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 installing more-powerful Subaru engines. RMW also does service work on Westys, plus Dodge and Mercedes camper vans, at its Terry Lake (north Fort Collins) facility. Mike says “We’re working on 30-40 year old vehicles. We’re solution-oriented”. Mike handles business development, and Greg handles the R&D and operations.
In the 90’s, Mike worked as a mechanic at a European auto repair shop. “The owner hated working on Westys, so I started buying, then repairing them. Then I started selling them on eBay. By mid-2000, everybody wanted one. We incorporated in 2004, and Greg became a partner in 2005.” RMW bought the 7000 sq ft Terry Lake fabrication facility in 2007. In 2017 RMW acquired a California-based Westy parts supplier, and added a leased 4000 sq ft parts warehouse. RMW will purchase a 16,000 sq ft north Fort Collins facility in the summer of 2018.
Mike works regularly with Larimer SBDC consultant Andrea Grant. “I get guidance on what’s really important. I can’t imagine what our business would be like without it. It’s those little nuggets that you take away, and how to address challenges. My business has grown 20 times from when I started getting consulting.” Andrea was the Larimer SBDC’s 2015 consultant of the year. Mike also receives human resource consulting from the SBDC, and participates in LoCo Think Tank, a Northern Colorado peer advisory organization.
RMW will do $6M in sales this year, with twenty one employees. Mike says his top two challenges are “Adapting our infrastructure to our growth, including workforce; and embracing technology. I’m learning the healthy combination of doing this for the passion and the money. I still have my first van!”