Summit Ridge Wood Designs

Tobie Beneli and Lin Grady of Summit Ridge Wood Design (SRWD) shifted their business focus from custom woodworking jobs including commercial and residential cabinetry to primarily building caskets. In 1997, Tobie’s relative passed away. The deceased’s immediate family called and asked Tobie to build a casket. The funeral home would not sell them one because they had an outstanding bill and the director suggested the family make one. Tobie acquired the specific dimensions needed and produced a finished casket for the family the following morning.

This experience caused Tobie and Lin to shift their woodworking business to primarily building caskets. “Our primary objective was to make affordable caskets to help people in need.” Some funeral homes can purchase an inexpensively made casket from China and sell it at retail, of up to 200%-600% above their wholesale cost. “We wanted to provide a high-quality casket at a fair and reasonable price.” Tobie added SRWD’s goal is also to educate people that they do not need to go through a funeral home for final arrangements including purchasing a casket if they so choose.

Business grew for SRWD over the following years and the need arose to upgrade their equipment and facilities. Tobie and Lin knew they had to expand from their 30’ x 60’ workshop and casket lining room adjacent to their garage. One piece of equipment they purchased at a trade show was a $138,000.00 computerized router, referred to as a CNC. The CNC automatically loads nine customized tools for precision cuts. “People cannot make the cuts a CNC can make. It also saves us a lot of time.” SRWD also purchased a laser engraving machine which enabled them to personalize the caskets. With the laser they incorporated recognition awards and cutting out veneer designs for a local ski company.

“We purchased the CNC machine in July and it was to be delivered in November. We required financing in order to complete the expansion. We knew of Small Business Development Center (SBDC) through Joe Keck who had previously helped us with our business plan. Joe suggested that we contact SBDC to inquire about a loan.”

Lin and Tobie qualified for and received a $25,000 loan from Region 9, but unfortunately that was approximately $35,000 short of the amount requested. The expansion was to include a larger workshop, the addition of a portable building and three-phase electrical. Lin contacted their bank but never received a call back. She notified Joe of their situation. Joe soon replied and referred them to Community Bank (CB) in Cortez. “Both SBDC and CB worked quickly and efficiently. From SBDC’s referral and having a completed business plan, we received our loan within a week.” The expansion began in August 2003 and was completed by November that year. SRWD’s facility and equipment upgrade was complete.

SRWD’s business took off afterwards. “The focal point remained to help people. This is a tough industry to get involved with because funeral homes do not want us as competition.” Tobie and Lin sell their caskets at wholesale and retail prices nationwide. Their largest customer base is within CO, AZ, UT and NM, in addition to the Navajo Nation. Tobie said, “There are Navajo families that must sell their livestock and raise donations to pay for funeral costs upward of $7,000 through a traditional funeral home. On our website (www.nativecaskets.com) we have information that this can be done much more affordably and is legal in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission.”

“We would highly recommend SBDC to others. They were quick and efficient, and we would never have received our loan from CB without them. Joe always kept in touch and never dropped the ball.”

Earthsense Herbals and Gift Gallery

There is a saying that “if you can dream it, then you can achieve it,” -Zig Ziglar. Lake McCullough is an example of this by turning a hobby into a growing business. Earthsense Herbals and Gift Gallery is a quaint and sunny store located in the heart of downtown Pagosa Springs. Creatively decorated, the store is full of handcrafted items from perfumed soaps, herbal teas and remedies, to silk paintings, porcelain sculptures, greeting cards and

Read More »
Wily Carrot

Kellie Pettyjohn is the proud owner and founder of The Wily Carrot, an organic farm located in Mancos, CO. She came to the lovely Mancos Valley in 2010 via Washington, D.C., to pursue an idyllic lifestyle, work with her hands in the outdoors and become her own boss. Kellie first got her hands dirty when she tended to two acres of vegetables on Dave Banga’s farm in Montezuma County. She interned with him for a

Read More »
Love Untamed Collective

Meg Roberts is the owner of Love Untamed Collective.  She specializes in elopement, wedding and event planning.  Meg first fell in love with the wedding industry back when she was a stylist.  During that time, Meg planned events at home, putting together parties for herself and friends.  Her husband then encouraged her to get into the wedding planning business for herself.  Meg said, “I did.  I started by marketing myself as a bridesmaid for hire.” As her experience grew and creative

Read More »
Enterprise Bar & Grill

Have you heard the story about the entrepreneur who bought a business because she was looking for a job?  Seriously.  She bought a bar and grill in Rico, CO, with no previous business experience.  A year and a half into it she sought assistance from the Small Business Development Center.  This woman took a class designed for entrepreneurs, implemented the suggested practices, became business savvy, and now has a goal to buy the property her bar and grill operates

Read More »
Bountiful Ridge Farms

Rick Goodall is a second-generation farmer in Arriola, CO, whose family grew apples and raised livestock. He married Gerrie twenty-two years ago. That’s when Gerrie was first introduced to farming. While expecting their second child, Gerrie chose to stay at home to raise the children, but the tradeoff was the loss of a second income. Gerrie considered her options and decided to plant a garden. Her first harvest was plentiful, yet it yielded a tremendous

Read More »
Out West Saddlery

By Malia Durbano Out West Saddlery owner Terri Beecher knew advisor Rich Lindblad since they both live in Pagosa. She contacted him for some advice.While most businesses contact the SBDC for help with getting started or growing, Terri had a different problem. After several visits, Rich concluded that the business had great potential for growth. However, Terri explained what a hard time they had finding good help. She and her husband had built a wonderful,

Read More »