Story and Photos by: Kat Rico
Some entrepreneurs wear the label of ‘serial entrepreneur’ proudly, and Diane Muno is no exception. She spent 15 years in healthcare management as part owner of a Chicago business that was successfully sold. She began looking for a business to buy when she found The Spruce House in Estes Park. “It had a cozy feel, like Grandma’s house, along with good financials.” In 2010, she celebrated the grand opening of The Spruce House and The Christmas Shoppe.
After she took ownership of these two businesses, she discovered a fellow business owner wanted to sell her retail shop, The Bean Blossom, which Diane jumped at the chance to buy and convert her vision for The White Orchid. She had a bridal store concept simmering and decided the brand provided her the perfect opportunity to expand. In 2012, The White Orchid Bridal was opened.
This was about the time Diane had her first brush with disaster. In June of 2012, the area surrounding Estes Park was plagued by wildfires. She recalled taking delivery of inventory as the fire helicopters flew overhead, but her businesses survived.
Diane wasn’t done with disasters yet though; in September of 2013 Estes Park was hit with flooding not seen for well over 100 years. “The flood almost bankrupted us,” Diane said, “but while I was busy worrying about how to meet payroll, my staff were dealing with not having a place to live. Seasonal employees just packed up early, but longtime residents were forced out of their homes and really struggled because there were no rentals available.” One of Diane’s businesses closed for 75 days and another for 10 days, but the impact of loss of tourism lasted longer.
Facing the difficult decision of whether to continue the businesses, Diane applied for an SBA Disaster Loan. “When I got the check, I cried. I was glad that I could continue my businesses, but afraid to take on more debt.” Through this assistance and United Way grants, her businesses were able to continue, but the tourism-based economy didn’t bounce back quickly. She continued working with the Larimer SBDC to apply for the Recover Colorado Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR), which she was awarded in early 2015. “The SBDC outreach and assistance helping us get organized for the application process was crucial.”
Diane worked with the landlord of the White Orchid Bridal property when she saw businesses to the left and right of her store closing. After proposing another business venture, a wall was brought down to expand the shop for Diane’s latest brainchild: a shop with trendier items called Liz & Jo’s. The grant money allowed her to finance the expansion, purchase inventory, advertising, a website upgrade for all her shops and even shoot a commercial.
When asked about the most exciting part of owning multiple businesses Diane says, “It’s about seeing them thrive versus just surviving. Consumerism has changed; the way people has vacation has changed. The silver lining of the flood is that it forced us as a community to deal with changing competitive tourism.”
To help with ongoing economic recovery and planning, Diane contributes to several boards. The town has received an EDA grant for economic development she hopes will move the economy from seasonal to a more sustainable year-round economy. Diane is proud to help move the community forward, both as a business owner and an active individual. “Our contributions will pay off in the future.”
More information about Diane’s businesses can be found online at: