Colorado has no shortage of brands ringing up accolades in the outdoor industry and consumer and lifestyle sector. The three finalists for Consumer Brand of the Year at the 2022 Colorado Manufacturing Awards exemplify the state’s notably deep bench of manufacturers boosting the life side of their work/life balance.

Mountain Racing Products (Grand Junction)

Tim Fry, president and CEO of Mountain Racing Products (MRP), says the manufacturer of high-end forks and other bicycle components bounced back in the wake of a slowdown at the front end of the COVD-19 pandemic.

“We’ve recovered pretty well,” says Fry. “Last year, we were up about 30 percent over 2020, and we’re actually projecting right now to be up 46 percent this year based on current orders and a couple of new customers.”

About half of MRP’s production takes place in Colorado, and the rest is in the world’s main bicycle manufacturing hub of Taiwan. The uptick in orders has “resulted in close to $400,000 of capital investment going into our facility here in Grand Junction,” says Fry.

The Western Slope is an apt home for the company for several reasons. “It’s a great place for us to be,” says Fry. “We have never struggled to do what we need to do here from a manufacturing standpoint. There’s always tradeoffs, but for our company, it’s more about lifestyle. Since we’re an outdoor company, the fact that we can attract good people because it’s their passion for the outdoor industry and the outdoor rec activities that we have in the valley.”

CompanyWeek profile (September 2014):

Tailwind Nutrition (Durango)

As the manufacturer of sports nutrition products passes the 10-year mark in 2022, co-founder Jenny Vierling says the latest big initiative was a thorough rebranding, noting, “This transition is always scary for brands; fortunately, our customers absolutely love it.”

Vierling commends the support of such organizations as the La Plata County Economic Development Alliance, Manufacturer’s Edge, and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. “At both the local and state level, there is a knowledge infrastructure to support businesses like ours,” she explains. “We also work with local manufacturers a lot; we have found their insights to be invaluable when tackling unique challenges in our area.”

Expect more news in 2022, she adds. “We have a lot of initiatives this year from increasing our manufacturing capacity — investments in labor, space, and equipment — setting up a bonded warehouse in the Netherlands to centralize distribution in Europe, and launching a new product line. It’s going to be a busy year!”

CompanyWeek profile (June 2018):

Xero Shoes (Broomfield / Denver)

CEO Steven Sashen says Xero Shoes has shipped “close to a million” pairs of minimalist shoes with flexible soles since the company launched in 2009.

New York-based TZP Group came in as a private-equity partner in the business in late 2020, and catalyzed the curve. “With their support, we brought on some really highly experienced C-level talent,” says Sashen. “We’ve expanded into a 90,000-square-foot warehouse and hired an additional 20 people over the course of the year. We’re at 69 right now.”

Xero also launched a dozen new products in 2021, and grew 50 percent over the course of the year. Designed on “a whim,” one new product exemplifies the trend towards casual, with a bit of retro style for good measure, says Sashen. “The Kelso, which is our new leather sneaker, looks like an old court shoe. That thing is crushing it.”

Sashen’s plans for the future of Xero? “Other than taking over the world, more of the same,” he laughs. “We’re continuing to design new products and find ways to get them onto people’s feet.”

CompanyWeek profile (October 2016):

Where Xero Shoes Manufactures (December 2019):

The winners of the 2022 Colorado Manufacturing Awards will be revealed on April 7 in Denver. The event is open to all Colorado business enthusiasts and stakeholders. REGISTER HERE for the 2022 CMA Winners Reveal & Gala.