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Success Stories

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 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!”

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

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Clay’s Ace Hardware

In 2014, Tim and Julie Kenney purchased Clay’s Ace Hardware, a mainstay of south Fort Collins since the original owners, Jim and Lisa Clay, started the store in 1998. Tim and Julie felt the entrepreneurial call, but did not necessarily want to start their own business, so they began looking for businesses to purchase. Their focus rested on a brand that was recognizable, and an existing business that had a culture built around service to

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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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Pateros Creek Brewery

When Steve Jones of Pateros Creek Brewery began the journey to turn his passion for brewing beer into a business, he may not have predicted just how long that trip might take. Much like a raft trip down Pateros Creek – an early name for the Cache la Poudre River – the route from concept to selling beer had a few obstacles in store. After trade marking a business name and announcing it, another local

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Beau & Belle Littles

The true measure of a successful product is: Does it solve a customer problem? As new, active parents, Paul and Rachelle Baron faced a common problem when trying to take their little one swimming. They wanted a high quality, reusable swim diaper that handled solid waste well, but there was nothing on the market that met their standards. “The problems we saw were that disposables were not good quality, didn’t contain solid waste well, and

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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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