Entrepreneurship

Matt Bloom/KUNC

Bradley Cheetham was about to deliver his fourth or fifth presentation in one month. He’d given so many, he said, he’d nearly lost track.

Pacing back and forth in the hallway outside the Colorado School of Mines classroom, where a crowd of space industry bigwigs awaited him, he shared a few words about life as an entrepreneur.

“Honestly, entrepreneurship is a really hard job,” he said, laughing. “Space is a really hard job. Doing them together does not make either easier.”

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

The town of Brookfield, Missouri, in the north-central part of the state is a close-knit community. Population: about 4,500. Becky Cleveland, who grew up in town, says the area looks a little different today.

“When I was a kid, like I said, there was four grocery stores,” she says. Today there is just one and a nearby Wal-Mart.

Walking down Main Street past a few vacant storefronts among the businesses, it’s plain to see the town isn’t in its prime any more. Brookfield, though, is more vibrant than many other rural towns, Cleveland says. Rural life used to be centered around the farm, but farms today don’t work like they used to, which has caused a drop in jobs and left some small towns struggling for survival.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn / KUNC

Inside a nondescript warehouse south of I-70 in Denver, Nick Hice opens a door into a large room holding a few hundred cannabis plants. One of the first things you notice about the room: It's bright. Glaring yellow high-pressure sodium light fixtures are strung from the ceiling. The whole place has a feverish glow. Even though it's indoors, Hice and his workers here at Denver Relief typically wear sunglasses when working here.

It's those lights that are the key to growing commercial marijuana successfully.

"It's very important. It's one of the things we talk about the most with these artificial environments," said Hice, an expert grower and operations manager at Denver Relief and a founding partner in its associated cannabis consulting business.

There's a cost that comes with using the same kind of lighting technology used to brighten stadiums and streets: high electric bills. That's why some enterprising businessmen are creating alternatives that might help cannabis growers cut down on their electricity load.

Stacy Nick / KUNC

As tourists amble down the halls of La Conte’s Clone Bar and Dispensary in Denver, it’s clear this isn’t your typical tour.

The buzz of fluorescent grow lights is as constant as the strong herbal scent coming from each of the plant-filled rooms. The tour group is a wide mix of ages, races and backgrounds.

They’ve all been brought together by one common thing: legal marijuana.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn

Standing in his backyard on an unseasonably warm day in Fort Collins, Peter Workman is modeling a winter coat. It's nylon, forest green, and falls about mid-thigh on his slender frame.

Workman takes the coat off and shows off the label, sewn in by his grandmother: "Made from a Frostline Kit. Broomfield, Colo." This coat, handmade over 40 years ago, is a piece of Colorado outdoor history.

When The Alpaca Bubble Burst, Breeders Paid The Price

Oct 19, 2015
Following in the footsteps of ostriches, chinchillas and Dutch tulips, alpacas represent the latest in a long line of speculative agricultural bubbles.
Luke Runyon / KUNC, Harvest Public Media

Known for their calm temperaments and soft fleece, alpacas looked like the next hot thing to backyard farmers. The market was frenetic, with some top of the line animals selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But the bubble burst, leaving thousands of alpaca breeders with near-worthless herds. Today, craigslist posts across the country advertise “herd liquidations” and going out of business deals on alpacas, some selling for as low as a dollar.

It’s just one more chapter in a long line of agricultural speculative bubbles that have roped in investors throughout history, throwing money at everything from emus to chinchillas to Berkshire pigs to Dutch tulips, only to find themselves in financial ruin after it bursts.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn / KUNC

Safety glasses securely in place, Clint Bickmore is hoisting a large metal plug into the air. His business partner, Nathan Saam helpfully points out that "you might want to step back a little bit." Beneath the affectionately named "spike of doom" sits a primitive-looking G.I. Joe-style helmet, dull black in color.

"So we accelerate this spike to almost 15 miles an hour and we drop it on top of the shell to see if we get penetration in the helmet," Saam said.

The spike plunges down, and with a clunk, hits the top of the shell. Three large cracks spiral out of the plastic, but it's not broken. In fact, it's barely dented. If it was like most helmets, it would have shattered or at least suffered a big indentation with a small fracture pattern, said Saam.

This destruction has a point. Saam and Bickmore are trying to build a better bike helmet.

Fort Collins is one of six communities featured in a new exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Places of Invention explores the idea of how location can shape innovation, examining cities where a mix of resources, inventive people, and an inspiring environment have caused invention to flourish.

Defining a "place of invention" is a challenge, according to Joyce Bedi, Senior Historian with the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center, which has been studying the idea of invention for two decades.

Boulder and New York-based translation company VerbalizeIt beat out 14 other competitors to win Colorado State University's second annual Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge business pitch competition.

"We've brought together the best of translation technology with the quality of human translation to create the world's most accessible and scaleable human translation platform," co-founder Kunal Sarda said while making his first pitch in a TED-talk style presentation to a panel of judges.

Stacy Nick / KUNC

Patrick Weseman already has two bachelor's degrees; one in math and one in music. After graduation though, Weseman realized he didn’t really want to be a mathematician – or a musician for that matter.

“I wanted to start thinking of my life a little more practically,” he said.

That desire brought him back to school and into a program mixing the arts and practical business sense. These entrepreneurial programs are preparing the folks who will work both in front of, and behind, the curtain.

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