Lizzy Scully, CEO, and Steve Fassbinder, Head Bikeraft Guide, co-founded Four Corners Guides, a multi-sport guide service (bikepacking, packrafting and bikerafting), headquartered in Mancos, CO. This dynamic pair incorporated their passion for adventure with the natural wonder of the Four Corners area to offer guided tours and upscale camping experiences (referred to as glamping, glamourous camping) at their Scullbinder Ranch.
Lizzy and Steve first shared their dreams with each other about teaming up to host and guide outdoor adventure tours two and a half years ago. Eighteen months later, those dreams had taken root. Lizzy’s focus and intention was to become her own boss. Steve wanted to supplement his adventure photography career with guiding. More importantly, together, they wanted to share the extraordinary adventure they regularly had at their ranch and in the backcountry with others. Both were employed at Alpacka Raft. Lizzy built the marketing department from scratch. She was seasoned in some aspects of running a business, but not all. On a bike outing with friends, Lizzy met Hannah Birdsong. Through their early conversation she learned Hannah is the office manager at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Durango, CO. Hannah told her that SBDC supported entrepreneurs through services and education, workshops and mentoring. Hannah encouraged her to follow up and learn how to get her business started on the right foot. Lizzy did as she met with Hannah and SBDC Deputy Director Mary Shepherd. “I felt they really cared about me and were supportive of my ideas.”
Lizzy took advantage of several SBDC programs. The first was a Start Your Own Business Workshop. This a half-day event that provides an array of business professionals discussing the requirements to get a business started along with some details of how to operate it. “I learned a ton. The workshop put pieces of the puzzle together for me. There was a lot I didn’t know. I had run a business in the past, but maybe not the right way. It was a great overview of things I had to dive into, especially legal.”
The second program was taught by SBDC advisor Cindy Dvergsten in Cortez, CO. The class was designed to educate entrepreneurs with an in depth understanding of business organization and planning, with the goal to create a holistically sustainable business that would uplift and utilize the surrounding community in multiple ways. “We were asked how we could make a positive impact on ourselves and our community. The class also provided us with a framework on how to structure our business, and do it specifically to meet the needs we had outlined. This gave me more pieces to the puzzle. I learned how to create a budget and the many components that go into getting a loan. Even now, I am still learning about the breadth of financial spreadsheets. I’m working to create a spreadsheet that makes sense to me while knowing a bank prefers to read one in a way suitable for them. Another important bit of information I learned was how to keep my business separate from my personal life. It would be a liability for me if I don’t.
Entrepreneurs who took the class were offered one-on-one mentoring from SBDC advisors. Lizzy had spoken with Cindy and Joe Keck to incorporate the parts and pieces of this framework to make it applicable to her endeavor. “I gained confidence as I learned how to structure my business, and I learned the steps I needed to take to build out the business framework,” Lizzy said. “If I systematically take care of one thing at a time, it will get done.”
The last event Lizzy attended was the SBDC Women’s Small Business Conference in July 2019. “I learned something from every workshop I took. I figured out that I definitely needed a master accountant to help me with forecasting, cash flow, and teach me QuickBooks.” (QuickBooks classes are another resource SBDC has offered in the past, FYI).
Four Corners Guides has been operational since August 2019, but in a minimal capacity. They are currently hosting beta-tours to work out any quirks and rate customer satisfaction. The SBDC programs and mentoring helped them secure a bank loan. The couple recently broke ground for a barn on their ranch. The barn will serve as the Four Corners Guides base camp. The ground floor will house their office and be utilized to store gear and food. The upstairs will serve as a community room, equipped with a kitchen and wood stove.
Lizzy would recommend the SBDC classes to entrepreneurs. “It will either scare you away or make you more confident to learn a framework on how to run a business. The framework alleviated stress because it helped me know where to start. If you are really stoked about starting your business, it’s an ideal place to get started.”