Friday, April 10, 2020

First Ascent Coffee Roasters among 13 award finalists

Annual summit recognizes collaboration, resilience 

By Katherine Nettles

Crested Butte company First Ascent Coffee Roasters was honored recently as one of 13 finalists for Something Independent’s 2019 Wright Award.

More than 100 Rocky Mountain outdoor-inspired businesses were nominated to the three-day summit and awards program hosted by the Denver-based organization, which describes its mission as “illuminating the industry and culture of the outdoors.”

The program recognizes outdoor founders and businesses, bringing them together “for discussions centering around core themes of stewardship, sustainability and possibility,” according to its website.

The program culminated in the eighth annual award night celebration on May 2. First Ascent’s co-founders Allison and Mark Drucker and their business partner, Sam Higby, created a video about their company with local filmmakers Jesse Levine of Reel Motion Media and Rex Lint of Tin House Creative, and attended the event in Golden to represent the six-year-old business.

“We did not win, but the experience was truly inspiring,” says Allison. She says a major component of First Ascent’s efforts are working toward “economic sustainability in a rural town,” and notes the summit offered networking opportunities and tremendous encouragement among other like-minded entrepreneurs.

“We are so proud to have been recognized for our work with our small-batch instant coffee. Right now, we are the only players in the specialty instant coffee industry that create our own product from start to finish under one roof. A lot of locals remember the Guild Café, and are not aware that we are still around, let alone growing. It can feel like a bubble out in our warehouse in Riverland. It feels great to know that people have noticed that we are creating something special,” says Allison.

“First Ascent, along with all the Wright contenders, are true makers. We all manufacture a product in the Rockies, despite the logistical challenges. We are all in the throes of figuring it all out, from manufacturing to marketing. We are trying to understand the new Instagram algorithm one minute, working with the utility company to adjust our equipment the next, to fixing bugs on our website,” writes Higby.

“I’m proud that we made it as far as we did in the competition,” says Mark. “We are still a small, relatively young company, and we definitely come from the most rural town. We were honored to represent Crested Butte.”

Something Independent describes its annual class of contenders for its award as “apt to have started their businesses not on the whiteboard or in the conference room, but rather on the trail, around the campfire, or on the back of a napkin over a whiskey. These companies are set apart not only by their grit and resilience but in their approach to work which we see as honest, committed and collaborative,” according to its website. The week spent honoring such companies included free, public keynote conversations and panel discussions.

The video First Ascent submitted and more information about each of the 13 finalists can be found at

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