Grand Junction's Bonsai Design Creates World-Class Outdoor Adventures


           When Sarah and Thaddeus Shrader relocated to Grand Junction in 2004 for a job opportunity in aviation, they weren't expecting to find a passionate outdoor-focused community that would ignite their collective entrepreneurial spirit. Sarah started Bonsai Design in 2005 with her brother John, and a few years later, Thaddeus left his job as an airline pilot to join Bonsai Design as CEO. “Thad and I are married and business partners, and that can be tough,” Sarah said, describing how they have found a way to compliment one another’s leadership style. “Thad is really the visionary. He’s not the guy that’s going to say ‘no;’ he’s the guy who will say ‘we can do this’ when others say it’s impossible. I’m more of the person who sees the business end of things and focuses on execution.”

           Today, Bonsai Design builds, designs, and operates outdoor adventure experiences across the world. A few of their notable projects include a canopy tour in a redwood forest, a massive challenge course installation for the Boy Scouts of America, and a zip line course above Seven Falls at The Broadmoor. “The zip line tour above seven falls is one of the most beautiful things we’ve ever created,” Sarah added. The company customizes each project around unique environmental characteristics and opportunities, making sure every course adheres to the landscape. In addition to their projects in canyons and forests, they have started designing experiences in urban locales.

           “One of our cutting-edge projects is a huge municipal project in California redeveloping an old quarry,” Sarah said. “Talk about re-using something they can't use anymore! All the stone is out, so now they're remaking it to be a great tourism spot and a place for their community to rally around.” Bonsai is also creating a 500-ft-long outdoor aerial adventure course at the Denver Children’s Museum, which will stand 90 feet above the banks of the South Platte River and I-25. For 2019, they are designing another municipal project with the Chicago area. “I think municipal projects are the way of the future,” Sarah said, “Americans are looking for more experiences to enrich their lives, and we build experiences for people to have fun and bring families together.”

           Beyond providing meaningful experiences for people across the country, Bonsai Design also supports the business ecosystem of Grand Junction. They are developing a 15-acre office park on Grand Junction’s riverfront, which the city has backed with a $1 million investment among other incentives. Bonsai plans to move their new headquarters to the park. “Grand Junction is named after two rivers that come together, but historically, our community hasn’t capitalized on celebrating the riverfront,” Sarah said. The new office park is meant to bring positive change by creating a space that will attract outdoor-focused businesses and provide a space for the community to enjoy festivals and waterfront activities. “People will have direct access to the river, and that creates environmental stewardship. If you want people to stop dumping trash in the river, you need them to engage with it in a meaningful way.”

           Bonsai Design continues to create meaningful experiences for outdoor adventure seekers across the world while bringing regenerative value to the Grand Junction community. BEN Colorado is thrilled to include Bonsai Design as the first Network Company from Colorado’s western slope and is delighted to assist Sarah, Thaddeus, and their team. “The meeting that we came to with sixteen different advisors was a profound turning point in our company’s life span, and it helped us get open-hearted, passionate advice from people who have grown innovative companies and really creative businesses,” Sarah said. “That initial meeting got us to focus on what we need to let go of and what we need to pursue. It’s been profoundly great.”

Sam Skelton