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In the Adventure Biz: OtterBox

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Photos courtesy of OtterBox

We’ve all heard of an OtterBox. Today, you probably recognize the name as one of the world’s largest manufacturers of protective cases for smartphones and tablets — something especially important while on a rugged Colorado adventure.

But did you also know that OtterBox got its start back in 1998 as a small Fort Collins company making sturdy dry-boxes for whitewater kayakers? They’re now celebrating 20 years in business in 2018 — and what a journey it’s been.

Like many start-ups, OtterBox began when a simple idea sparked in a tiny garage eventually grew into something much larger. If there’s one outdoor product everyone needed, founder Curt Richardson thought all those years ago, it was a durable case to keep your valuables from breaking or getting wet while exploring the backcountry. The company’s foolproof cases did just that, and you can still purchase them today — along with a line of durable coolers, tumblers and more.

But always with an eye on innovation, the company knew it would have to eventually evolve to keep up with the changing lifestyles of its customers. Fast forward a few years and those customers, OtterBox realized, now considered their phones and cameras just as important as their boots, rope or tent. All of those epic Colorado outdoor selfies aren’t going to take themselves, you know.

So the company soon started cranking out those darn-near-indestructible phone cases now known as “Otterboxes.” And the rest, as they say, is history.

The latest product out is the Trooper line of soft-sided coolers. With both 20- and 30-quart versions, they're also leakproof and hold ice for 72 hours or so — perfect for camping and fishing.

Still based in Fort Collins — but now with offices in San Diego, Hong Kong and Ireland — OtterBox has been named a seven-time honoree of Inc. 5000’s list of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. Company execs attribute their success to a commitment to design and build extraordinary products that enhance life on the go and protect what matters most. More specifically, they want “to inspire customers to do anything they want to do with a dash of daring — but without worry.”

That’s a very Colorado mentality, as is the company’s dedication to making a difference.

From time to treasure to talent, OtterBox’s “We Grow to Give” mantra led to the formation of the OtterCares Foundation, a program of grants, events and educational opportunities designed to empower children to change the world through philanthropy and entrepreneurship. OtterBox employees have raised more than $600,000 for that effort to date, with more than 80% of the company’s workforce donating time and money to various volunteer efforts.

Practicing what they preach, you might say. And making Colorado proud in the process.

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