We spoke to Fancy Tiger owners Jamie Jennings and Amber Corcoran.

Tell us a little about Fancy Tiger.

We are Fancy Tiger Crafts, which is a retail craft supply store in Denver, Colorado, that opened in 2006. We’ve been around for 13 years and we’re located just south of downtown in the South Broadway shopping district. We sell supplies for textile related crafts such as sewing, knitting, crochet, embroidery, weaving, macramé, punch needle sewing and spinning and we also teach classes in all of those crafts.

How did corporate social responsibility emerge – what was the inspiration for this action?

I think it emerged in two ways for us. One, the business has been growing since we opened. It used to just be Amber and I, the two owners, but as we grow we have more people working here and we’ve realized that we can have an impact on our employees lives and make this a really great place for people to want to work.

Also, we have been developing relationships with a lot of the companies that we carry here and a lot of them are doing really great things, either for the environment or for the people who work for them, so being able to highlight and seek out those types of companies for the products we carry has become more and more important.

Moving forward I hope we can be an inspiration for companies we work with to be more conscientious of their practices as well. That is one of our goals, to find a way to be able to influence how people are making the products we carry and to look at the way they run their businesses and hopefully inspire them to become a better business both socially and ecologically.

 Can you talk more about all of the social and environmental policies you have listed on your website? For example, eco-conscious shipping materials, cleaning supplies, supporting minority owned businesses, you work with local organizations, and donation Fridays, etc.?

We have been changing a lot of our environmental policies as a result of becoming Certifiably Green Denver. Working with them was a really great experience and it really helped us examine everything about our store and the impact it has on the environment. Some of the things that have happened as a result are; becoming 100% wind powered, enrolling and becoming a partner with 1% for the planet, we have done a lot of research and have switched over our shipping supplies to be mostly post-consumer waste and recyclable and compostable even down to the tape we use on our packaging. Around the store things like toilet paper and paper towels are made from post-consumer waste and so is the paper we use when we print things. They really helped us examine all aspects in regards to our environmental impact and suggest simple fixes we could change quickly. It was a really cool experience.

Some of the other things we are working on is really trying to develop a community and being welcome to all crafters, regardless of their race, religion, gender orientation, or craft ability. We really just want to make this a place that is great for our employees to work and our customers. 

Can you expand on the resources you have used and found helpful throughout this transition?

We look at the B Corp Assessment pretty frequently. A lot of the things we do for the staff we have learned from the B Corp Assessment and really wouldn’t have thought about before. For example things like offering paid volunteer hours and including more staff surveys and feedback questioners. These were really easy things to implement and we just learned about them from looking at the Impact Assessment.

What is the value for your business to start this journey? What areas are your most concentrated on right now and why?

I think the value to our business is feeling good about knowing that we are trying to make positive changes in the world. I also think it’s really valuable to make the staff happy so they stay here longer and they enjoy working here and then it trickles down to the customers. But, I think more importantly the value is knowing that we are trying to do the best that we can. I think a large percent of our customers also really appreciate knowing the types of things we are doing and I hope that makes them want to support us as loyal customers.

We just finished with Certifiable Green Denver and we were very concentrated on the environmental impact aspect of the business. Now we are working on benefits for our employees. We are trying to make our benefits package more enticing and really trying to raise our minimum wage of where we start people so that everyone here is making a living wage for Denver, Colorado, or above.

The other thing I see in the near future for us is focusing on the products that we carry and curating them to be more aligned with what we believe in. I think as we put that together a vendor code of conduct, it going to be a really great way to start the conversation with the current suppliers we have and encourage them to look at their business practices and how they are creating their products if they haven’t already. We want to know if companies are already doing positive things or are looking to improve the way they create their products so we can focus on carrying those lines. And we want our customers to be able to learn about how they can make choices with their craft supplies to have a positive impact on the world. We hope sharing that kind of information will perpetuate better and better practices.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your suppliers?

There are some suppliers we use that are doing some really great and innovative things that we want to support even if we can’t implement those practices into our own business. For instance, several of our yarn companies can trace their wool back to a single farm that they so they know how the sheep were treated, where the sheep came from, and they have been with the wool through every step in the process of it becoming yarn. We really love seeing that kind of traceability. There are also yarn makers that are doing things like reusing dye water and coming up with a variety of practices to be more environmentally friendly that we didn’t even know could be done. Once we hear of one person doing that, we now know we can ask other companies if they too are doing it.

We do try to act locally but it is a lot harder with the production of fabric and yarn because we have outsourced so much of that industry, it’s impossible to make a Colorado fabric that hasn’t left the state. We don’t have that industry.  For us, it’s more about being traceable. It’s nice if products can be all U.S. made but we are really ok with importing products from other countries if we know that it’s a closed production system in the country that is providing good jobs and taking care of the animals. For instance, we carry Shutland wool from the Shutland islands in the UK and Icelandic Yarn. Even though those are coming from far away, those products are doing a really great job in their country.

What is most rewarding/challenging about this aspect of your organization’s work?

The most rewarding thing is sharing with the staff the types of changes that we are making or that we want to make and seeing them be really excited about it and giving us feedback and ideas to help us implement those changes.

The most challenging is definitely that we have a lot of ambitious ideas and not really  the time to get them all done. It’s hard to prioritize what we to do and finding the time to make it happen.

As a company going through this transition to be more socially and environmentally conscious, do you have any recommendations for other companies looking to do the same?

I definitely think taking the B Corp Assessment is very helpful and a really great first step because there are so many things in there that we didn’t think about but were really easy to implement. There are a lot of things that are basically free to do but it’s just a matter of knowing it’s important, and doing it. One thing we did after taking the B Corp Assessment is we put together a spreadsheet with all of the things we wanted to do as a company and thought would be beneficial to do. We marked their priority of importance and how hard it would be and expensive it would be for us do them so that we had a good idea of where we could start and where we could easily begin to make progress. We took it step by step and that made it a lot easier to get going. We started with the really simple and easy things like changing to all eco-friendly cleaning supplies and reusable cleaning supplies rather than disposable or chemical based supplies. We started with the easier things and are working towards the harder ones.

Why did you join Best for Colorado? And what are you hoping to gain from this partnership?

We are excited about being part of a network of other businesses that share similar values. We are excited to get to know them and what they are doing. Best For Colorado also has some really awesome resources we are excited to use, especially when it comes to helping us create a supplier code of conduct. We are excited to work with volunteers and students that are eager to work with us have the time and know-how to help us. It’s all exiting.

Across Colorado’s business community, a variety of initiatives are working to help grow the sustainability movement. All these initiatives share a common vision: accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. These initiatives highlight and share best practices and tools, giving companies the opportunity to learn from their peers and to join of a movement that is working for good.

You may have heard about B Corp certification, B Local Colorado, the Best for Colorado program, and benefit corporations. We know the intersections and unique qualities of these concepts can be confusing, so we have created a guide to help distinguish between these different tools, initiatives, and organizations.

Organization, Program, or Certification?

  • Best for Colorado is a program and a challenge run by The Alliance Center, which invites all Colorado companies to measure and improve their social and environmental impact, regardless of where they are on their corporate social responsibility journey.
  • B Corp certification is a certification of performance, like LEED certification for buildings or FairTrade certification for coffee. B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. To be certified, a company has to meet the legal requirement of a benefit corporation; meaning they must consider the impact of their decisions on all their stakeholders. Because of these high-standards, the B Corp community represents the leaders of the movement to use business as a force for good.
  • B Local Colorado is a non-profit organization that serves as the home of engagement and volunteer opportunities for the Colorado community of Certified B corporations – creating space to connect, grow and give back to the communities where they work and live.

Where should your company engage?

Best for Colorado is specifically designed to engage all businesses on the path to positive impact, regardless of whether B Corp certification is a goal for their organization. The Best for Colorado program is the prime business environment for a company curious to learn more and assess its performance in corporate social responsibility with no fees, legal requirements, of any sort. Companies self-report their information for the Best for Colorado program, allowing them to start from any place on their sustainability journey.

Certified B Corps go through a more in-depth process. B Corp requirements include meeting a minimum level of performance on the full Impact Assessment and making a legal commitment to adopt the benefit corporation status and the requirements to consider shareholders in decision making. B Corps also receive additional benefits as a result, and there is a fee associated with the certification.

A close partnership to grow the sustainability movement in Colorado

Best for Colorado is a program focused on business improvement by connecting companies to local resources and programming. Best for Colorado is valuable to ordinary businesses but also to B Corps who are looking to improve their practices and to receive support along the way.

After launching the Best for Colorado challenge, B Lab transferred the reins of the program to The Alliance Center in October, 2018. B Lab will continue to be a strategic parter for the program, providing technological support and administering the full B Impact Assessment. Certified B Corporations in Colorado are invited to engage with Best for Colorado in in a few ways: In a leadership capacity, by serving as a mentor or speaker, or by sharing stories and best practices to inspire other Best for Colorado companies to follow in their footsteps. They are also invited to engage in the program as a participant, to utilize the impact improvement education and resources. This is a great way for B Corps to improve their B Impact score before recertification!

In May, The Alliance Center was honored to celebrate the Best for Colorado Awards with B Lab and the Best for Colorado partners. It was a thrill to spend the evening with an amazing group of leaders who are using their forces for good – harnessing the power of business to not only be the best in Colorado but also to be the best FOR Colorado.

Here at The Alliance Center, we connect people to inspire impact. We drive collaborative solutions to create a sustainable future – a future where our communities are inclusive, our democracy is strong, our economy thrives and our planet is healthy. We know that this beautiful vision can only be accomplished through collaboration, especially with the private sector.

We actively work to create a sustainable and inclusive world through our building, using it as an incubator of green building innovation, piloting and testing cutting-edge technology and ideas to reduce greenhouse gases, while enhancing the human experience, and the wellness of community that it serves. We do this through our 50 tenant organizations that are leaders in the sustainability movement in Colorado.

We do this through our impact programming that convenes government, nonprofit, academia and for profit stakeholders to drive collaborative solutions for the largest problems we face in our economy, our environment and our communities. But, a sustainable future is not possible without leadership and innovations from private sector. Colorado has one of the highest percentages of B Corp certified businesses in the country. We are already leading the way.

This is why The Alliance Center is thrilled to announce that we are closely with B Lab to transfer Best for Colorado over to the Alliance Center as the new Program Lead.

We can’t wait to harness the power and passion of the community of Colorado B Corp leaders and Best for Colorado participants, and together with B Local, B Lab and many other partners, continue to help companies deepen and measure their impact. We see this evolution of the Best for Colorado program as an incredible opportunity to play a more central role in creating a thriving regional economy that honors community, respects nature, and engages others in this powerful movement.

We each play a role in moving this important work forward, individually, and collectively. In addition to our roles as employees, business owners or leaders in the community, we each also harness individual power to align our daily choices with our values. Each of us votes multiple times everyday with our dollars. We the people have the purchasing power to drive a galvanizing movement. Ready to vote wisely with your dollars? Check out these resources:

When the power of the people voting with their dollars is paired with the inspirational leadership we are seeing from our B Corp and Best for Colorado communities, this movement will be unstoppable! But only if we fully engage, inspire others to step up and make it possible for even more to join.

We at The Alliance Center are incredibly excited to lead this program and begin working to diligently transform the business paradigm, fully embracing the true power we hold and harnessing that power to be the best for Colorado, and the best for the world.

Written by Brenna Simmons-St. Onge, The Alliance Center Executive Director