Boulder-based Eldorado Climbing Walls won the Wright Award at the fourth annual Something Independent Awards ceremony Tuesday night at Space Gallery, edging out finalists Icelantic Skis and Oskar Blues Brewery. The award recognizes Colorado companies "who are leading at the intersection of lifestyle and commerce" -- and full disclosure, I was on the judging panel.
"Climbing absolutely changed my life when I was fourteen years old," Eldorado CEO Jerad Wells told us after the event. "I got introduced to the sport by a friend of mine at a time when I was really struggling with life. It opened up a whole new world of what's possible. It helped me learn to conquer my fears and to really reach for what I'm passionate about. When I show up to work, that's my passion, that's my everything. I've surrounded myself with people who have that same passion, and we're able to accomplish really amazing things."
Upon accepting his oversized prop check for $3,000, Wells announced that he's donating the prize to Paradox Sports, an adaptive sports organization in Boulder that was briefly featured in his video application for the Wright Award. Echoing a common refrain of the night, Wells said his goals for the company were bigger than just making money, noting that the company has turned down multiple offers to sell out.
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"Our primary mission is to grow the sport of climbing, especially among today's youth," he said. "I want to produce a world champion out of the United States of America: It's only a matter of time before there's an Olympic gold medal to be had in our sport, and I want the first one to go to the U.S. Our product and our mission allows us to give them the medium to achieve that, and to me that's as important as our bottom line."
Governor John Hickenlooper was on hand for the awards ceremony. "The Wright Award somehow captures that spirit of what makes Colorado unique," he said. "These are people starting businesses, but it's not just business -- they're building a life....The Wright Awards celebrate companies that are built to last."
In addition to Eldorado, Denver-based Icelantic and Lyons' Oskar Blues, the 2014 Wright Award contenders included Honey Stinger (Steamboat Springs), Jiberish (Denver), Kifaru (Wheat Ridge), Mishawaka (Bellvue), Montanya Distillers (Crested Butte), Moots Cycles (Steamboat Springs), Optic Nerve Eyewear (Wheat Ridge), Pakems (Highlands Ranch) and Ross Reels (Montrose).
Hickenlooper cited a recent Business Insider ranking that listed Colorado as the number-one fastest-growing economy in the U.S. as he addressed a crowd that included previous Wright Award winners Voormi Clothing, Mile High Mountaineering and Flylow.
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"It's you! You're the ones who did that!" Hickenlooper said. "here's no other way to explain it: Our small businesses, our lifestyle industries, you guys all did it. I get to say this from time to time: On behalf of a grateful state, thank you."