Alumni Association

University of Colorado Boulder

Sunflower Founder Named CEO of the Year

ColoradoBiz magazine recognizes Mike Gilliland’s (Hist’80) hard-earned 25-year career in the natural foods industry – and he’s a Forever Buff!

What do all of these career paths have in common: Air Force Academy student, mobile crepe stand owner, parasailing business owner, natural foods industry entrepreneur, former Wild Oats founder, Sunflower CEO? They’re actually all one bumpy but ultimately highly successful career path. Mike Gilliland’s winding road led him to today’s cover of ColoradoBiz magazine as their 2010 CEO of the Year. Mike Taylor, the magazine’s managing editor, aptly notes that Gilliland “applies hard-earned lessons to Sunflower Farmers Market.”

In today’s economy, a lot of folks are changing their career direction or trying to find their niche, and they may find inspiration in Mike Gilliland’s entrepreneurial success story in the latest issue of ColoradoBiz. The article highlights the long and winding road Gilliland took to get to his successful position today: ColoradoBiz’s 2010 CEO of the Year, Boulder Chamber of Commerce’s 2010 Entrepreneur of Distinction, and successful CEO and Chairman of Sunflower Farmers Market (, Grocery Headquarters 2010 Natural/Organic Supermarket Retailer of the Year. In addition, the busy Gilliland also runs a 40-acre commercial organic farm in Longmont, Colorado that provides some of the produce for his Sunflower stores.

Over the past eight years, Gilliland has introduced six states – Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Texas – to his concept of “Serious Food…Silly Prices®” through 32 Sunflower Farmers Markets, making high-quality natural and organic products available to everyone, especially the budget conscious. Sunflower sales continue to grow, with a 35% increase over last year, and Sunflower customers and Facebook fans alike are clamoring for more Sunflower stores in multiple states. It looks like Californians will get their wish early next year, when Gilliland plans to add a seventh state to the list and brings Sunflower Farmers Market into the Golden State for the first time.

For more information about Sunflower, please visit

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