Dream Focused – Business Minded

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Colorado Camper Van

When Derek Weber customized his first camper van in his garage in 2009, he didn’t anticipate his neighbors begging him to build one for them. “I wanted to spend my time camping, not building more vans”, Derek jokes. But he recognized the opportunity, put some photos on the internet, and customer interest exploded.

Today, Colorado Camper Van (CCV) does over $4 million in annual sales and employs over 40 people at its Loveland plant. CCV’s main offerings are installing “pop-top” higher ceilings, and a huge range of custom, high quality, interior designs. CCV performs this work on a wide variety of vans. See: www.coloradocampervan.com

In 2019, CCV was experiencing some tough growth pains, and Derek reached out to the Loveland Business Development Center and the SBDC.

SBDC financial consultant Bob Coffey dug deeply into the numbers at CCV. Derek says “he helped us get our books straightened out, and fixed a past tax situation that led to refunds for us. He helped with job costing and appropriate pricing. His work was integral to helping us get a much-needed loan”.

Manufacturing consultant Jon Jaggers helped CCV convert to a lean manufacturing operation. “He gave us direction on manufacturing. He helped improve our flow through optimal placement of workstations, tools, and components. He got our processes down to where the company was making money”, says Derek.

Recent accomplishments for Derek include becoming a part-owner of the CCV building, which stabilized CCV’s operating base in Loveland. Derek and his purchasing manager Elizabeth (also his business partner and wife) worked hard on purchasing components in bulk from manufacturers, which lowered costs and improved availability. Derek feels fortunate that he’s been able to find and retain employees – “we work 10 hour shifts four days a week, with three days off, and our team really likes that schedule”.

Future plans include broadening conversions to Jeeps and Ford Broncos, a pop-top trailer offering, and a possible van resale service. “I’m excited about where CCV is going”, Derek says with a smile.

Derek, Elizabeth, and their two children live in Drake, and enjoy camping!

CF&G Public Market & Coffeehouse

CF&G Public Market & Coffeehouse, located inside the historic Colorado Feed & Grain landmark in the heart of Timnath, is owned and operated by Becca Bay.  

The building has a long history that begins with its original construction in 1920. You can read all about it on the café table tops! Becca’s Public Market-style layout includes a café, artisan goods, and a Farmer’s Market that runs May through October as well an event venue.  

Becca graduated from UNC Greeley before spending time in Mexico teaching at a girls’ orphanage. She came back to Colorado and started as a bilingual Spanish teacher in Greeley, but something was missing. “I liked a lot of aspects of it…but if I’m in a school I love with kids I love and it’s still not working for me, something needs to change”. Teaching prepared her for the challenges she then faced, and the drive to keep going. “My heart was not going to take me easy places.” 

The opportunity for space in the CF&G building presented itself in 2018, after Beerwerks set up shop next door, and the timing was right. That’s when she contacted the SBDC to learn more and start researching how she was going to do this. She had been helping her parents with their business and wanted to learn more. Her growth as a business owner is evident in the transformation of the space. It can be seen and felt as soon as one walks into the building. A community space where you are fed and watered, where you can take your work or your life to a quiet corner and figure things out. It’s an experience, a heartbeat, a safe and welcoming place to gather. All of this with the influence of a bustling market one would find in a foreign city center. 

What does Becca see for the future? She’s been in business for 2 years now. With every new stage of growth, every goal met, it’s a hit of endorphins. “It’s forming into the final vision. At first, it’s distant and blurry, but as you keep going it becomes clear and you think, ‘yes, this is what I meant it to be.’” She’s focusing on sustainable operations so the business can be a cultural part of this space in the community for years to come. 

Her advice? “Approach everything with curiosity and it will save you head and heart aches. Say to yourself, ‘I wonder if I could….’ and be open to changing and adjusting. Lead with curiosity versus a rigid design and you will learn through that.” She credits the SBDC for help with people like her who have no history of being a business owner but want to learn the ins & outs, the nitty-gritty, of running a business. She enjoys that you can keep learning and build a solid foundation of knowledge for business with professional Consultants that can help you plan and reach your goals, no matter if you’re entry-level or advanced. “It’s a guide for practical use.” She also adds that it’s vital to have chemistry with your SBDC consultant. She has nothing but adoration for her go-to consultant, Peggy Lyle. 

Fun fact: Two of the chandeliers on the main floor were from her great-grandparent’s General Store in Idaho.  

CF&F Public Market employs 1 full time and 2 part time workers and is home to The Pig & The Plow Bakery. 

She’s most proud of her employee, Amanda. Since joining Becca two years ago, Amanda has grown, personally and professionally in Becca’s eyes. “It was fulfilling to coach her and to now see her coach others”.  

How did COVID affect operations? Like so many other small business owners, COVID was a whirlwind of many emotions. From fear to frustration to anger to sadness, the pandemic turned Becca’s day-to-day into an unpredictable mess. While she had to do the typical tasks of reworking her indoor seating, adding outdoor space, adjusting operating hours and employee schedules, etc., she also had to come to terms with the reality of her business model. She envisioned her business as a place to gather, a space for the community. It’s not something that can be replicated online, there’s no virtual alternative to meeting your neighbor for the first time because you happen to order the same type of coffee. Due to COVID, Becca struggled with both not being able to offer the one thing her business was built on and being recommitted to her community-building mission as the pandemic forced us away from our public spaces and gravely deprived us of our human need for interpersonal connection. 

Daniël-James van den Berg and DJM Design

Daniël-James van den Berg and DJM Design have both come a long way over the years. Literally and figuratively. Born in South Africa, Daniël-James is a self-described Ginger, family man, Web Agency owner and newly naturalized U.S. Citizen with a double first name who enjoys doing freestyle breakdancing in his spare time.  

We barely finished the tour of his Greeley office space when his wife, Joy, and their 16-month-old daughter, Zona, stopped by. “Joy keeps me grounded; her experience compliments my work style.” And Zona? “She’s taught me so much about leading, it’s crazy, she’ll be on the Board someday.”  

DJM Design started out as Daniel James Media back in February of 2017 when Daniël-James was living in Fort Collins. His family had moved from South Africa to the U.S. in 2013, living in South Carolina and Chicago before calling Fort Collins home. “I started my business out of my bedroom for $3,000, but in Fort Collins, I finally gained traction.” He learned about the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) by attending a networking event. He signed up for consulting and has been reaping the benefits ever since. Daniël-James had first experienced the advantages of mentorship much earlier on. After graduating from Art School with a top senior grade in Mpumalanga, Nelspruit in South Africa, he connected with a Canadian-American Coaching Company for small businesses. He enrolled in the program and learned how to blend business acumen with his passion for art and design. “I wanted to create a space for other companies to utilize the things I thought were groundbreaking back then. South African and American fusion. I wanted to fuse my cultural experiences into a brand where people could leverage that and impact multiple communities.”  

Daniël-James is the only full-time employee at his company. Joy works for the company, part-time, along with three other local part-timers and 7-15 contractors across the globe. The benefit of this model is the connection to specialists with outside expertise.  

At its essence, DJM is Ubuntu, a South African word used to describe “community”. It’s a quality that includes the essential human virtues; compassion and humanity. DJM Design is unique in that the company is a multicultural, freelance, coworking army that specializes in web design with an emphasis on human psychology; the who, why, what, and how best they can serve someone in that very moment of their experience. They also give back in big ways. “We donate 11% of our gross profits to South African NPOs and USA communities that impact orphans, job creation and community development. I don’t think some of our clients even know that.” One that is particularly important to DJM Design is Homes of Hope Fiji which provides long-term care, support, and holistic restoration for girls, young women and children who are victims of, or vulnerable to, being trafficked.  

DJM Design brings value to their clients in that they focus on The Tree vs. The Fruit type marketing. “A piece of fruit is one and done, but if you plant a fruit tree, it benefits you long term.” His biggest challenge as a business owner has been, “to follow the 80/20 rule in every aspect. Balancing how much to do internally for growth vs. clients and coworkers, giving them 80% of our valuable time. Also, Flywheel vs. Doomloop. Too many business owners try new ideas that take them away from their core business and by doing this too often you can crumble your foundation and success. Having kids as a business owner has taught me this more than anything. Time management & communication is crucial to a balanced happy marriage family and business.” 

 
What was his COVID pivot? Like most small businesses, the pandemic was tough for Daniel James Media. “We were in debt, and I was engaging in unhealthy distractions, things that didn’t help. I said the thing you should never say to a client. I told him I needed the job, and I wasn’t mentally tough enough for rejection. He said he wasn’t going to hire me until I was in a better place. That was the kick in the pants I needed, it turned things around.” They reset the team. Before that they had their hands on too many projects, so they cut things out, simplified their model, applied for PPP and EIDL and paid off their business debt, they got aggressive with their customer service and also started partnering and talking more to other agencies. If everyone was in this together, why not get out together? At the end of all that, they rebranded in December of 2021. Daniel James Media became DJM Design, and they’ve been in a good place, since. 

He’s looking forward to the future, growing a lean brand and for people to recognize his work and think, “Yeah, that’s a DJM Design.” 

When asked how the SBDC has contributed to his success, Daniël-James credits SBA resources, SBA & SBDC webinars, networking, and, of course, the free 1:1 consulting. He stresses taking the time to find the right consultant and you’ll get out of it what you give. He found each session to be beneficial, but really connected with Jim Kelly, who has become his go to consultant. His advice to budding entrepreneurs? Read! Owning a business requires constant learning and growth. Some books he recommends are Good to Great, Profit First, Scale, Get Different, and Sell Like Crazy.  

 

Canna World Market Loveland CBD

Canna World Market Loveland not only sells CBD products but offers education.

Mixed in with the CBD products Eric and Rachael Sudhalter sell at Canna World Market, is an assortment of plants against a backdrop of earthy greens and browns.

“You walk in here, and it’s not all dark,” Rachael said. “It’s comfortable. It’s the whole vibe.”

The Sudhalters aren’t about the quick sell. They like to take their time with customers, educating them about all the research around cannabidiol (CBD) and its botanical sources, and they like to be part of the Loveland and Northern Colorado community.  

But to do this, they needed to learn about building and growing a business, since their backgrounds are in education and they hadn’t taken any business classes. They’re both sign language interpreters—something they did for more than 15 years and something Rachael still does. Eric also served as an elementary school teacher for five years and Rachael, while interpreting, studied yoga and worked as a postpartum doula.

Wanting something different, the Sudhalters moved from Oregon to the Roaring Fork Valley, where they lived a short time before landing in Fort Collins in 2019. A week before their move to Fort Collins, Eric had dinner with a parent from the school he taught at, who told him about Canna World Market’s desire to expand. Eric and Rachael decided to open the recently incorporated company’s first franchise in Loveland, Colorado.

“When this opportunity came up, it brought together so many interests and skill sets, I couldn’t say no,” Eric said.

Eric has a love for plants, permaculture, fermentation, and plant-based remedies, while Rachael’s work in retail gives her skills in merchandising, branding, and customer service. They wanted to learn more about how to operate and grow a business, so they connected with the Loveland Business Development Center a month after they opened in September 2019. 

“We didn’t know what we were doing, with all the paperwork,” Rachael said.

The Sudhalters worked with Kat Hart, Program Director and a consultant at the LBDC. Eric primarily met with Hart, who advised him on networking, advertising, customer review campaigns and hosting store events. He and Rachael also worked with other LBDC consultants on preliminaries, such as human resources and social media.

“Working directly with mentors has helped us leaps and bounds,” Eric said. “There was so much I didn’t know that I didn’t know, and oftentimes it was bringing something into my awareness I was then able to learn about.”

The Sudhalters faced a few challenges along the way, including opening their business six months before the start of the pandemic and having to temporarily close their doors for two weeks. Since their business was new and nobody knew they were on East 29th Street, they pivoted to selling their products at farmers markets and started going to LBDC and Chamber of Commerce networking events to make a presence in their community.

They do not diagnose or prescribe but rather offer tools to supplement Western medicine—they are motivated in helping people find additional forms of healing. They sell full-spectrum, broad spectrum, isolate and nano-CBD products. The products come in the forms of tinctures, salves, flowers, vapes and snacks like gummies, honey and chocolate, plus a chocolate hazelnut spread through a collaboration with Loveland Chocolate.

“Our product line is carefully curated to make sure there aren’t any negative impacts in it,” Eric said, adding that the line is “super clean.”

Eric and Rachael want to educate and dispel misinformation surrounding CBD and other plant-based products. CBD is not sold as a treatment but has been shown by research to support the symptoms of pain, stress and issues of sleep and to have few side effects, except from sensitivities. 

“From there, there are other things it possibly can do, but it’s not peer-reviewed,” Eric said, adding that he can talk about CBD in terms of anecdotal evidence of what works. “I truly want to make a difference for each person. That’s why each person is worth sitting down with.”

Eric and Rachael operate Canna World Market as a DBA of their LLC, Rock Your Soul, so named for their love of music. They operate a second business, Orion’s Apothecary, where they make a variety of products to support wellness such as fire cider, honey fermented garlic, osha root tincture, elderberry syrup mix and restful tea—the products are made at a commercial kitchen in Loveland and sold to Canna World Market.

The Sudhalters also sell CBD products for dogs, cats and other animals, recommending their customers first speak to a veterinarian before administering them. They offer CBD dog treats and CBD oil in pet-friendly flavors to support symptoms of stress, pain and issues with sleep, just like with humans.

“Customers will ask, ‘Does it really work?’ Just ask my dog,” Eric said. “It does physically work, not just psychosomatically, because you can see a difference in pets.”

The Sudhalters want to grow their business by bringing back the workshops they offered before the pandemic, including CBD 101 classes and classes offered by health and other practitioners, starting in the fall. They also plan to open up their classroom space for the community to use.

“The way forward is through collaboration and education,” Eric said. “It’s absolutely with the relationships we have built.” 

Canna World Market Loveland was voted the #2 CBD Store in Northern Colorado by the Loveland Reporter-Herald, and celebrated their 3rd year anniversary at the beginning of October.

Orion’s Apothecary opened up to wholesale on July 1, 2022, and already has products in 13 locations around Northern Colorado.  If you are interested in carrying their Fire Cider, Elderberry Syrup Mix, or Restful Tea, contact eric@orions-apothecary.com.

Canna World Market Loveland CBD www.cbdloveland.com

Orion’s Apothecary www.orions-apothecary.com

The Pig & The Plow Farmstead Bakery

You may have read the popular Farming Fort Collins Blog turned online farm and ranch directory, turned e-zine, The Pig & The Plow: From the Field, but have you stopped by the Pig & Plow Bakery and met the woman behind it all?  

Erica Glaze has been busy. After growing up in the fresh, local food scene of New England, she saw a need when she moved to this area back in 2003. “I worked for the Federal government for 3 years and the State for 10 years, but I’m not a good office person, I was ready for a change.” Her desire to connect people to good, local food was the catalyst behind the Farming Fort Collins Blog. The blog turned into an online farm and ranch directory in 2014, then the e-zine evolved to explore the local food scene more. In 2017 she bought her first oven and launched The Pig & The Plow Bakery out of a converted shipping container on her Farmstead.  

Erica connected with the Small Business Development Center through word of mouth and a mutual connection to an SBDC Consultant. “I took a start-up class and continued to move forward to figure out what was needed to take each next step.” She utilized the resources from the beginning and found a network of mentors. “I’m not afraid to raise my hand and ask for help. There are things you’re good at and things that don’t come naturally. With mentors it wasn’t just me, I had a huge network.”  

The business consistently outgrew space after space. COVID could have devastated the business, but luckily Erica set it up, right. “When COVID hit we had to stop our NOCO Meat Collective classes, the restaurants we supplied closed, and the Farmer’s Markets were halted. Luckily, we were already online and had a following. Within 24 hours we added other market partners to our website and continued selling.” COVID didn’t stop them from thinking about the future. In June of 2021, after outgrowing yet another space, they moved into the Colorado Feed & Grain in Timnath.  

The opportunity to move into their newest location at 140 Boardwalk Dr. in Fort Collins presented itself earlier this year and within two months was a done deal. The space was formerly a bakery but also includes a great area for retail. “My husband was always really supportive and handy. He bought me that first oven and built the shipping container. When we decided to move to our new location we knew he needed to be more involved, so he officially became part owner.” It only took three days to move and set up the shop. They opened on November 15th. 

The unique thing about the business is the attention to how they do things. “We’re not the only bakery in town, but we use local, organic ingredients to create a new twist on old classics.” One of Erica and her staff’s favorite parts of the business is exploring and blending food and culture to bring something new into the fold. No day is the same when you get to experiment and create.  

The future for The Pig & The Plow Bakery looks bright. She’s focusing on continuing to develop the community around the business. She loves building opportunities for collaboration, and creating a place for people to come and grow. One thing she looks forward to is continuing to be a part of people’s special things, whether it’s baking goods for an occasion or as a treat. “We had a woman at the farmer’s market who saw our Danish bread and cried. She was homesick and so happy to see and experience something familiar.”  

Her advice for budding entrepreneurs is this: “Don’t waste your time figuring it all out on your own. Learn from other people’s mistakes. Find the experts and be open to expanding your network.” She also advises connecting with people in your industry, and not seeing them as just competition. “There’s room for everyone, the more we connect and help each other’s growth, it’s an awesome experience.”  

She’s most proud of the business she built that continues to move forward. From a converted shipping container to having a great new space with the right equipment and a great team (The Pig & The Plow Bakery employs 1 full time employee and 2 seasonal contractors), not to mention the people they’ve connected with along the way. 

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