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.”

Southwest Discovered

Southwest Discovered (SWD) is a weekly blog/mini e-magazine founded by Amy and Jim Dodson. Their passion for the Southwest, along with a ‘forever tourist’ mindset was inspiration for the website. What began as a personal blog about the region’s cuisine evolved into a business. SWD would detail their road trips and experiences, highlighting their discovery of Southwest culture, people and landscapes through art and story. When they were transitioning away from the blog in 2015,

Read More »
Rx Grazing Services : Targeted Grazing

What would you do with 750 nanny goats? How about using them for fire mitigation, controlling woody encroachment, and treating oak brush and invasive species? For the past three years, Rx Grazing Services LLC has been moving their herd of goats across the Four Corners Region to do just that. The company has had projects from the La Sals in Utah to the San Juans in Southwest Colorado. Rx Grazing Services LLC requires a minimum

Read More »
The Wigglin’ Pig: Where the Food Tells Its Story

After years of working in various restaurants, Ernie Padilla decided he was ready to open his own business. Food trucks were fairly new to Cortez, and he knew they would be a hit. So, in 2018, he opened The Wigglin’ Pig. After finding success, he was ready to grow and added a brick and mortar establishment to the mix. Both the truck and restaurant serve American BBQ food with a variety of delicious favorites ranging

Read More »
Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch

            Garry and Ming Adams created Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch, a luxurious boutique guest ranch, in Cortez.  When Garry purchased the land in the beautiful McElmo Canyon in 2006, the three dwellings on the property were uninhabitable.  Their goal was to stay true to the land’s western heritage and create a working guest ranch.  Guests would stay in comfortable remodeled houses, part take in the raising of livestock, be offered organically raised foods

Read More »
Ignited Imagery

In 2006, La Plata County Sheriff’s Deputy Andy Wingerd received a simple gift. It was a six megapixel camera from his mother. Little did he know that it would change his life. He started taking photographs, and several of them sold in a gallery in Bisbee, Arizona. He became obsessed. For the next ten years, he continued taking photos and videos and practiced editing them. In 2014, Ignited Imagery was born. He worked at the

Read More »
Higher Grounds

By Malia Durbano Nicki Alley, owner of Higher Grounds Coffee in Pagosa Springs was “really excited” when she won First Place for the business plan she wrote after attending the Leading Edge for Entrepreneurs training. Although her coffee house, bakery and gift shop had been open since 2004, she wanted “a refresher and to update the business plan”. She will be celebrating her 10th anniversary on August 16th & 17th. The eclectic shop features scarves,

Read More »
Skip to content