When it comes to the ever-growing natural products industry, I’ve heard Boulder referred to as “the epicenter,” and “the home,” and even “the cradle,” since this small town very much spawned the industry decades ago. And much has been written about how this has come to be. Often noted are Boulder’s educated population, healthy lifestyle, and entrepreneurial spirit — as well as Boulder’s numerous days of sunshine, access to wilderness, and natural scenic beauty. These are certainly still true – and have been for a very long time – and are indisputable drivers of Boulder’s thriving natural products industry. But there’s something more. It’s the very thing that makes Boulder unique. And it’s ever changing. It’s the Boulder natural products community.
To describe a collection of companies operating in the same space, often sharing an employee base, often assembling to discuss best practices and innovative ideas, it is common to use the term “industry cluster.” In Boulder, we call it “community.”
A community is dynamic, with its own sets of cultural norms. A community provides safe haven for newcomers and for authentically being one’s self. Members of a community display similar traits and a shared ethos. They look to each other for comradery, insight, support, and more. We can feel a sense of belonging, of fulfillment, of inspiration. And when a community is thriving, it tends to grow, attracting additional likeminded participants contributing their own perspectives. Thus, the group expands and changes, while maintaining its fundamental attractors and attributes.
What I’ve done here is slyly describe an organization called Naturally Boulder.
Naturally Boulder started in 2005 as a small group of entrepreneurs and influencers seeking to better define and support the area’s natural products companies. Incrementally and organically, without paid advertisements or email address farming, Naturally Boulder has grown to 1,200 members, holds two to four events every month, has earned recognition in national publications, and is serving as a model for several communities across the US wishing to successfully support their own natural products companies.
The DNA of Naturally Boulder is still very much on display at all our events: a willingness to make connections; an openness to new ideas; generous sharing of skills and insights; authentically valuing not just the financial profits of business but also the social power of business. These aspects of Naturally Boulder have not changed since its inception. But their expression and impact have deepened and broadened as this natural products community continues to mature and grow.
This community has successfully developed to a point that it is self-perpetuating. Natural products entrepreneurs from across the U.S. see what’s available in Boulder, and they want to be part of it. So the community welcomes them, gaining yet more knowledge, ambition, skill. And the community’s newcomers soon become its ambassadors. Thus the virtuous cycle continues.