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Helping small businesses grow and prosper

Larimer Small Business Development Center

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Welcome Renee Walkup to the Larimer SBDC!

We would like to welcome Renee Walkup as a new Instructor here at the Larimer SBDC. Renee bring us a wealth of knowledge and we are excited to have her on board!

Renee is a best-selling author, speaker, and business growth consultant. She founded SalesPEAK in 1996 after working in the corporate world for 17 years. Fortune 500’s and medium-sized businesses have relied on Renee’s advice to increase revenue and productivity.

Renee’s strengths are providing tactical steps to business leaders so that they can execute gaining more commitments, establish better business relationships, and deliver compelling presentations. Her clients include: Microsoft, Bayer, Check Point Software, Coca-Cola, The Better Business Bureau, and many others.

A recent resident of Ft. Collins in 2016, Renee is a SAGE advisor through Innosphere, participates as a City volunteer, and serves on the Economic Advisory Committee Board with the Ctiy.

When not working, her passion is creating 3D mosaics, gardening, and hiking all the trails she can, while enjoying the beauty of Colorado.

Equine Veterinary Services

Stephanie Brault’s passion is working with horses. Providing them with the highest quality veterinary care has been her profession since 1988. After more than 10 years of working in academic veterinary medicine at the University of California Davis and most recently at Colorado State University, Stephanie purchased a private veterinary business in July of this year.

While Stephanie is an expert in the field of veterinary medicine, she had no business experience prior to purchasing Equine Veterinary Services of Northern Colorado, PC. I attended the SBDC’s classes on business planning and cash flow. Donna Beaman helped me with cash flow projections during counseling sessions, Stephanie says of her work with the SBDC. The Business Planning for Success class and one-on-one counseling made it possible for Stephanie to secure her loan and purchase the business.

Stephanie’s advice to anyone looking to start or purchase a small business is to “learn as much as you can about the whole business and get opinions from a lot of people. Surround yourself with good advisers.” Stephanie has found these advisers at the SBDC and looks forward to taking more classes in the future to assist in the day-to-day management of Equine Veterinary Services of Northern Colorado, PC.

Green Ride

Ray Schofield and Bob Flynn created Green Ride in 2009 to bring an easy, local transportation option to the Fort Collins community. After leaving Shamrock in October 2008, where the two worked together, they began looking for a way to get involved in the community and deciding from a regulatory standpoint whether to be a taxi service, shuttle service, or something else. “We were looking to see where the gaps in transportation were.”

In just under a year, Ray and Bob hired 14 people, had one week of training, launched the website, and started as drivers to get Green Ride off and running. Green Ride started offering transit to and from Denver International Airport (DIA) in May 2009. “We offered service every other hour to start. Within the first month we had moved to hourly service.” Now Green Ride has 62 employees and 21 routes each direction to DIA with 200 daily rides to and from the airport. Green Ride also offers service to Laramie and Cheyenne every four hours.

With hi-tech corporate backgrounds and experience working for Fortune 500 companies such as Hewlett Packard, Agilent and Honeywell, Ray and Bob felt their work did not get them involved in the community. “Transportation touches everything. We get to work in the community and be involved. We have a sense of responsibility to the community and a passion to help people get where they need to be in an easy manner. It really connects us to the community and to people.” There is a great culture with the employees and customers at Green Ride. It is a culture of family with energy and curiosity. “We have a great mix of staff and great energy.”

Ray and Bob met Andrea Grant at a SBDC event in January 2009. At the time they were looking for funding and the SBDC became a key resource. “We have had help from many people at the SBDC. We talked about the business plan and SBDC staff reviewed the business plan to secure our loan. It is great to have this resource out there.” The business plan for Green Ride has led to much success for the company and won an award from Montfort College of Business in Greely.

Ray and Bob credit the SBDC for providing them the opportunity to meet great people to discuss their business with people who are local to Fort Collins. “Little conversations here and there developed into a great network of support.” A passion for helping people, an understanding of the playing field, and using local resources like the SBDC has helped Green Ride succeed and become a flourishing business in Fort Collins.

Green Ride takes the uncertainty away from travel to make the experience carefree and fun. “We really care about our customers and respect them and their time. We have a fantastic team. Green Ride’s biggest success has been putting 60 people to work in this economy. That is so rewarding.”

Pateros Creek Brewery

When Steve Jones of Pateros Creek Brewery began the journey to turn his passion for brewing beer into a business, he may not have predicted just how long that trip might take. Much like a raft trip down Pateros Creek – an early name for the Cache la Poudre River – the route from concept to selling beer had a few obstacles in store.

After trade marking a business name and announcing it, another local business expressed concern about possible confusion with a similar, long-used and unprotected name. Out of respect, Jones held a contest asking supporters for naming suggestions. A local craft beer drinker, Josh Ritter, submitted Pateros Creek

Jones drafted a business plan and took that to the SBDC. “They really opened my eyes – it was not what it needed to be” Jones notes. “It needed a lot more substance, especially when it came to my financial projections.”

Under the guidance of an SBDC counselor and the business plan writing class, Jones’ plan went from four pages to 24 through several rounds of revisions. “Our counselor really asked the tough questions. If you believe in your idea, he expects you to back it up. That really helped in creating the plan, and it was great preparation for talking to investors. I’m still amazed at how many businesses start without a plan.”

Despite the preparation and advice, raising the first round of capital was challenging. Jones found it hard to convince prospects that the numbers of beer lovers in northern Colorado would generate the demand needed to support the brewery; but as word got out about what he was up to, financing fell into place.

With the business plan complete, a new name in place, and investors on board, Jones purchased brewing equipment and leased space from another craft brewer and set up a contract brewing agreement. Initial efforts focused on the basics – creating great beer, selling kegs, building cash flow, and purchasing ingredients for the next batch to be brewed.

Meanwhile, Jones, his wife, Cathy, and dad, Bob, were scouting locations to open their own brewing facility and tasting room. They found a spot in Old Town Fort Collins in late 2010 that needed some TLC, and worked for six months to prepare the space for their June opening. “Our location, along College Avenue and near Old Town Square, is great. We really benefit from all the existing foot traffic in the area.”

Pateros Creek is seeing better than projected financial results, and is now ramping up its brewing volume. The Jones family, along with friends and investors, are selling kegs, growlers and pints of five different brews. They’re waiting on additional fermenting tanks to arrive, and looking forward to hiring full-time employees next year, expanding, and starting to can their beer. Pateros Creek beers can be found on 12 taps at nine area bars and restaurants, which also draws people to the tasting room.

“We just wanted to create a great place to go, hang out, and drink quality beer, and the SBDC helped us bring our vision to life.”

Little Bird Bakeshop

The Little Bird Bakeshop opened its doors on December 14, 2010 and since then has developed a loyal following. On any given morning, a passerby wandering through Old Town Square in Fort Collins can peer through the bakeshop’s inviting façade and watch customers sipping coffee and enjoying delicious chocolate croissants, chocolate walnut cookies, and other pastries. With its friendly atmosphere and fresh, creative confections, it will take only a glance before you walk through the door to see for yourself what all of the smiles are about. Once you do, you will find yourself a loyal follower as well.

Amy Marsh has always wanted to be a pastry chef. Her passion has carried her from a bakery in Boulder, to the Pacific Institute of Culinary Art in Vancouver, BC to New York City, and eventually home to Fort Collins. “Everything just fell into place,” she says of her return to Northern Colorado two years ago. “The location opened up and funding became available.” Amy’s passion is the creativity that she puts into her creations. “I get to create something every day. It doesn’t have to be the same thing. The spontaneity keeps it interesting. I love the creative aspect of it, it is my artistic outlet and people get to enjoy it.”

Amy first met with a counselor at the SBDC a year and a half ago when she was having difficulty with a name for her business. She had chosen a name and there was a conflict with another local business. “The SBDC helped. The counselor advised me not to open a business already struggling.” Amy took this advice and decided to cut her losses and find a different name. Amy credits the SBDC with contributing greatly to her success. “The name concept was very difficult to let go of.” As Amy was letting go and creating a new name, the issue was creating somewhat of a buzz and the Coloradoan wrote an article about it.

Since then, Amy has received positive feedback from customers on the name of her bakeshop and it has brought locals through her doors. “The outside, objective insight and encouragement” she received from the SBDC has been a key contributor to her success. Amy keeps up with the SBDC by reading SBDC monthly emails and publications. The counselor who assisted her through the name change decision has been into the bakeshop a few times. Once things settle down a bit Amy plans to take some of the SBDC classes.

Amy considers one of her most important successes to be the people who have chosen to be her staff at The Little Bird Bakeshop. “They really like being here and enjoy working with the customers.” Friendships have developed between staff and customers and in its one year of business The Little Bird Bakeshop has already found loyal fans. The Little Bird Bakeshop is not a traditional bakery. The menu is constantly evolving and Amy’s primary focus is on breakfast pastries. They bake two varieties of bread each day, and you’ll find the fresh bread available in the late afternoon, convenient if you want a loaf for dinner, rather than the early morning tradition of some bakeries. This is just one of many details that make The Little Bird Bakeshop unique. With the help of the SBDC, The Little bird Bakeshop has found its niche and brings sweetness and warmth as a welcome addition to Old Town.

Java Raiz

Need a quick boost of healthy energy? Java Raiz can save your day. Made with organic Flame raisins grown in California and 100% Kona coffee from Hawaii, Java Raiz is a healthy treat you can take anywhere. The ingredients are simple, but extremely good for you. Organic Flame raisins are made from red grapes, which include more antioxidants than a typical (Thompson) raisin. Kona coffee beans are grown in volcanic soil, which provides many more minerals and nutrients than other coffees. The newest Java Raiz product includes natural unsweetened cocoa with the coffee for a mocha flavor. Coming soon, the third Java Raiz product will be cocoa-only raisins, made especially for kids.

Here’s a Secret

“I never liked raisins,” admits Linda Greigo, “but I knew I should be eating them for my health.’ Her creation of coffee-infused raisins was originally an accident. “But it made the raisins taste so much better!”

Linda’s business, Earth2Man, was created with the hope to promote environmental education for children throughout the world. Java Raiz, which she started selling in May of 2011, is a subset of that goal. A percent of profits will go to environmental programs that educate youth and provide hands-on opportunities that teach children how to protect our planet. Her beliefs are echoed on all Java Raiz packaging: Earth2Man = Conserve

Special thanks to the SBDC

Linda was a field service engineer before starting Earth2Man, and knew nothing about starting a business or the process of getting a food product to market. “The classes and the people at the Larimer County Small Business Development Center were, without a doubt, the foundation for my business. Carla (Starck) and Terri (Donovan-Keirns) were so committed to my needs and questions – without them, I’d still be doing research. Terri even helped me push my old truck to get it started one day!” said Griego.

Linda was a field service engineer before starting Earth2Man, and knew nothing about starting a business or the process of getting a food product to market. “The classes and the people at the Larimer County Small Business Development Center were, without a doubt, the foundation for my business. Carla (Starck) and Terri (Donovan-Keirns) were so committed to my needs and questions – without them, I’d still be doing research. Terri even helped me push my old truck to get it started one day!” said Griego.

The SBDC provided knowledge, resources and business contacts. One contact Linda made through the SBDC was especially helpful: Amy and Gregg Lasley, owners of the commercial kitchen where Linda now makes Java Raiz.

Try Java Raiz for yourself!

Java Raiz can be purchased online at JavaRaiz.com, locally at Bath Garden Center in Fort Collins, Old Feed Store in LaPorte and Alfalfa’s Market in Boulder. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Hanalei, Hawaii, you can purchase Java Raiz at Savage Gifts and Gourmet. Linda will also make appearances at the Fort Collins Winter Market and the Old Town Farmer’s Market in the summers.

Rain Boutique

Opening Rain Boutique, a shop featuring refreshingly wearable clothing with a sprinkling of unique gifts and housewares, took a lot of guidance. That was when Kristin Mouton turned to the Larimer County Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for practical advice.

“My counselor at SBDC really kept me going and gave me a lot of reassurance, even after I had been turned down by two banks for a business loan,” said Mouton.

Mouton started with an idea and a name – Rain Boutique – first visualized while enjoying a summer shower. When a few of her favorite shops in Old Town Fort Collins closed, she started traveling to Flatiron Crossing in Broomfield to shop at stores that suited her style. While speaking to shop owners at the mall, Mouton learned that close to 40 percent of patrons at Flatiron Crossing were also traveling from northern Colorado for the same reasons.

Mouton took several classes at the SBDC, including Know Thy Numbers: Basic Bookkeeping; So You Want to Start a Business; I Need Financing, What Now?; and Credit Card Processing. Then she started working with Andrea Grant, her counselor, to build her business plan, find a location, secure financing and procure inventory.

Mouton came back from her first buyers’ fair so excited about the merchandise she saw but a little overwhelmed as well – there were 3,500 different brands and suppliers with many products not available in Fort Collins. Within a few days of returning from New York, Mouton received loan approval. She was on her way to achieving her dreams.

“Once I found the right space, I started working on store layouts, finalizing inventory and renovating the space,” said Mouton. “I found going to buy apparel complete madness, especially when I had to stick to a budget, but it was so much fun to finally see it all come together.”

Overall, Mouton says that having a great support system – through friends, family and the SBDC – really made a big difference.

Branch Out Cider

The idea for Branch Out Cider, a community orchard that produces apple wine from neighborhood trees, began with one special apple tree. When Aaron Fodge and Matt Fater sat down to discuss their business and share their story, they were quick to point out the lush, flowering apple tree in their neighborhood that started it all. “The tree was loaded, so we made cider with it!” That was the first year. The next year they bought a press and collected apples from around the neighborhood. Their first batch made more cider than they could use, and neighbors started coming by. “We made a party out of it.” Then they noticed how many trees there were and that no one was doing anything with the apples.

After four years of making cider, last summer they decided to take a sample of how many local apple trees there are and devise a plan to bring them into use. “We wanted to do something with the forgotten apple trees.” They fine tuned their cider process and began to make apple wine. During this time, they also began to write a business plan and enlisted the help of the SBDC. “We needed validation that this will work. Tree owners are actually customers. We want to create a community orchard where people’s trees contribute to the orchard.”

Matt and Aaron worked on the business plan over the summer and used GIS to map local apple trees. In November 2011 they submitted an abstract to the Monfort College of Business’ Third Annual Entrepreneurial Challenge. They presented their business idea, developed a sales pitch, and submitted their business plan. “In that month of preparation, we met with Arnie Culver with the SBDC. Arnie critiqued the plan and gave us very valuable ideas to put into the plan.” A one-hour consult turned into an hour and forty minutes of brainstorming ideas, mostly focused on secondary services. “Arnie stuck around well past that hour. He gave us 4-5 solid ideas that we have since added into the business plan. He was a straight shooter and we knew that he would tell us if this wouldn’t work.” On March 8, 2012 Matt and Aaron competed in the Challenge against four other companies and won 2nd prize and $10,000 startup capital for Branch Out Cider. The SBDC will be reviewing their plan again, and Matt and Aaron plan to continue to work with the SBDC.

Matt and Aaron share the ethic of not wanting to see things go to waste. One of their goals is to use an urban environment to promote sustainable agriculture. Branch Out Cider’s passion for bringing the community together to create a fresh, local product is clear in the enthusiasm with which Matt and Aaron share their story. “It was fun to bring a new idea to the neighborhood and see how excited people got.”
They will be signing up trees this fall, with the first batch available next spring 2013. If you have an apple tree with some extra fruit and a story to tell, Branch Out Cider is the place for you!

The Magic Bus Tours

Fort Collins has an amazing amount of things to see and do. No business, however, had offered a service as fun and forward thinking as Magic Bus Tours to create a unique and educational experience around the local activities.

“When I first started visiting Fort Collins, I loved learning about the local history, lifestyles and culture, but I couldn’t find another bus-tour service in town,” said Michael Murphy, founder and visionary behind Magic Bus Tours. “After moving to Fort Collins in 2011, my goal was to create a multimedia tour company to bring the tour to life while educating people about Fort Collins.”

His vision became a tour company with a 21-seat tour bus painted with whimsical artwork that exemplifies the culture, history, landmarks and environment of Fort Collins. Each tour features multimedia with audio, photos and video to bring a multidimensional perspective to the journey. Currently Magic Bus Tours offers a Fort Collins History Tour with a craft brew tour being added in May, a farm-to-table tour in June, and a ghost bus tour scheduled to start in September.

Murphy started the process to establish the business in May 2012, but knew it would be a big project and wanted to start it right. He turned to the Larimer County Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Fort Collins for guidance and discovered a whole lot more.

“The SBDC was an incredible resource and gave me an incredible head start,” said Murphy. “They provided education in accounting, marketing and human resources to help me get past the learning curve and start my business off on the right foot.”

In addition to education, the SBDC also provided Murphy with assistance in choosing the best form of legal entity, how to collect sales revenue, and how to successfully yet cost effectively promote the business.

“I was grateful the SBDC could provide people in the know to improve my success because there were surprising hurdles along the way, such as overcoming regulatory requirements,” said Murphy.

Overall Murphy enjoys knowing that he wakes up each day doing something he loves and making his dream a reality.

“Although it took an insane amount of time to get the ball rolling, it feels good to see this living thing take shape,” said Murphy.

As Magic Bus Tours grows, the business will continue to be local and promote local. Long-term plans for the company include creating field trips for the Poudre School District and establishing a Fort Collins Story Project, a library of local oral history designed to capture stories about Northern Colorado that have shaped people’s lives.

“My advice to others who want to start their own business is to do your homework and connect with the SBDC office,” said Murphy. “They help establish a strong foundation for your business to help ensure it will succeed.”

Magic Bus Tours offers excursions year round with the greatest number of tours offered during the summer months. Many of the tours depart from the Sports Authority parking lot on College Avenue. Private tours can also be arranged by contacting Magic Bus Tours. For additional information and to purchase tickets, visit www.themagicbustours.com.

Rodeo News

Siri Steven has a passion for life, a desire to educate, and a work ethic and determination that have made Rodeo News the successful, nationally recognized magazine it is today. “This is the culmination of all of the things I have learned in 40 years.” Good friends, life circumstances, and hard work brought Rodeo News into her life, and she has devoted herself to its success completely.

After getting her start working on the publication Fence Post, Siri moved onto Roping Newsletter in 2001. She bought the magazine that would become Rodeo News in 2002. “I had a vision of what I wanted but no idea how to get it. I lacked the business sense.” Siri turned to the SBDC for help. “I got into this from the journalism side and went to the publishing side. I needed help with the financial and business sides.” Larimer SBDC consultants helped Siri get her business plan in place, register with the State, and get the name trademarked. With the support of the SBDC, she has brought Rodeo News from a monthly publication to a national, color, glossy magazine in 10 years. “When I first started, I had a cot in my office. You have to be ready to breathe it. Be ready for the buck to start and stop with you.”

Siri has had a successful relationship with the SBDC and continues to use the support offered by staff and consultants. “There was a period of time when I was about to go under. Jim at SBDC helped me through it.” Rodeo News fills a niche; it is human interest stories cover to cover. However, the print industry is fading, and reinventing ways to encourage people with alternatives to print is challenging. The SBDC’s Leading Edge – NxLeveL class has provided Siri with the support and structure to get her ideas down on paper and re-write her business plan. With support from the SBDC in research and marketing, she is ready to take Rodeo News to the next level.