Bonnie Dean found her calling 2015 Bravo! Entrepreneur - Lifetime Achievement

GREELEY — Sometimes a little practicality goes a long way when it comes to finding your calling. Just ask Bonnie Dean.

While in college, she had the typical decisions to make about her future. “One of my favorite things is to read,” she said. “I probably would have been an English major except I didn’t know what to do with it but teach, and I wouldn’t make a good teacher.” So instead, she majored in business, with a minor in English and economics. That education got her started in the banking field, first in Greeley and then with a holding company in Denver. “That’s also when I got involved in more marketing aspects of the business,” she added.

Getting married and moving back to Greeley provided a turning point for Dean, prompting her to open her own business. “But I decided on some basic things early on,” she said. “Mainly, that I’d rather be more specific as to marketing communications but not fit within a particular industry, like finance or banking.” So Bonnie Dean Associates was started in 1972, with Dean its only employee.

True to that vision, the firm has worked with a lot of different companies over the years, providing market research, brand development, advertising, public relations, issues management and community-relations services. And as the marketplace has changed, so has Bonnie Dean Associates.

“We have an ever-evolving toolkit,” Dean said.

Bonnie Dean of Greeley-based marketing firm Bonnie Dean Associates, center, is flanked by Brett Kemp of Flood and Peterson Insurance, Chris Otto of EKS&H, BizWest publisher Jeff Nuttall and Harry Devereaux of Home State Bank. Dean won the Lifetime Achievement Award at BizWest Media’s 2015 Bravo! Entrepreneur Awards ceremony on Aug. 26 at the Drake Centre in Fort Collins. Cliff Buchholz of Miramont Lifestyle Fitness received top honors for Fort Collins along with Masoud Shirazi of Shirazi Benefits for Greeley, Eric Holsapple and Don Marostica of Loveland Commercial for Loveland and John Shaw of DaVinci Sign Systems for outlying communities. Jeff Lindauer accepted the Emerging Entrepreneur award on behalf of Jeff McPhie, Russ Wall and Robin Marisco of Loveland-based Spring 44, producer of the American Craft Spirits brand of alcoholic beverages, and Rick Sutton accepted the Regional Spirit Award presented to Banner Health. Alex Nuttall/for BizWest

Sometimes, that might include a campaign to draw attention to a political issue, or a brand audit for a company to help determine how they are perceived in the marketplace, or putting together a whole social-media package for a client.

But with success came some growing pains. While never approaching the status of a “large” company, Bonnie Dean Associates did expand to about 10 employees at one point. Yet, according to Dean, bigger wasn’t necessarily better. “I decided I would rather do the work than manage the work. … I mean, managing projects is one thing, but managing a bunch of employees is not what I’m good at or what I want to do.”

That realization led to some downsizing, to what Dean now calls her “virtual” agency. “I have one full-time employee besides myself, and then I have a lot of long-term, valued partners across the spectrum of the things we do, and these are people who have their own set of clients but they also work with us whenever we need them, and then they do their own thing when we don’t.”

Dean said that staying motivated is not a problem, and still looks forward to going into the office. Her requirements are simple. “I need to enjoy what I’m doing and the people I’m doing it with,” she said, “and I want to make a difference.” Toward that end, she likes to give back to the community whenever possible by offering, as she puts it, her time and her treasure.

Over the years, there have been plenty of changes, most of which Dean welcomes with open arms. “Northern Colorado is a really dynamic area now, and people who come here to do business find it a pretty good place to be.” Her only complaint? “Well, we’re all getting tired of the traffic.” I guess you can’t have everything.