Colorado Small Business of the Year for 2004 is hat, sunglasses

Colorado Small Business of the Year for 2004 is hat, sunglasses

Stephanie Cline

Kevin Johnson has been wearing his thinking cap for more than a decade and it’s unlikely he’ll take it off any time soon. Johnson was named the Colorado Small Business Person of the Year for 2004. In 1993, Johnson and his brother Keith started ELOPE Inc. in Colorado Springs. We design and manufacture hats and sunglasses. Most of our hats are costume hats and hats for children, Johnson said.

Johnson, the president and CEO of ELOPE, had a chance to showcase his wares at the Small Business Administration’s SBA Expo ’04: Celebrating National Small Business Week event May 19-21 in Orlando, Fla. There was so much press there that I was interviewed about four or five times; from international press as well, he said. The hats are very colorful. They’re very photogenic, so we were kind of singled out for television spots.

Small business persons of the year from each state were in attendance. I was very honored and I got to meet a lot of the other state winners, Johnson said. As a group they were all very dedicated, hard-working and interesting people and I felt honored to be among that group.

Johnson majored in small business management at the University of Colorado at Boulder. While in college he also had his own T-shirt business, which he later sold. After college he traveled around the world for about five years and decided to settle in Colorado Springs where he and his brother were born and raised.

I had been a collector of hats for a number of years, Johnson said. When he and his brother opened ELOPE in November 1993 they were the only employees. Our business is growing and we have 25 team members right now, Johnson said. ELOPE is at Murray and Platte, but will be moving to a larger facility on Mark Dabling Boulevard this summer. We bought this new warehouse, but we also have a lot of land, so we’re planning for expansion, Johnson said.

ELOPE (an acronym for Everyone’s Laughing on Planet Earth) is the only licensed manufacturer of Harry Potter hats, glasses and ties in North America. We always see a big boost when a book or movie comes out, Johnson said. It’s a good aspect of our business because a lot of companies copy our products. When we make that licensed product, they can’t.

The importance of the role of small businesses is not lost on Johnson. According to the SBA, small businesses support 80 percent of all employment in the U.S., he said. It’s really the duty of small businesses to create a new paradigm for how business is done. Johnson focuses on the triple bottom line in business. The triple bottom line, he said, goes beyond strictly financial matters to include profits, people and the planet. If people look out for the people and the planet, their profits actually increase, Johnson said.

ELOPE hats and accessories are available at Zeezo’s Magic Castle in downtown Colorado Springs at 3 E. Bijou. For more information visit the company’s Web site at http://www.elope.com.

Copyright 2004 Dolan Media Newswires

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