Colorado Young Guns - Part 1 of 2
They inspire. They innovate. In the end, they create. Our Colorado Young Guns list highlights young entrepreneurs pursuing their passion for the irresistible, impossible and imperfect all while striving to push the music, fashion and entertainment industries to the next level.
Co-owner, Elm & Oak
Chances are you’ve seen the simple emblem of dual axes undergirded with a wreath emblazoned on T-shirts and stickers throughout the area. For those unfamiliar, that logo can be accredited to the efficacious branding of Alex Botwin and Berk Gibbs, co-owners of Elm & Oak.
If the name Alex B. doesn’t ring a bell, you may be familiar with his DJ/producer moniker, “Paper Diamond.” Elm & Oak’s physical location in the heart of Boulder, at first glance, looks like a combination clothing retailer and art studio, which it is. However, the business acumen of these gentlemen extends considerably further.
Originally an acronym for Exclusive Limited Merchandise and One of a Kinds, the company has progressed into a record label, design firm, visual art haven and platform of exposure for basically anyone involved in the art and entertainment industry. Botwin and Gibbs call Paper Diamond a multifaceted production house, apropos to their seemingly endless capacity to produce and stimulate art and music culture. This is all while popping in and our of town on tours like Botwin’s most recent 3-month, 60-show U.S. tour plus a few in Europe and Canada.
“Thank God for the Internet, because video chatting has made it so that Berk and I are able to have face-time meetings every day,” says Alex. “I definitely like being around, but me being out on the road also helps develop Elm & Oak as a whole because I’m finding new artists for the label. I’m talking to different people where we can bring shows and making clothes to show to people all over.”
As adept as Elm & Oak is in the game of capitalism, the company also lives up to its philosophy of giving back to the community by offering its talent and insight in facilitating what the men dubbed the Elm & Oak Academy. These are lessons put on at the CU campus, bringing fans and aspiring artists into the same room with Alex, Berk and other influential players in their field. After two extremely successful sessions with Dominic Lalli of Big Gigantic, Ben Baruch of 11E1even Group, and Jake Schneider of Madison House, the academy shows huge potential.
This era in which nearly all aspects of music distribution and production are shifting from the norm poses new challenges and opportunities. Elm & Oak’s dynamic approach, however, remains unparalleled in the industry.
“The reason it’s so unique is that it’s just been a natural growth, it started with just the clothing and music, and then we started doing design work together to fund the brand,” said Botwin. “Then, once that took off, we opened the store.”
Nicole Cacciavillano moved from Philadelphia to Denver in 2007 to teach at-risk youth, a perfect fit for her background in behavioral sciences and elementary education.
Then the industry — music, the only one that counts — spurred her to move forward full time with Sub.mission, a dubstep promotional agency and artist collective.
When Sub.mission first started out, dubstep was a blip on the map of EDM, a term not used as the all-encompassing genre it is today. With a little help from a cultural push within the genre, Sub.mission became the authority on dubstep and forced Cacciavillano drop her teaching gig to pursue music promotion as a career.
Cacciavillano and her staff now take credit for Denver dance nights including Electronic Tuesdays and Bassic Fridays as well as dozens of random warehouse parties and a monthly Saturday event at Cervantes. She’s growing the agency by helping locals build a following, but participates in residency exchange programs and tour planning to draw in nationally recognized talent to rounds out her music scene.
When a Red Rocks concert photo or video is so vivid, beautiful and brilliantly done you can see the musicians’ sweat, you’re probably looking at Steve Conry’s work with his film production company Cinesthetics.
With a strong background in photography, Conry discovered in film school at CU — shooting videos in 8 and 16mm — that his interests also included cinematography. Then came video on SLR cameras, a practical way to pursue his passion for film. His aptitude with a camera gained him recognition for filming live music and earned him work initially with Zed’s Dead and later with a slew of Colorado’s finest.
“I started to get requests from artists all over to do their press kits as promotional content for their websites,” says Conry.
Attention to detail and the intricacy of his production value created a snowball effect in picking up clients.
“I would do official videos for them, work with the artist, get a budget that was sustainable, and from there try to put out the best video and be painstakingly over-perfected with it,” he said.
Today, that client list includes some of the biggest names in the business: Bassnectar, Big Gigantic, Electric Forest and Snowglobe.
On top of his game, Conry improves by adding more complexity to the story telling and narrative in all of his videos. He also plans to delve into the world of advertising and commercial work, not necessarily with music. It’s all about the love of the work, he says.
“I love those moments where I can see that a project is coming together,” he said. “It usually happens a few times on each job — when we’ve put a lot of work into a pitch and the client finally bites, when we go to play back an amazing shot and everyone’s jaw kind of collectively drops, or when things start lining up in the editing room and I get goosebumps watching what we have so far. I’ll never get sick of those moments.”
Patrick “Liberty” McCarney
Co-Founder, Akomplice Clothing
There couldn’t be a simpler, yet more ubiquitous vessel for spreading ideas than through clothing, especially those of the politically and socially charged nature. Brothers Mike and Patrick McCarney, founders of Akomplice clothing, chose that vessel to convey their messages of intelligent consciousness.
Originally aspiring toward a career in hip hop, Mike McCarney one day found himself with a strong desire to start a clothing line with no experience or foundation. Despite his serious reservations, his brother jumped on board, and their first season began.
“Mike was reading through a dictionary, and he said ‘accomplish,’” Patrick McCarney said. “I said, ‘Accomplice,’ that’s hot, but let’s spell it with a k instead of cc. It evolved into the name Akomplice, and it represents being a part of the movement that we’ve created to elevate consciousness and take fashion in our own direction.”
Their clothing began to garner serious attention and popularity, specifically through the somewhat ambiguous, but politically dissident, shirts like the Liberty T-shirt, depicting Lady Liberty holding a gun in place of her torch.
Nearly a decade later, and now boasting a 28-country distribution network, Akomplice continues its mission and philanthropic efforts through projects including the MOI collaboration.
“My brother/partner was taking a solo journey in north Brazil and ended up in south Brazil,” Patrick said. “He came across a cool Brazilian clothing company named Aestethic, and they were doing a project to get money for this African community to send kids to school. The photos were taken in the African town that we are raising the money for. One-hundred percent of the profits from the purchase of the photo T-shirt series go to sending kids in this town to university.”
He said he would like to see Akomplice continue to grow to be one of the most sustainable and eco-conscious companies around.