Success Stories

Mulnix Veterinary

When Dr. Michelle Thomas moved to Fort Collins in 1996, as a newly-minted veterinarian from Washington State University, she landed a job as an associate with Mulnix Animal Clinic. Little did she know she would one day own and operate that business.

Dr. Thomas and a couple of partners bought Mulnix Animal Clinic from the retiring founder in April of 2015. Mulnix had about 7-8 employees. She says “I found myself with a business. There was so much I didn’t know. I researched the SBDC’s website, and signed up for the business consulting”.

The Larimer SBDC had the perfect resource for her. Consultant Dr. Robert Coffey is also a veterinarian with strong financial skills, and the previous co-owner of a vet practice.  Dr. Thomas had this to say about his consistent support and help –  “Dr. Coffey has been an invaluable resource! I am sure he shuddered when we first met, at my inexperience. He helped me understand how to read financials and financial ratios.  He helped me use that data to improve the business, and make sure it was profitable. We would meet monthly to make decisions.  He helped with various human resource and pricing issues.  I am so thankful for his experience, mentorship, and friendship.”

In 2017, Dr. Thomas bought out her partners, and became the sole owner of Mulnix. She also received human resources consulting from Tina Todd with SimplyHR, and marketing consulting from Lee Porter.  In 2020, her business surpassed $1M in annual revenue.

In November 2020, Dr. Thomas elected to sell her business to Carevet LLC, who operates about 60 veterinary practices nationally.  She says “my staff, now at 13, is very excited about the change, and so am I.  It’s nice to have a larger team behind me, so I can focus on veterinary medicine. We’re also expanding into a 5500 sq ft facility, from our current 1800 sq ft.”

Dr. Michelle Thomas lives in Fort Collins with her husband and two almost-grown children.

Her advice to local entrepreneurs?   “Visit the SBDC!”

Blue Pine Construction

Blue Pine Construction is based in Wellington, and run by the husband and wife team of Mike and Lorilyn Bockelman. Their company does home  construction/remodeling, and a variety of outdoor “decking” projects, throughout Northern Colorado. Mike’s construction background, combined with Lorilyn’s retail management experience, makes for a productive combination. They have grown the business significantly over the last few years.

Blue Pine Construction now has 10 full time employees, including a new production manager. Mike is a Air National Guard serviceman, and tries to hire veterans when possible.  A project coordinator helps with client communication. Mike says “We spend a lot of time communicating status to our clients. Communication is our secret sauce.”

In 2020, Blue Pine Construction participated in a specialized SBDC program called ScaleUp Smart, which was significantly funded by the Wellington Town and Chamber of Commerce. The program produced customized marketing evaluations and recommendations. Lorilyn said “We didn’t have any active marketing. This program helped us clean up our website, and gave us the knowledge to tailor our marketing, and we work on select tasks every month now.  It also helped us focus on more appropriate projects. Right after completing the ScaleUp Smart program we hired a marketing company to help with our social media and
implement what we learned as well.”

Lorilyn adds “We got started with the Larimer SBDC through a HR class, done by Tina Todd of Simply HR. It was very thorough.”

Mike and Lorilyn also met with SBDC construction consultant Andy Meade. Mike commented “We discussed job costing, and also talked a lot about corporate structure; it was really helpful.” SBDC Director Mike OConnell also assisted with proactively using financial ratios to help meet profitability goals.

Today, Mike and Lorilyn report that Blue Pine Construction “is on track to meet all of our goals”, despite the current challenges of material cost increases and shortages.

“We got a great combination of SBDC assistance, across several aspects of our business, it wasn’t any one big thing.”, Mike remarked.

We at the Larimer SBDC look forward to continuing to work with this great local business!

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.

By 2020, many of these financial and manufacturing improvements were in place at CCV. The COVID pandemic provided an unexpected sales boost. Derek commented “our sales doubled from 2019 to 2021”.

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.