Paws for a Cause is a series where we chat with our friends, clients, and peers in our local Colorado community. It’s a chance to check in and see how everyone’s doing in business and life.
Today we’re talking to Debra Brown, Executive Director of Good Business Colorado. YellowDog has been a member of Good Business Colorado for years, enjoying this strong community of like-minded local businesses and supporting them with print services however we can.
YellowDog: Hello Debra! Give us the short version of your nonprofit’s mission. What population or cause do you serve?
Debra Brown: Good Business Colorado brings together business, government, and community organizations. We use our shared values to build a more prosperous, equitable, and sustainable Colorado. We serve values-driven businesses across the state who believe that business success cannot be measured by profit alone and that true success means that our planet, communities, and bottom lines are all thriving.
YD: How and when did your nonprofit start?
DB: GBC was born out of a major campaign victory in Colorado—the Amendment 70 measure to increase the state minimum wage to $12 by 2020. I served as the Campaign’s Business Organizer and over 300 businesses signed on in support of Amendment 70. Many active endorsers did media interviews, wrote opinion editorials, and gave presentations to fellow business owners explaining why the minimum wage increase would be good for their business, employees, and the Colorado economy.
After the 2016 Amendment 70 campaign concluded, business endorsers felt true ownership over the victory and wanted to continue working together to use their voices to influence policy debates on an ongoing basis. But at that time business owners and other economically and socially responsible business voices had no organized outlet through which to share their ideas.
Subsequently, after the 2016 election, several of the business owners who were involved with the minimum wage campaign and I felt compelled to build such an organization, and in October of 2017, we officially incorporated as Good Business Colorado.
YD: What was your journey into your role as the director? How did you get here?
DB: Quite honestly, the journey into the role of Founding Executive Director for Good Business Colorado was an unplanned one, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into! While it was natural for me to continue organizing the businesses I worked with through the Amendment 70 campaign, I was still running my own company and pregnant when our founding members decided to move forward with launching the organization.
It was exciting to pursue an opportunity that was at the nexus of my entrepreneurial experience and my passion for social justice organizing, but the world of policy work was new to most of our founding members and me. During the first couple of years, we faced a steep learning curve and our abilities and determination were tested. Yet we kept moving forward and now we support any and all businesses that want to provide fair workplaces, livable wages, and career growth opportunities!
YD: COVID-19 has been a part of our lives throughout the past two years. What have you learned about your organization, and/or how did you adapt in 2021-2022?
DB: For Good Business Colorado COVID-19 was all about doing whatever it took to help our members survive. The first thing we did when the state went into lockdown was call every single member and ask them how they were doing and what we could do to best support them. We then built programming on the fly to respond to the needs surfaced by those phone calls.
Early on it became clear that a common pressing need was help with navigating an ever-changing landscape of emergency rules and health codes as well as identifying and applying for financial resources available at the local, state, and federal levels.
While it was heartbreaking to see so many of our members struggling to pivot, survive, and deal with all the mental anguish that came with trying to be a good employer and human being during the pandemic, we are very proud of the work we did and the way we were able to show up for our members. We learned that we can be nimble, adaptive, and rise to the occasion, so long as we continue to take direction from and focus on serving our members.
YD: What are the top three items on a “wishlist” for your organization?
DB: 1. For consumers, look to GBC members first when buying products and services 2. For anyone who is reading this who owns a business and thinks to themselves, “Good Business Colorado’s mission and values align with mine,” consider joining our community. 3. For readers whose business networks share our values, introduce them to Good Business Colorado by sharing this video.
YD: Describe your organization in three words.
DB: Values-driven business community.
YD: Love it! Thanks for sharing your story!
Now for some friendly rapid-fire questions:
Are you a dog person or a cat person?
I’ve only ever had dogs, but I’m not anti-cat.
Early bird or night owl?
Fluid as the job and parenting duties require.
Favorite local beer?
Most anything from GBC member Horse & Dragon Brewing Company.
What’s your best party trick?
Brushing out my hair—I can generally get a two-foot curly fro that is always a crowd-pleaser!
What show are you currently binging?
Show binging? What’s that?😉 When I do have an extra hour to share with my hubby on the weekend, I do enjoy watching Bull and Saturday Night Live.
Any book you’re currently reading?
Most of my reading these days is selected from my inbox. But I do have an aspirational reading list mainly with books that share the theme of being a better parent, for example, No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind.
What are you looking forward to most in 2022?
Welcoming a new member to our team and exploring new and creative ways to better serve our growing community of values-driven businesses!
YD: Thanks, Debra! It has been wonderful to hear your story and learn about how Good Business Colorado is helping Colorado businesses remain prosperous, equitable, and sustainable!
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Would YOU like to be featured in the Paws for a Cause Interview Series?
We’re always looking for local nonprofit organizations to feature in this series. Get in touch to find out more!
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