Sharon Matusik, dean of the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business, leads a discussion of business representatives in Koelbel Building in July 2017. (Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer)
By Shay Castle
It takes a lot of things to create a solid and successful business community. Award presentations might not be high on anyone’s list of the most important building blocks, but Sharon Matusik thinks they have their place. And she’d say that even if she wasn’t being honored by the Boulder Chamber during its annual Celebration of Leadership.
Matusik, dean of the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business, on Wednesday night was presented with the Rising Star Award, one of six local business figures recognized at the Dairy Center event. But her embrace of the importance of such awards predates her own; Matusik spent her career researching what makes certain places hubs for innovation and entrepreneurship.
She’s lived in nearly every startup hot spot in the country: Boston, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Seattle and, since 2004, Boulder. And she believes that awards such as the Chamber’s are more than just an excuse to throw a good party.
“A big part of growing a vibrant business community and ecosystem is having peer-to-peer connections and having role models of success,” Matusik said. She held up as an example fellow honoree Black Lab Sports, a co-winner for Innovative Company of the Year.
Black Lab is itself a launching pad for fledgling sports tech companies, investing capital and providing expertise and, sometimes, physical space at its hybrid office/training facility/art studio on Frontier Avenue.
“(It) has a really interesting business model,” she said. “When we put it up there on the stage,” it demonstrates to others in the community that there are different ways of doing business.
That spotlight is particular important for the other Innovative Company of the Year, Boulder’s Terrapin Care Station. It is the first time a marijuana business has been honored by the Chamber, CEO John Tayer said. Terrapin owner Chris Woods said the recognition was an important step in the “evolution of legal cannabis as a legitimate business and industry.”
“One of the most innovative things that Terrapin Care Station did was join the Boulder Chamber eight years ago,” Woods said, via an email to the Camera. “Today, we are members of Chambers of Commerce in every city we operate in in Colorado, (and) also active with Chambers of Commerce in Eugene, Ore., and in Clinton County, Pa.”
“Every day, more and more people acknowledge the cannabis industry’s contributions to communities, and so fewer people are viewing it as a fringe business that is different than any other.”
Community Impact Award recipient Doyle Albee, president and CEO of MAPRagency, said only one thing matters when it comes to gaining acceptance into the Boulder business community: showing up and helping out.
“Some communities are pay-to-play: You’ve got to write checks and sponsor things,” Albee said. “Boulder is play-to-play. If you’re willing to give time and expertise and show up and help out, the community embraces you.”
To Albee, the awards are another opportunity to do what he does every day: Tell the stories of the many groundbreaking, interesting companies and business leaders Boulder has to offer.
“I’ve got clients that are truly doing things that are changing the world, and I get to tell those stories every day,” he said. “(It’s like) that quote from (author) Ray Bradbury: ‘I’m never going to go to Mars, but I’ve helped inspire people who built the rockets.'”
Also honored on Wednesday were Scott Green, site director at Google Boulder, who received the Virginia Patterson Business Person of the Year Award; and Steve Bosley, founder of the Bolder Boulder, who was the recipient of the Franny Reich Lifetime Achievement Award.