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YellowDog: Progress in the print industry

YellowDog is a local, values-driven design, print and marketing studio dedicated to serving their Denver area clients and community. The company was recently recognized in PrintingNews as one of the Top 100 Small Commercial Printers in the country. We spoke with Cynthia Ord, marketing manager, to learn more about this Best for Colorado company.

Best for Colorado: Can you tell us a bit about YellowDog and how you found your way there?

Cynthia Ord: YellowDog has been around for 15 years, and I’ve been the marketing manager since January 6 of this year. I’m new to the scene, but YellowDog has gotten really far without a marketing manager. The business has gotten such good organic results through networking, word-of-mouth and referrals, so there’s a lot we can do to grow even further. I’m part of a new strategic team: we have an HR person, a creative director, a production manager and Jenny, the owner and the account director. It’s really fun to be on an all-female strategic team.

BFCO: Do print shops commonly have strategic teams? What is the market landscape like for printing?

CO: A lot of commercial print shops are structured as franchises. There are also a lot that are purely online, so self-service or e-commerce. With these kinds of online e-commerce platforms that do print, there’s no contact with a person; it’s all automated. YellowDog is unique in the industry because we are a local small business. We highly value customer service and contact. Each client is assigned an account manager that makes sure their print project looks good and is on track before it’s printed in large quantities. Unlike large franchises, we offer our clients a lot of guidance and quality assurance.

BFCO: How does YellowDog approach corporate social responsibility? Do you see customer service as a CSR focus? 

CO: We really want to help our customers thrive and get results, especially because we work with so many other small businesses and nonprofits. Nonprofits are a huge part of our client base. If a nonprofit succeeds because of a print campaign we helped with, then that ties into being values-driven for us.

Dan and Jenny are the two owners, and ever since the beginning it’s been really important for them to run their business as environmentally responsibly as possible. We’re tracking our energy use so that we can contribute to an offset program, offering recyclable options and we’re involved in other programs like Certifiably Green Denver. Corporate social responsibility has been baked into the business’ culture from the beginning.

Yellowdog Best For Colorado

BFCO: How did you all first hear about Best for Colorado, and why did you decide to join?

CO: It was one of the alliances that was already on the table when I came on board, so when I learned about it, I recognized it was aligned with our values. We renewed our Commit to Action pledge and made a commitment to get engaged and work toward a B Corp certification. YellowDog decided to join because we want to measure and understand our impact and create goals and baselines for improving and hold ourselves accountable to do the right thing based on objective standards.

BFCO: What is a challenging aspect of YellowDog’s work?

CO: One of the challenges is people think of print as a dying industry. It’s a challenge to make sure people know that print is still very much relevant and part of an effective marketing mix. We have to really demonstrate the value of print campaigns. That said, there’s always basics people will need, for example: signage. There will always be physical spaces to maintain and promote and print has a role in that. One way we’ve adapted in the last few years is expanding our digital services such as design, marketing, website development, rebranding and packaging. We have one foot in print, which is where our roots are, and another foot in the creative digital agency space.

BFCO: What’s one achievement YellowDog is most proud of?

CO:  In just the last few months YellowDog has received a finalist status for the Denver Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year, has been listed on Colorado Companies to Watch, was featured in the Denver Business Journal Small Businesses in 2020 and now we’re listed in the top 100 Small Commercial Printers. The first three awards/mentions are local, but that last one recognizes us at a national level. This is great validation especially for a company of our size.

Best for Colorado is a program of the Alliance Center. It allows Colorado companies to measure and improve their social and environmental impact, regardless of where they are on their corporate social responsibility journey. Best for Colorado offers programming and tools for all Colorado companies, including B Corps, to improve their practices and connect participating companies with local resources, education and support.

Switch Automation: Transforming the future of buildings

In well-established industries, companies attempting to disrupt processes as they have been are often met with resistance and numerous challenges. Switch Automation, a Denver-based global real estate software company, is attempting to do just that in the real estate industry, bringing innovation and modern technology to the well-established processes of managing assets and building management.

The company’s software helps property owners and facility managers reduce operating costs, improve energy efficiency and deliver exceptional occupant satisfaction. Not only is the firm forward-thinking in its products, but Switch Automation has dedicated itself to practicing and promoting sustainability through its products and in its operations.

Best for Colorado spoke with the company’s Vice President of Operations Patti Mason and Creative Marketing and Brand Manager Sara Spangler to learn more about this growing company.

Best for Colorado: Can you tell us a little bit about what Switch Automation does and how you got started?

Patti Mason: Switch Automation is a global real estate software company that started in 2012. We’ve created the Switch platform, which allows property owners and managers to reduce facility costs, improve energy efficiency and remotely manage building assets. We help our customers by aggregating data in the platform, providing visualization to help them prioritize improvement projects, and we’re seeing that, in light of the current situation, there is a growing interest in the remote management aspect of our platform.

BFCO: Aside from the increased interest in remote management, how has COVID-19 impacted Switch Automation? 

PM: Because we’re a cloud-based company, and because all of our teams are very comfortable using technology, the transition to virtual work has been pretty seamless. I think that’s because the majority of the work we do with our customers is virtual. We don’t have to go to a site to optimize buildings—that’s all done virtually. Of course, we miss things like having beer together on Fridays and face-to-face interactions, but we’re doing our best to keep our traditions alive on Zoom.

BFCO: What is a challenging aspect of Switch Automation’s work?

PM: Managing real estate assets and building management has been done the same way for decades, so we get involved in the change management space quite a bit, and that can be hard. Facility management has an aging workforce, so we’re trying to show customers that technology is not only going to make your building smarter, but also make your team smarter, more efficient and help recruit the next generation [of workers]. We find that exciting, yet this can be challenging when talking to someone who has 50 years in the industry and has only ever worked with spreadsheets.

BFCO: What role do you think your technology plays right now in the current health crisis?

PM: The greatest value right now is transparency. We offer our customers the ability to see the building through data and understand what’s happening. Let’s say I’m going back to a space in a commercial office building; I want to know what’s been done to ensure that I’m coming back to a space that’s safe and clean. A building management team can say to a tenant, “Yes, we’ve cleaned the building, and we’ve done a nightly air flush.” The Switch Platform can validate that through data and evidence. That’s the value that we’re bringing right now—this extra, and much needed, layer of transparency to building operations.

BFCO: What role do you think Switch Automation will play in future crises, like the climate crises?

Sara Spangler: For so long we’ve been making the case that smart building technology is the future and will make facility managers’ lives easier while saving you money and time. This product isn’t going to replace your job. Instead, it’s going to become a different kind of job that’s more tech focused. With the COVID-19 crisis it feels like we’re finally at the point where the market is realizing remote operations are the future.

PM: Buildings account for 40% of energy use and carbon emissions globally, primarily from heating and cooling buildings​. The Switch Platform enables building engineers to set up better schedules for your heating and cooling system, and we can use our fault detection diagnostics tool for alerts when a system is starting to slip.

A new building is going to run as designed until you put people inside of it. Then, as occupants enter your building, our tool allows you to go back in and tune up the building. Having a smart, connected building helps you be more resilient, it helps you be proactive, and in the background, it’s also lowering your energy use. I think Switch will help advance grid interactive buildings and more connected communities; both of which are needed to achieve ambitious carbon reduction policy goals.

BFCO: How did corporate social responsibility emerge as a priority in your company? 

PM: Corporate social responsibility emerged from our co-founder and CEO, Deb Noller. Her educational background is in forestry and natural resources management. During the onboarding for every employee, she shares her personal story of growing up in New Zealand in a time before plastic constantly washed up on the beaches. She leads by example and wants to ensure we pursue the B Corps certification and make commitments in the Best for Colorado program so we can demonstrate our commitment to sustainability.

BFCO: What is the future of buildings and what role does Switch play in that?
PM: I think we’re going to see more empowered tenants who will start demanding transparency and data particularly around employees’ health. I foresee air quality becoming a topic of significant discussion. New buildings install air quality monitors all the time. This is pretty standard, but that information usually doesn’t get out to anyone outside of the building management team. People are going to want to know more like, “What kind of air quality is my team in for 9 to 10 hours a day? What are you doing to ensure public health and safety?” I get excited about the opportunity to empower voices to ask those questions!


Best for Colorado is a program of the Alliance Center. It allows Colorado companies to measure and improve their social and environmental impact, regardless of where they are on their corporate social responsibility journey. Best for Colorado offers programming and tools for all Colorado companies, including B Corps, to improve their practices and connect participating companies with local resources, education and support.