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Success Stories

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!

Babette’s Feast Catering & Bakery

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HomeCare of the Rockies

Sandi McCann of Longmont found that when she provided caregiving for her stepmother, she wanted the same kind of meaningful work in her professional life. Sandi had been a marketer for 27 years and was tired of the career, so she launched her own business. She and her younger sister, Maureen, who also desired a career change, started HomeCare of the Rockies, Inc., in April 2012. She is president and chief executive officer and a

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Rocky Mountain Westy

You don’t often see a growing business based on a product that hasn’t been made in almost 20 years, but twin brothers Mike and Greg LaBate built this at Rocky Mountain Westy (RMW). RMW designs, manufacturers, and sells camping and lifestyle parts to Volkswagen Vanagon “Westy” van enthusiasts and service centers worldwide. These products help the van owner upgrade or convert the Westy van, often to performance levels above the original factory model, such as

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Jimena Peck Photography

Jimena Peck is a native of Argentina, who has built a vibrant photography business. “I do mostly editorial work that helps tell a story. I also do food photography and portraits. My style is clean, simple, and especially features natural light. I sometimes travel to remote sites for the project.” After earning a Journalism degree in Argentina, she moved to Holland and began doing photo shoots for the digital marketing platform of a specialized shopkeepers

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Fernweh Hostel

Walking up to the Fernweh Inn & Hostel, you pass through a white picket fence into a well-kept yard with a random dog toy or two scattered about. The Fernweh immediately feels like home, which is exactly what owner and founder Kelsey Schwager envisioned. “My goal is to give guests an amazing experience so they’ll continue to stay at other hostels while traveling. The Fernweh provides a safe, clean and comfortable environment, which is what

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Ragamuffin Organizing & Cleaning

Not all entrepreneurs start with goals of grandiose riches; in the case of Kami Bowker, owner of Ragamuffin Organizing & Cleaning, she just wanted to be able to make her $300 per month car payment. Just three years later, her cleaning business has grown so rapidly, she has chosen to invest the unexpected growth in her vision of a Christian women’s respite ministry. Originally from Burlington, Colorado, Kami moved to Fort Collins for beauty school

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