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Big Connections, Small Business in Denver, Colorado

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center (SBDC) gathered last week to hear the stories of three successful small business owners and to honor VF Corporation’s Kellye Gordon as the University of Denver Colorado Business School’s Bill Daniels Ethical Leader of the Year for 2021. The event’s platinum sponsor was Vectra Bank.

Entrepreneurs were able to interact, learn from each other’s experiences, and network with colleagues and experts from a variety of industries at the event, which was held at Asterisk in Downtown Denver. Mowa Haile, Ryan Cobbins, and Naomi Binkley took turns telling stories about their small enterprises and how they got to where they are now. The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce’s president and CEO, J. J. Ament, and the Denver Metro SBDC’s director, China Califf, both spoke at the event.

Haile, the founder and president of Sky Blue Builders and the incoming board chair of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, kicked off the storytelling portion of the event by sharing his story as a “kid from Africa” with a dream, who persevered despite opening Sky Blue’s doors just before the Great Recession in 2007, and is now able to inspire others and share his expertise as a business owner. As he prepared to launch his own firm, Haile turned to the SBDC for help. He stated, “Everyone has the responsibility to inspire others.”

Cobbins, the owner of Coffee at The Point, discussed how he went about developing a 3,000-square-foot coffee and wine lounge that has become a community centre in Five Points. “It’s not about the coffee,” Cobbins observed, “but what occurs over the coffee.” “This was the most significant method for us to contribute to our community.” Cobbins, who dislikes coffee, built a location in his community that offered non-traditional coffee shop hours and collaborated with his team to design shifts that fit their schedules.

Binkley, the event’s originator and managing partner, wrapped up the storytelling section of the event by sharing her tale about how she came to create Fireside Production. Binkley, a former television news reporter, began freelancing work and “then the economy collapsed.” “The SBDC became my business school” when she decided to make Fireside Production a full-time job for herself and her husband, who continued to work in television news. At the same time, Binkley revealed her private struggle with excruciating chronic pain. “I’m a storyteller,” Binkley explained. “Stories are what bind us all together.”

Kellye Gordon, vice president, ethics and compliance & legal operations at VF Corporation, was named the 2021 Bill Daniels Ethical Leader of the Year after hearing Mowa, Ryan, and Naomi’s experiences. After speaking about the VF team, she remarked, “I am so grateful to be surrounded by such courage.” View a video about Gordon and the award.

Following Gordon’s award, guests mingled and networked to help develop the “large connections” that will generate the next generation of businesses and leaders who will tell their stories at future Small Business, Big Connections.