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Success Stories

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 every traveler deserves.”

Since Kelsey was 19, she’s spent as much time as she can traveling around the states and abroad, staying primarily in hostels. When she speaks about her experiences traveling, her passion is evident. She firmly believes hostels are a wonderful alternative for budget conscious travelers, but there are misconceptions about what hostels are in the United States. This sparked her dream of opening her own hostel. She pursued degrees in business, recreation and tourism, and earned an internship at a hostel in Gunnison, Colorado. Her three month internship turned in to three years of employment, as she learned the ins and outs of managing a hostel. “I knew I wanted to pull people together for a diverse social experience in a constantly changing environment.”

A combination of opportunity and hard work allowed her to purchase the Sheldon House, a designated historic landmark, with an ideal location in Old Town Fort Collins. In July 2014 she moved in, and with the help of friends and family, began the process of converting the old bed and breakfast to Fort Collins’ first hostel. Her biggest challenge before opening in October 2014 was city zoning regulations, but with persistence she received the approval she needed to realize her dream.

After she began accepting guests, Kelsey made her way to the Larimer SBDC. “When I went in, I wasn’t even sure I was a ‘real’ business yet. They’ve given me a lot of confidence and their excitement for me is inspiring.” Through meetings with several SBDC consultants, she received assistance with accounting, marketing and background activities guests don’t see. “Sure, my guests see me cleaning and answering emails, but that’s only about 10% of what it actually takes. All the background stuff, the other 90%, is huge.”

Currently, her hostel provides amenities such as bikes for guests, full use of the kitchen, a common area complete with board games, movies, books, a piano and fireplace, and even a costume closet. “Since I have been open, I’ve surprised myself and created the space to draw exactly the crowd I wanted. It is inspiring me to dream even bigger and think of new ideas.” Showing off the outdoor space behind the hostel, she talks about the future of a food garden, hammocks and a fire pit for summer relaxation.

“I’ve spent years gaining experience in the field, and working with the SBDC this year has been crucial to my success. The assistance and affirmations I’ve received there makes me think, ‘As a small business, who wouldn’t want this help?’”

Hear more of Kelsey’s story at:

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.

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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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August Ink

Taking the leap into entrepreneurialism happens for many reasons and takes you down many roads, as Andrea Daniel has learned. After leaving a full-time job, Andrea decided to begin selling pillow covers on the handmade goods site Etsy, while searching for a job in an unstable economy. Despite a bachelor’s degree in math and a master’s in public administration, she had trouble finding employment. At the same time, what began as a creative outlet to

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Cydney Springer Fine Art

Artist Brushes Up on Business, Social Media Skills After 25 years in northern Colorado as a graphic artist, copywriter, and greeting card designer, Cydney Springer put down the computer mouse and took up an artist’s paintbrush. With two years of study under other artists and a lifetime of interest in painting, she set out to capture the beauty and awe of Colorado landscapes. She works with oil paint in an Estes Park studio with windows

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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

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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

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