleckson expects another six wineries to come online within two years. His winery on Garvin Mesa draws about 7,000 visitors a year, half of whom spend the night. Nearly all purchase fuel or a meal while they're here. The West Elks AVA hosts two events a year, but Helleckson said a lack of lodging prevents them from hosting larger gatherings that would expose the North Fork to an even bigger audience.

The final presenters were Don and Daphne Laureau, owners of Zephyros Farm and Garden. Since the business was established in 2003, emphasis has gradually shifted from a mix of vegetables and flowers to over 2,000 varieties of flowers. "We love the theme 'Local and Beyond,' " Don Laureau said. "It's why we moved here. We want to be local and we don't want anything to do with beyond."

Three years ago, the Laureaus established Studio Z, a floral design service that boosts the value of the flowers grown on the farm. The Lareaus are also shipping dahlia tubers all over the country -- just one strategy they're employing to generate income year-round.

After the presentations, guests enjoyed locally-sourced wine and hard cider with a farm-to-table dinner catered by Delicious Orchards. The event was held in Shade-Scapes' repurposed showroom in downtown Hotchkiss.

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