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Recognizing 100 CEOs & C-level Executives
Karla Grazier Goodwill Of Colorado

Karla Grazier

President & CEO

Goodwill of Colorado

Location: Colorado Springs

Founded: 1962

Industry: Social Enterprise/Human Services

Karla Grazier joined Goodwill of Colorado after a lengthy career in the for-profit arena, including corporate banking, investment banking, consulting, and founding, buying, and growing companies. In her roles, she was educated in the hard knocks of battling giants in the industry, but that wasn’t all Grazier walked away with from those years.

“Her manufacturing company employed dozens of immigrants and people who were coming out of the justice system,” said her staff. “She got to know their challenges and came to understand why they sometimes made choices that those with more resources would not have selected.”

After a year of retirement, Grazier sought out a second career that possessed the hallmarks of both entrepreneurship and heart, and she found that Goodwill of Colorado was a good fit.

Goodwill of Colorado is a social enterprise combining 48 retail sites, human services programs and contract employment. The organization serves five primary populations, encompassing those with economic and social barriers to employment, people with disabilities, youth with challenges in their lives, seniors and veterans.

“Karla Grazier’s accomplishments are in the world of social enterprise, employing the use of commercial business practices to ensure life-changing impact through education, job training and placement,” said her staff. “She has accomplished significant growth and innovation in both the business and mission sides of Goodwill of Colorado.”

Grazier took the helm in 2010 as CEO with a vision to increase the number of people served while growing the social enterprise components of the business. This led to new stores in Monument, Woodland Park and Durango and the launch of an award-winning three-pronged model for people with disabilities to learn how to increase independence. Grazier was instrumental in leading a $10 million capital campaign for a new campus and merged organizations to create a statewide entity.

Since the merger, under Grazier’s leadership, Goodwill of Colorado has grown to $192 million in revenue to support the 34 mission programs throughout the state of Colorado. These accomplishments led Grazier to honors such as the Gill’s Matthews Entrepreneurial Award, the Watkins Award for Mission Advancement, and the Gill’s Kenneth K. King Outstanding Management Award for Executive Excellence. Grazier also received the Athena Award for her mentorship and community service.

As a leader, Grazier said she embraces compassion. “Compassion begins with yourself, because without compassion for yourself, it is difficult to give to others,” she said. “It is not about feeling sorry for someone; it is about listening and understanding their situation, mindset and approach to a situation.”

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Did you know?

Creativity. With an MBA in Finance, stints at banks lending to corporations and leveraged buyouts, and starting, growing and selling companies, no one suspects! Perhaps because it is a different type of creativity than creativity in the arts or sciences. A light bulb doesn’t go off in my head with a brilliant new product or service idea. The creativity is present by listening, learning and sometimes adapting an idea to fit our organization’s industry and services. I am not a revolutionary innovator but an evolutionary innovator. And I am very lucky to lead an organization that has become very adept at change.


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