Next Denver speaker

Ben Barron

More info

March 22, 8:30am • General Assembly Denver - RiNo Station • part of a series on Water

← Load previous

After working with start-ups for 16 years Keith Roberts of Zenman knows a little bit about failure.  But not in the way you might be thinking.  Keith has a different relationship with failure, and that is he sees failure as opportunity.   “Failure,” Keith says, “is an opportunity to incrementally improve. Trials and tribulations are part of any growth process.  It’s what we do with the failure – what we do with the lesson” that defines whether we go boldly forward or beat a hasty retreat.

Many of us fear failure.  We can’t help ourselves.  It’s human nature.  Who goes into a new endeavor hoping to fail?  The idea that we could fail leaves us feeling reluctant and underprepared.  Often these feelings are interpreted as a sign that it’s time to question our motives, do more planning, or bail out fast! 

In a recent book “Fail Fast, Fail Often:  How Losing Can Help you Win” by Ryan Babineaux we learn that most significant accomplishments arise out of plenty mistakes and failures.  It can be easy to think that successful enterprises are the result of extraordinary brilliance and come into being perfectly formed.  Howard Schultz’s creation of Starbucks is a great example of how success arises from many failures.

When Schultz first started Starbucks, he modeled his stores after Italian coffee shops, a relatively new idea for Americans.  Though Schultz’s idea was a good starting point, the Starbucks of today bear little resemblance to his first idea. As he would soon discover, many things were wrong with his idea.  Some of you may remember, in the first stores, the baristas wore bow ties, the menus were in Italian, and opera music played in the background. The coffee shops of today evolved through thousands of experiments, adjustments, and revisions along the way.

This example points out an important principle: successful people take action as quickly as possible, even though they may perform badly. They see failure as a sign of being in a space of growth and that is all the more reason to press ahead.  Instead of trying to avoid making mistakes and failing, they actively seek opportunities where they can face the limits of their skills and knowledge so that they can learn quickly.

 “Giving yourself permission to make a mess of things is particularly important if you do any sort of creative work. (We should note that all people are creative—which is to say that they live in the real world, form ideas, come up with solutions to problems, have dreams, and forge their own path; your own life is your ultimate creation.),” says Babineaux. 

Keith notes that businesses that are flexible to learning about their failures tend to have an edge on success.   You don’t always know exactly where you’re going with a new idea, but if you stay open-minded, accept the constructive input you receive during development, and ultimately adapt to what you learn from the consumers of your product/service, something beyond your own imagination will emerge.  

This is a little story about Kristin Glenn and what inspired her to create, the Denver-based sustainable apparel company. 

First, a little history on the garment industry.  A long time ago America abolished slavery at home and the world changed.

Companies wanted cheap labor so they looked overseas.  And they found it in places with no minimum wage, no labor laws, no environmental oversight.  They found modern-day slavery in countries most people had never heard of.

So the garment industry moved overseas to capitalize on cheap labor and zero regulation.  Here in the U.S. our clothes became cheaper and Americans were happy.

Over time, however, we learned about sweat shops, environmental disasters, chemically toxic waterways, and unbelievable working conditions.  All of this, so that we could get cheaper clothes, faster.

So was envisioned because Kristin believes it is possible to do things better.  She and her team set about investigating producing apparel in America.  But in order to really understand what was happening in the world of clothing manufacturing Kristin needed to learn everything she could…  from professors, designers, CEO’s, people who were deeply involved in apparel manufacturing and the sustainable clothing movement. 

Justin Dillon, CEO of Made in A Free World, encouraged Kristin to create a transparent business plan – and enable consumers to “see the thing they are buying.”  Justin spent most of his life as a singer-songwriter.  In 2008, he made CALL+RESPONSE a documentary made to support Made In A Free World’s projects, aimed at disrupting the business of human trafficking, particularly child slavery and forced labor.  The film received international recognition, becoming one of the most important devices in spurring the modern-day abolitionist movement.   The film included commentary by Cornel West, Madeleine Albright, and Nicholas Kristof, with musical performances by Moby, Natasha Bedingfield, Cold War Kids, and Matisyahu.

In 2011, Dillon founded the website Slavery Footprint. Partnering with the U.S. State Department, they launched a website that guides consumers through a short, interactive graphic that guesstimates—based on purchase patterns—how many slaves work to support the respondent’s quality of life.  Can you answer the question: “How Many Slaves Work For You?”

Another inspiration came in the form of ecological spirit, Kate Fletcher.  Fletcher’s work is rooted in nature’s principles and engaged with the cultural and creative forces of fashion and design. Over the last two decades, her original thinking and progressive outlook has infused the field of fashion, textiles and sustainability with design thinking, and in many ways, come to define it.

Kate’s pioneering work in the field, which ranges from developing ‘slow fashion’ ideas and practice to directional sustainability projects, including Local Wisdom which has engaged thousands of people worldwide with the ‘craft of use’ and ‘post-growth’ fashion.  She is founder of the design for sustainability consultancy Slow Fashion where she works with companies, educational establishments and non-governmental organizations to foster change towards sustainability.

After a summer of traveling and research was created.  Their goal is to inspire and encourage young people to create and learn the craft of sewing making manufacturing cool again.  Kristin dreams of a world where young people understand where clothes come from, and are encouraged to get curious about how things are made, where shoppers weigh the environmental and economic benefits of buying USA-made before they purchase. 

Right now, is a little bitty company, using deadstock fabrics to produce clothing in Denver.  But no matter the size, says Kristin “this is a super-thrilling time for,” but she still aspires to create large-scale impact.  I think Kristin is right, perhaps this is just the beginning…

Beth Kaminsky is a storyteller… a storyteller who gets to use a lot of props… “It’s a bit like a theater stage set” she says. Beth sets the stage with just the right words, headlines, furniture and artifacts and then gets out of the way. What she does encourages museum audiences to participate in the play, so to speak. Her work helps make the message of the exhibit, and the institution and its mission understandable, so that people get what they want out of their visit, which usually includes some learning along the way.

Why do museums spend time creating exhibits in the first place? As some background, in 2002 The Smithsonian Institution released a study: The Making of Exhibitions: Purpose, Structure, Roles and Process, that explored how the making of exhibitions is one of the most important functions of a museums. Defined quite simply, “…at their core exhibitions are learning opportunities…”

So how does an exhibit become an exhibit? The early work comes not in the generation of ideas – because in principle, there are endless sources for exhibition ideas and, according to Beth, at any given moment “there are at least 10,000.” The work comes in advancing the best ideas…

So you’ve got a great idea… Now what? At the History Colorado Center, planning and implementing an exhibition includes representatives from curatorial staff, collections staff, exhibits, education, visitor services, marketing, and development, as well as publications, photography and retail sales. Yep, it’s a highly collaborative process.

The History Colorado Center was designed to host traveling exhibitions from other museums. Such is the case with Food: Our Global Kitchen organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York. The exhibit takes you on a journey through time while exploring the global food system that brings what we eat from farm to fork. Watch for a couple more national traveling exhibits headed to the History Colorado Center, including Race: Are We So Different? (Sept. 20, 2014 to Jan. 4, 2015), developed by the American Anthropological Association in collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota), and The 1968 Exhibit, (Feb. 7 to May 10, 2015), organized by the Minnesota History Center in association with the Atlanta History Center, the Chicago History Museum and the Oakland Museum of California, and is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Beth says there are formulas “sort of” for exhibits, but no two are alike. Each exhibit requires a very different coordination and implementation process. What makes this work both challenging and rewarding is that each exhibit brings with it a host of new opportunities to explore and new questions to ask.

Before becoming project manager at the History Colorado Center Beth worked as an Exhibit Developer. She collaborated with community committees and external contractors to define target audiences, articulate exhibit goals, shape messages, and create experiences. She researched content and worked with subject matter experts, ensuring that the appropriate balance of experiences within the exhibit was achieved. She had her “fingers in the sticky, fun stuff” of creating the exhibit experience.

Now as Exhibits Project Manager, Beth has the nuts and bolts role of oversight of schedule and budget. Whether it’s a traveling exhibition, or an entirely new project, she is central to the communications and coordination of every aspect making sure each exhibit meets the financial, educational, aesthetic, philanthropic, and institutional goals. No easy feat… but when you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work … and Beth loves what she does!

So now you know just a little bit more about Beth’s collaborative and creative world of exhibit development and realization. Come hear her this Friday, June 6th at the History Colorado Center. She’s going to tell us more about her thoughts on this month’s international theme of Minimal. It’s going to be great!


Come to Creative Mornings Denver May 2nd at The Source.  Brian Corrigan and Matt Fajohn will tell us all about OhHeckYeah!  Grab a ticket here!

Beginning June 7, 2014 through July 26, 2014 every Thursday + Saturday from 6pm to 11pm, Champa Street, from the 16th Street Mall to 14th Street, will be transformed into an immersive street arcade. The arcade will be powered through a combination of the Denver Theatre District’s LED screens, projections, street art, social media, local media and a website. This transmedia approach will produce an interactive experience that transports players into the video game’s story.


The website will host the video game’s animated trailer. The public will be able to interact with the story’s characters through mini-games built to detect motion when browsed on a smart device. Characters will be brought to life through personalized Twitter profiles powered by a local comedian.


The arcade will connect Denver’s business core to its cultural core via Champa Street. Strategically placed street sculptures and other visual anchors between each game station modeled after the game’s characters and environment will make the public feel immersed in the game’s setting. Marketing collateral and QR codes also will be placed along the street to link the public to the game’s narrative.


Built by the Denver-based, award-winning creative team of Legwork Studio and Mode Set, the open source games will be played on the Denver Theatre District’s LED screens and as projections on buildings. In addition to a player’s smart device, their body will act as the game’s controller using a Microsoft Kinect. Game winners will earn “tickets” that can be traded for prizes offered by local businesses, works curated by local artists and/or pay it forward opportunities through local nonprofit organizations.


Each night the arcade is in operation the public can expect ancillary participatory programming near the gaming stations that helps reinforce the game’s narrative. Think karaoke, local bands, square dancing, local theatre and comedy shows.


We see the arcade acting as a social glue, connecting strangers on the street by giving them a reason to interact. Downtown Denver is home to more than a quarter of all Denver jobs, and anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 people visit the 16th Street Mall per day. Evidence shows the more connected we are as a community the more economically integrated and resilient we become, resulting in increased access to economic opportunity for all, safer streets and Denver becoming a whole heck of a lot more fun.


We will be launching our video game trailers starting next week!


On April 11th Creative Mornings Denver welcomes Kellen Kurtz of Love146. Kellen will talk about their organization and how they’re working to end child trafficking and exploitation.

Background:  In 2002, the co-founders of Love146 traveled to Southeast Asia n an exploratory trip to determine how they could serve in the fight against child sex trafficking. A couple of the co-founders were taken undercover with investigators to a brothel where they witnessed children being sold for sex. This is the story that sparked their movement.

“We found ourselves standing shoulder to shoulder with predators in a small room, looking at little girls through a pane of glass. All of the girls wore red dresses with a number pinned to their dress for identification.

They sat, blankly watching cartoons on TV. They were vacant, shells of what a child should be. There was no light in their eyes, no life left. Their light had been taken from them. These children…raped each night… seven, ten, fifteen times every night. They were so young. Thirteen, eleven… it was hard to tell. Sorrow covered their faces with nothingness.

Except one girl. One girl who wouldn’t watch the cartoons. Her number was 146. She was looking beyond the glass. She was staring out at us with a piercing gaze. There was still fight left in her eyes. There was still life left in this girl…

…All of these emotions begin to wreck you. Break you. It is agony. It is aching. It is grief. It is sorrow. The reaction is intuitive, instinctive. It is unbearable. I remember wanting to break through the glass. To take her away from that place. To scoop up as many of them as I could into my arms. To take all of them away. I wanted to tell her to keep fighting. To not give up. To tell her that we were coming for her…”

But because we went in as part of an ongoing, undercover investigation on this particular brothel, we were unable to immediately respond. Evidence had to be collected in order to bring about a raid and eventually justice on those running the brothel. It is an immensely difficult problem when an immediate response cannot address an emergency. Some time later, there was a raid on this brothel and children were rescued. But the girl who wore #146 was no longer there. We do not know what happened to her, but we will never forget her. She changed the course of all of our lives.” -Rob Morris, President and Co-founder

We have taken her number so that we remember why this all started. So that we must tell her story. It is a number that was pinned to one girl but that represents the millions enslaved. We wear her number with honor, with sorrow, and with a growing hope. Her story can be a different one for so many more.

Love is the foundation of our name because it is our motivating drive to end the trafficking and exploitation of children. We hold true what Martin Luther King Jr. said:  "Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love."


Andrew Novick is many things, but it all boils down to being an enthusiast of the highest order: for weird food, goth culture, Harajuku style and visual Japanglish, Peeps, Casa Bonita, collecting nearly everything, horror films, lowbrow art, mini-golf, toppings, being this week’s Westword cover boy and many more hundreds of things on a list too vast to repeat here. And he graciously shares all his enthusiasms with the public by throwing what can only be called happenings, thereby making us smile and have fun and want to do it again and again.

By day Novick is an electrical engineer, more specifically a metrologist (“I measure stuff”). “I compare atomic clocks at the nanosecond and picosecond levels - sometimes remotely (Tesla would be proud!) It’s esoteric yet specific and important, but it’s much different than the other things I do, which is also why I find it interesting.”

Novick recently showed his work at Artopia 2014.  He’s speaking at the Creative Mornings Denver on March 7th and then off to Austin for SXSW.  Andrew is also working on some programs with Denver Film Society/Sie Film Center. He’s hoping to do more Asian pop-culture events, photography art shows, and is looking forward to another year as one of the directors of Denver County Fair and his “X-Treme Pancake Breakfast” in August!

Visit I Save Everything online to keep up with Andrew Novick’s projects and special events. 

Denver-based ux design agency Slice of Lime has sponsored a few of our events lately, providing gluten-free fare to attendees. Recently they also chipped in to buy our core team some amazing and amazingly purple t-shirts:


Founded in 2001, Slice of Lime is a User Experience Design agency with offices in Boulder and Denver. By aligning user-centered strategy and design with their clients’ business goals, Slice of Lime creates amazingly effective web apps and mobile apps for funded startups, big brands, and enterprises.

These shirts are a big help to us because it makes us recognizable and gives you, the attendees, a way to identify who to ask about anything. We’re grateful for sponsors like Slice of Lime who make CreativeMornings:Denver possible, provide jobs for Denver creatives, and help advance the field of digital design through their stunning work.

At our February event many of you asked if we’ll have shirts like this available for sale. Stay tuned! We don’t have anything ready yet but hope to make some available later this year.