Fort Collins is no stranger to startups, small business and entrepreneurs. Over the past few years, we’ve seen tech companies, manufacturing innovators, restaurant geniuses and even craft brewers blossom in the city, thanks in part to Colorado State’s Institute for Entrepreneurship and their Collegiate Challenge which awards capital and space to student entrepreneurs.
But even outside of the university, our neighbors and community members foster local makers every single day. To celebrate our city’s success stories, we rounded up the builders and innovators who are showing off Fort Collins creativity. Show your support, cheer them on from down the street and shop local any chance you get!
Chances are if you’ve ever had a cell phone, you’ve had an OtterBox. The company began in a NoCo garage back in 1998 and over the years, this Fort Collins company has become famous as the maker of the industry’s best and most protective cases. Inspired by the Colorado lifestyle, their LifeProof products are waterproof, dirt proof, snow proof and drop proof.
In 2010, Otter Products began The OtterCares Foundation to create impactful and lasting change by inspiring the next generation of philanthropists and entrepreneurs. Through grants, events and innovative education programs, the foundation strives to empower kids to turn their ideas into new products, processes and businesses.
Photo courtesy of Topo Designs and Abigail Demyanek
Rooted in mountain culture and outdoor living, Topo Designs makes packs, gear, clothing and accessories for city life and mountain adventures. Built right here in Fort Collins, their packs have become known across the country for a reason. They use the highest quality fabrics, hardware and materials and overbuild everything; then, they stand behind it all with a lifetime warranty for repair or replacement.
Check out their gear in the wild and snag a few travel tips on the blog!
Founder Kyle Brown began Clawhammer in Northern Colorado when he struggled to find any products that met his specifications for distillation equipment: high quality, 100% copper and inexpensive. Now, they’re one of the premier resources for copper moonshine stills, stainless steel distillation equipment, moonshine and whiskey spice blends and everything else you need to make your own delicious creations at home! On their blog, you’ll find recipes, how-tos and other fun brewing and distilling ramblings.
In 2012, Conundrum Coffee began producing their small batch, craft roasted, specialty coffees from their Fort Collins home. Today, they do it all out of Loveland, but this small and mighty family-owned roastery still emphasizes the journey and relationships built from seed to cup to ensure sustainability and great taste. Ranging from single origin to blended coffees, their selections include beans from Ethiopia, Guatemala and Mexico. Check out all their coffees, brewing equipment and accessories on the online shop or sign up for the Coffee Club to get freshly roasted beans delivered regularly!
Akinz is a lifestyle brand for stylish adventurers. Their handcrafted goods are produced in the flagship Fort Collins store — from the hand printed shirts to the handmade beanies. Inspired by the Colorado lifestyle (think snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, great beer and great friends), their goods highlight mountains, wildlife, Colorado pride and craft brews.
Near and far, everyone recognizes New Belgium — whether that’s because of their delicious craft beer or the famed Tour de Fat. Built in Fort Collins from the ground up, they’ve become one of the giants in the craft beer industry. And today, they have additional breweries in Asheville, North Carolina and in Downtown Denver at The Source Hotel.
But their story has humble beginnings: a boy on a bike riding through Belgium in 1988. After exploring various European cities and their beers, Jeff Lebesch came home to FoCo and started home brewing. One of those home brew creations was the tried and true amber ale, Fat Tire. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Odell Brewing Co. is another Fort Collins local to reach nationwide fame. Doug Odell and his family opened the FoCo brewery in 1989 after traveling through the UK, living in San Francisco and brewing in Seattle. The original brewery was located in a 1915 grain elevator just a few blocks from the current location.
Today, Odell is the 34th largest craft brewery in the country distributing beer to 14 states. Inspired by British styles, their beers are packed with the innovation, balance and consistency showcased since their first 90 Shilling was bottled.
Since we talked to founder Devin Eldridge earlier this year, Stow It has exploded in the tech industry and in the state of Colorado by bringing the sharing economy to storage. Founded in Fort Collins, Stow It brings together people who have extra space with people who need extra space in what they call peer to peer storage. They help people find storage options for their cars, boats, RVs and more at a 20-50% discount compared to traditional storage — and their hosts make anywhere between $80 to $1,500 per month! Stow It is like Airbnb for storage.
Photo courtesy of Boo Bicycles
In their Fort Collins shop, Boo Bicycles hand crafts bamboo bike frames that are stiff and durable, nimble and confident and lively and smooth. With engineers, designers, mechanics, avid cyclists and creatives on their small team, you know every bike will be top quality. But if you don’t believe us, find out why they use bamboo and how it compares to carbon, titanium and steel on the website. On top of quality, each bike — from fat tire to mountain to street — is stylish and fun. Check out the photos here!
Founded in 2009, Big Shot Bikes allows you to design your bike down to every color and part with a fun and easy to use tool on the website. When the bike is shipped to you from the FoCo shop, it’s 80% built and ready to hit the street with just a few basic assemblies! The best part is that each bike comes with both a fixed gear cog and a freewheel single speed cog so you can switch between a single speed and a fixie bike depending on your ride and your preference. Stop by the showroom and warehouse in Fort Collins to take a look and learn more or start building your bike on the website!
Made just minutes outside of Fort Collins in Bellvue, Noosa is Colorado’s tastiest yogurt. The team’s labor of love starts in small batches on the farm and ends in a delicious scoop on your spoon. In true farm to fridge fashion, fresh milk comes from within 40 miles of headquarters, the honey comes from a fourth-generation honey farm in Elizabeth, Colorado and other fruits and ingredients come from around the United States.
You can find Noosa in most grocery stores, so get to one soon and snag a tub! We recommend the classic honey or the pumpkin flavor for something extra special.
Photo courtesy of Stuff’n Mallows and Heidi Clemmer
Get your phones out because these fluffy and sweet stuffed marshmallows were made for Instagram. The story begins in a college Intro to Entrepreneurship class when the three mallow guys put together a last minute business pitch complete with chocolate, marshmallows and fire. After landing a spot in a small business program hosted by the university, they took their marshmallows to the real world and the rest is history. Now, we can you can taste these stuffed treats when you buy them online or find them in a store near you! Whether it’s traditional chocolate chip, mint chocolate or peanut butter, you’ll have a favorite flavor in no time.
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This business has been drool inducing and family owned and operated right here in Fort Collins since 1976. Their handcrafted butter almond toffee is made in small batches in copper kettles over an old-fashioned candy stove. And over three generations, the family recipe has stayed true and delicious made with the same fine and fresh ingredients. Sample one taste and you’ll be craving it every day!
Photo courtesy of Dr. Seth’s Mustache Wax and Dr. Seth Stepleton
At Dr. Seth’s, they know how hard you worked to grow your mustache and they want you to take good care of it. Their handmade mustache wax uses local Colorado beeswax, organic cold pressed coconut oil from Thailand and essential oils from Australia and the United States of America. And it’s all put together in the Fort Collins shop! See the full list of ingredients for Dr. Seth’s wax and oil here, shop online or find it in a nearby store.
Small businesses and creative innovators are not in short supply in FoCo. Shout out your favorite local entrepreneurs in the comments below!