Boulder, Colorado’s annual Schmoozefest for Green-minded Entrepreneurs and Legends alike.
Among the highlights of the year, every year, for this here networked-happy, green-minded entrepreneur is Naturally Boulder’s Spring Party.
Even if you include the far-bigger Natural Products Expo West—the Valhalla of “green” + “business”—Boulder’s modest-by-comparison “Spring Fling” is about as fun as it gets. And it attracts more investors with kabillions of dollars in their wallets per square foot than a Starbucks in Silicon Valley. But it’s not all good ol’boys n’girls—there’s plenty of hungry (literally), fresh-faced rookie startups, too. Throw in a little Vodka 14 and local beer, and the annual celebration has always been among my favorite events of the year, every year.
This year was no exception.
But it was different—I missed the usual bucolic setting of world-class Fresh Ideas Group’s outdoor patio. We’d traded in sunshine for the University of Colorado’s fluorescent lights. Still, the Law Building is a more contained environment—allowing us to actually hear the legends’ brief lectures, something I immensely appreciated (it’s not every day you get the straight dope from a billionaire hippie). Michael Funk, founder of UNFI, which delivers just about all organic and natural food in the US and now Canada, is one of the most successful green businesspeople on Planet Earth. But he still wears tie-dye shirts, doesn’t cut his hair, does work his butt off, and rails against the invasion of GMOs and nano-technology into our food and bodycare. If this is what mainstream success looks like in the LOHAS industry—well, awesome, dude.
Michael provided a walk-the-talk lesson to our generation of green entrepreneurs: it’s possible (if not at all easy) to be hugely successful without selling out to The Man. Instead, we can become The Man, or The Woman, and exert direct influence on an industry, and society, that desperately needs truly sustainable leadership.
After talks by our longtime elephriend Steve Hoffman, and Michael, and Ellen Feeney of White Wave, we all repaired to the lobby for partytime. Yakyakyakk, we talked each other’s ears off, and had a good doing so.
Two days later, my voice is still shot (last week was tough even for this networking-happy boy—I was also honored to be on a green business panel at the university for a bunch of students, and with four biz leaders who actually knew what they were talking about).
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