Successful exec Rysavy backs up his beliefs

LOUISVILLE — Longtime entrepreneur Jirka Rysavy is known for his skill in growing Gaiam Inc., a healthy-lifestyle company based in Louisville, as well as for his philanthropic activities.

But Gaiam is only the most recent in a line of Rysavy’s environmentally and health-oriented startups.

He founded recycled-office products company Corporate Express in 1986 in Boulder. Corporate Express went public in 1994 and grew to become a Fortune 500 company. Rysavy was chairman and chief executive until December 1998, when he became CEO of Gaiam. He remained as chairman until 1999 when, as the largest Colorado-based company with annual sales of $4.5 billion, Corporate Express was sold for $2.3 billion to a Dutch conglomerate and was ultimately acquired by Staples Inc. The company is known today as Staples Advantage.

Rysavy also founded Crystal Market in Boulder, a natural-foods market that became Wild Oats Market when he sold it in 1987 to other local grocery investors. The grocery chain later was purchased by Whole Foods Markets Inc. for an estimated $565 million.

Gaiam was started in Boulder in 1988 and went public in 1999. Rysavy has been the company’s chairman from its inception, and served as chief executive from December 1998 to March 2009. He also is chairman of Real Goods Solar Inc., previously known as Gaiam Energy Tech, another startup founded in Boulder County in 1999 that become a public company in 2008.

Real Goods Solar’s chief executive, Kam Mofid, singled out Rysavy’s capability to notice key trends going on in American culture and leveraging them to achieve business results.

Rysavy is “an accomplished business leader,” Mofid said. “Above and beyond his business successes, he also cares about the environment and sustainable living and has incorporated those beliefs both in his personal and professional life.”

Rysavy also was a silent partner from 1988 to 2008 of Boulder Business Information Inc., parent company of the Boulder County Business Report.

Rysavy’s companies tend to focus on Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability, or LOHAS, which can include diverse industries such as alternative transportation, “green” building, renewable energy and natural and organic foods, said Steve Hoffman, who worked with Rysavy in 1999 and 2000 on the LOHAS Forum, a natural-focused business conference. “He was instrumental in working with us as partners to build the LOHAS concept,” Hoffman said. “He was an early visionary in uniting all of these diverse markets that serve a healthy and environmentally aware consumer.”

Gaiam has grown through acquisitions of like-minded companies and now has a distribution network of more than 60,000 retail stores along with licensing agreements with content producers such as Discovery Communications and National Geographic. In 2011, the company announced the launch of a new startup Gaiam TV, a video streaming subscription service that gives the user a chance to look at a variety of programming related to yoga, wellness, personal growth and spirituality. Gaiam TV has more than 5,000 exclusive video titles available for streaming.

Gaiam has donated yoga mats and fitness products to facilities throughout Colorado. In addition, Rysavy has represented Gaiam in a variety of events related to sustainable business or renewable energy.

Gaiam also cooperates with the Urban Zen foundation, which focuses on getting integrative medicine included in current health-care systems. The foundation also works to inspire change in the areas of well-being, culture and empowering children in mind, body and spirit.

“Gaiam gives several donations every week,” said staffer Kate Weaver. “It’s heart-warming to see how many different organizations we are able to reach.”

LOUISVILLE — Longtime entrepreneur Jirka Rysavy is known for his skill in growing Gaiam Inc., a healthy-lifestyle company based in Louisville, as well as for his philanthropic activities.

But Gaiam is only the most recent in a line of Rysavy’s environmentally and health-oriented startups.

He founded recycled-office products company Corporate Express in 1986 in Boulder. Corporate Express went public in 1994 and grew to become a Fortune 500 company. Rysavy was chairman and chief executive until December 1998, when he became CEO of Gaiam. He remained as chairman until 1999 when, as the largest Colorado-based company with annual sales of $4.5 billion, Corporate Express was sold for $2.3 billion to a Dutch conglomerate and was ultimately acquired by Staples Inc. The company is known today as Staples Advantage.

Rysavy also founded Crystal Market in Boulder, a natural-foods market that became Wild Oats Market when he sold it in 1987 to other local grocery investors. The grocery chain later was purchased by Whole Foods Markets Inc. for an estimated $565 million.

Gaiam was started in Boulder in 1988 and went public in 1999. Rysavy has been the company’s chairman from its inception, and served as chief executive from December 1998 to March 2009. He also is chairman of Real Goods Solar Inc., previously known as Gaiam Energy Tech, another startup founded in Boulder County in 1999 that become a public company in 2008.

Real Goods Solar’s chief executive, Kam Mofid, singled out Rysavy’s capability to notice key trends going on in American culture and leveraging them…