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Celebrating Women’s History Month: Meet the Women Leaders Behind the Common Sense Institute

Women’s History Month is celebrated annually during the month of March in the United States — a time for recognizing and honoring the contributions that women have made throughout American history. The month-long celebration began as a week-long event in 1980, when President Jimmy Carter declared the week of March 8 as National Women’s History Week. In 1987, the week was expanded to a month-long celebration, and it has been observed every year since.

Here at ColoradoBiz, we seek opportunities to spotlight exceptional women leading our state. There are numerous women who are making significant contributions and achieving in various fields, including business, politics, education, arts and culture. Trying to choose just one is a good problem to have.

READ: Guest Column — Fighting Gender Politics in the Home Improvement Industry

However, occasionally an individual or group surfaces that we simply can’t look past. For us, that’s the women driving the Common Sense Institute (CSI), a nonpartisan research organization committed to providing objective research and analysis on public policy issues.

With state chapters in Arizona and Colorado, CSI has become a leading voice for free enterprise across the country. Focusing on eight different policy categories ranging from housing and education to health care and transportation, the organization has taken center stage in policy discussions and sparked thoughtful, innovative solutions around the country.

CSI is led by Kristin Strohm, who serves as the organization’s president and CEO. Strohm was one of the original founders of CSI and assumed the leadership of the organization in 2018. One important aspect of CSI’s success is its commitment to diversity and inclusion, especially diverse viewpoints, and including gender diversity in leadership.

In 2022, Common Sense Institute was a finalist for ColoradoBiz’s Top Company award and captured this insight from its president and CEO, Kristin Strohm.

READ: How to Hire with Diversity in Mind

Under Strohm’s leadership, CSI has built a leadership team comprised of women, something quite rare among think tanks, according to national data. A 2018 study found that women only made up 30% of highest-paid employees. In Colorado, only 5% of 122 publicly traded companies have a female CEO and only 13% of executive officers in Colorado are women.

In a nod to Women’s History Month, Strohm recently highlighted her all-female team leading CSI with some key hires, including:

A look at their backgrounds proves that CSI (and Colorado) are lucky to have such accomplished and talented women within their leadership team.

In addition to promoting female leadership within the organization, CSI has also worked to promote women’s voices in public policy debates in Colorado. For instance, following COVID the organization played a pivotal role in identifying the “shesession.” In an opinion column penned by Strohm, she called on policymakers to take notice of the crisis and act.

“To be clear: A generation of progress for women in the workplace in Colorado could be reversed if we do not take immediate action to understand and ultimately solve this problem,” Strohm said. “Further, we cannot talk about re-opening the economy without a real plan for childcare and education as these jobs in the home tend to fall on women.”

That’s a strong, bold and true statement.

Pointing to her list of accredited fellows, Strohm credits diversity as a key differentiator and for playing a critical role in the organization. She says it’s their “secret sauce” and the strength behind their non-partisan brand. They seek to look beyond the rhetoric and political spin — to bridge the divide and deliver the facts and analysis that drive public policy.

With the political and policy troubles Colorado continues to face, to say that we need a solid dose of common sense would be a gross understatement. Thankfully we have women leaders like Strohm and others at CSI stepping up to take Colorado’s problems head on.


Jon Haubert Hb Legacy Media Co 2Jon Haubert is the publisher of ColoradoBiz magazine. Email him at [email protected].

GenXYZ 2022: Finalists (11-15)

This year’s Top 25 Young Professionals vary in their backgrounds and their professional pursuits – they’re leaders in banking, real estate, nonprofits, law, entrepreneurship and architecture, to name just a few. 

Some are lifelong Coloradans who couldn’t conceive of living anywhere else; others are transplants from the East and West coasts or somewhere between. What they have in common is a relentless achiever’s mindset, a can-do spirit and a desire to do good for others as they do well for themselves.

Read on to learn more about this year’s GenXYZ finalists.

Shawnee Adelson, 38 

Executive Director, Colorado Brewers Guild | Denver

Shawnee Adelson
Shawnee Adelson, Executive Director at Colorado Brewers Guild

Shawnee Adelson has worked with the Colorado Brewers Guild for nearly seven years and has consistently proven herself as a valuable ally to more than 400 independent brewers in the state. 

Taking over as the nonprofit trade assocation’s executive director when the position was vacated in 2019, Adelson had little time to settle into the job before COVID unleashed its wrath on the business landscape. She worked tirelessly to support breweries, communicating to them weekly on how to navigate shut-down orders, mask mandates and constantly changing ordinances. Efforts from the guild included teaming up with the Left Hand Brewing Foundation to create the Colorado Strong Fund, a campaign to provide for those impacted by COVID, working with Gov. Jared Polis and the Liquor Enforcement Division (LED) so that breweries could deliver and sell beer to-go during Colorado stay-at-home orders, and lobbying to ensure reopening guidelines for restaurants, including breweries and brewpubs.  

Operating as a one-person team after COVID-induced layoffs of two guild staffers, Adelson juggled multiple jobs during this time, including member communications, member recruitment, event planning, and legislative and regulatory advocacy. She also strived to maintain the guild’s financial stability to ensure the organization would survive the pandemic. 

Fortunately, Adelson was able to weather the storm and hire a business-development manager in 2021 and a marketing and events manager in 2022. 

Adelson is particularly proud of two legislative priorities that passed during the pandemic:   

In 2020, Senate Bill 20-194 was signed into law, allowing brew pubs with multiple locations to sell beer to-go from both locations if the beer is brewed under the same ownership. Another big win was SB21-082. The bill expands festival permits – previously limited to wineries—to include Colorado licensed breweries and brew pubs. Thus, breweries can sell samples as well as beer to-go and invite other breweries, wineries and distilleries to participate.  

Colin McIntosh, 31  

CEO & Founder, Sheets & Giggles | Denver 

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Colin McIntosh, CEO & Founder of Sheets & Giggles

Colin McIntosh is reinventing the bedding industry through comfort, sustainability and puns. He started the sustainable bedding brand with a joke and Indiegogo campaign and now oversees the fastest-growing direct-to-consumer brand in the bedding industry.  

As the sole employee during the company’s first six months in business in 2018, McIntosh received more than 6,000 orders and generated nearly half a million dollars in revenue. He finished 2021 with more than $9 million in revenue.  

McIntosh’s business is build on this concept: The bedding industry can sell better products for better prices without retail margins, give people a good customer experience, unlimited returns and full confidence in their products. Sheets & Giggles entered the space in 2018 with previously unseen levels of transparency and customer engagement to ensure it was giving shoppers a memorable experience at every touchpoint in an incredibly competitive space. This means bending over for customers. Defects? Free replacement. Delayed shipment? Amazon gift card. Social follow? Relentless giveaways. McIntosh “personally answers reviews and Facebook posts within minutes,” says Jason Michael, senior vice president at markeing firm Elasticity, who nominated McIntosh for this GenXYZ honor. 

Sheets & Giggles also strives to share its prosperity with worthy causes. The company donated $20,000 to koala conservation in 2019, $40,000 to Colorado COVID relief in 2020, and $28,000 to cancer organizations in 2021. The company is also an environmental steward, planting one tree for every Sheets & Giggles sale. To date, the company has planted nearly 70,000 trees; it also tracks how many pounds of carbon dioxide those trees absorb every year and posts the figures on the company website. 

McIntosh is a graduate of Techstars Denver and has remained active in the program, mentoring students and guiding Techstars classes.  

Anthony Halsch, 29  

CEO, ROXBOX Containers | Denver

Anthony Halsch
Anthony Halsch, CEO of ROXBOX Containers

Halsch’s first company in Colorado, Overcon, disrupted the container sales industry by using new technology in the space to sell and deliver containers. He had the first e-commerce platform to buy new and used shipping containers in Colorado. 

While expanding Overcon to Texas, Halsch was able to create a new shipping lane for containers between Houston and San Antonio so that his containers would arrive without the shipper having to pay for transport, increasing margins dramatically. 

Out of this came his idea for what he calls the “BeerCan” model, fashioined out of a 20-foot shipping container. This product is now the best selling unit at ROXBOX Containers Inc. With ROXBOX, Halsch and his team were able to create a product to assist restaurants with extra seating during the pandemic. “The PatioBox” was developed and received two-day approval from the Denver Building Department for placement on Larimer Street in downtown Denver, creating covid-safe seating for an additional 24 patrons per establishment. 

ROXBOX was started in a dirt lot in Erie, Colorado, with a good idea but  little knowledge of what was needed to produce a modified container for serving beer to thousands of people. Halsch was able to sell and build containers as he bootstrapped the operations with little outside investment. After receiving a large investment from the City of Denver, ROXBOX hit the hiring requirement for the city in hiring 14 people in the first two months of receiving funding. This enabled the company to move into a 31,000-square-foot warehouse, and it increased revenue more than fourfold from 2020 to 2021. The company how has 25 employees and a pipeline to double or triple revenue in 2022. 

A graduate of Colorado School of Mines, Halsch was a board member of the Denver Transportation Club for three years, hosting events to educate students about the transportation industry. He also was a board member of the Golden-based nonprofit GoFarm for three years, helping to build 20-foot containers to pull behind trailers for cold food storage, and dedicating many hours to business development, planning events and assisting at events for GoFarm.    

Kristin Strohm, 38  

President & CEO, Common Sense Institute | Greenwood Village

Kristin Strohm
Kristin Strohm, President & CEO of Common Sense Institute

As co-founder (and now president & CEO) of Common Sense Institute, Kristin Strohm is guided by the belief that when people have solid information, they are more likely to make sound choices. Free markets and free people function when they have facts and data to frame vital choices.  Strohm took the non-partisan nonprofit Common Sense Institute from vision to reality, and now CSI is driving the debate across the state on the most important policy issues. 

While in her 20s, Strohm, along with her business partner started Starboard Group, a groundbreaking political and nonprofit fundraising firm that enabled clients to capitalize on the momentum of their last election cycle and successfully build and expand their base.  Several firms have since copied this successful model designed and executed by Starboard Group. 

Since its founding in 2010, CSI has become a leading voice in Colorado, providing citizens and leaders facts they need to make informed decisions about the future for their families, and to empower state lawmakers to shape policy with sound fiscal and economic research. Building CSI to the point that it exerts this much influence has been no small task. Strohm has amassed a top-flight board of respected community leaders; she’s been a dogged fundraiser; and she’s hired a smart, ethical and committed staff of economists and bi-partisan fellows whose insights are helping policymakers and the public reach important decisions with facts as their guide. 

Strohm defies the stereotype or label of any political party. She’s been a trailblazer in the LGBTQ movement, recognized by a gay rights organization for her commitment to kicking down-barriers for same-sex couples. In 2016, she received the Ally Award from the pro LGBTQ organization One Colorado in recognition of her work.  

She was the only Republican board member of the National Vote at Home Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit dedicated to ensuring the security of elections. For several years, she was the volunteer chair of the Denver Area Boy Scouts Annual Sports Breakfast, shattering  fundraising records under her watch, and she was a six-year board member and two-term chair of the Women’s Bean Project.  

Francis LeGasse Jr., 39 

Managing Partner, Assured Senior Living | Wheat Ridge 

Francis LeGasse Jr.
Francis LeGasse Jr., Managing Partner at Assured Senior Living

Francis LeGasse Jr. is the co-owner of Assured Senior Living and Sevens Home Care. At the age of 25, after having watched his parents provide care for his grandfather living with Parkinson’s, he joined forces with a college friend to create a different future for the way we age. 

The two purchased a small home-care agency in the Castle Rock area, then added a couple of existing memory care residential homes in Lakewood and Castle Rock. LeGasse learned the business inside and out, doing everything from hands-on care to house repairs to training his staff to providing house tours for new move-ins. The multi-tasking helped leave them with enough revenue to survive and grow the business.  

LeGasse was one of the first senior-care providers to recognize that shifting demographics required a stronger role for the primary supporting family members. He proactively embraced clear, consistent, two-way communication with families of those in his care, and he searched for ways to modernize an antiquated, siloed industry. 

Assured Senior Living has set the stage for a new way of thinking about senior care. For example, he often asks partner providers such as hospice and home-health providers to collaborate when they have a shared patient.  

Having started small in order to learn the market, Francis and businss partner Brian Turner have grown to 10 residential care homes from Castle Rock to Wheat Ridge; their home care business is now a steady supplier of staff to other senior care providers.   

Francis takes his business and the quality of life for those in his care seriously. And personally. He became certified in renowned dementia care expert Teepa Snow’s “Positive Approach to Dementia” so he could better serve his residents and continually train and coach his staff.