James Ranch Grill

Cynthia Stewart’s entrepreneurial story is one that brought her around full circle.   The values instilled in her childhood were reinforced and focused on the establishment of the James Ranch Grill.  Cynthia is the daughter of Kay and David James, the founders of James Ranch, and one of five siblings.  The ranch was established in 1961 in the Animas Valley north of Durango.  As a child, she was taught how to care for animals, as well as weed and harvest in the garden.  Unlike other children at that age who got to stay inside and watch television, Cynthia and her siblings spent their time doing chores and given responsibility.  Life beyond the ranch looked more appealing.  When each sibling turned eighteen, they left the ranch to seek a life unrelated to agriculture.  As years went by and their experiences broadened, they all eventually returned to the ranch. Cynthia was appreciative for her work ethic and believes that is a foundational characteristic of who she is as a person today.

Cynthia bought a small food wagon and sold meals from it at the ranch one year after returning.  In addition to her parents raising grass-fed only beef, her brother made raw milk cheese and her sister sold produce raised from the ranch garden.  Cynthia liked the farm to table concept and incorporated family products into meals for customers.  She had served up to three to four hundred meals on busy days out of that eighty-square foot wagon, five months each year, for six years.  The production was more than the business infrastructure could handle.  On top of that was the stress of hiring seasonal employees every year.  Cynthia had concluded that the business would need to expand into a larger facility or shut down.  The family always shared their plans and concerns while also providing support for each other, as each business was as an extension of James Ranch.  This was another value she grew up with.  They decided the best option was to expand into a building large enough to market and sell all products produced on the ranch.

In 2018, Cynthia’s sister, Julie, received an email from family friend and Small Business Development Center (SBDC) advisor Cindy Dvergsten.  The email came from a SBDC newsletter that informed readers about a holistic management class that was to begin that November, and taught by Cindy.  Cynthia was interested and signed up.  The approach required the students to identify their personal core values and answer how those values align with their business.  Another key component is to build a business around like minded people.  Cynthia said, “The business is like a plant.  A plant will rise or fall depending upon it’s root strength.  The focus is on people.  People represent the root system.  They need to recognize what their core values and goals are.”  Cynthia had studied business before but appreciated the lessons to look within oneself.  “The class was told we are the roots of what people will see on the surface.  I was expanding, starting over from one business model to another.  I was to move from an eighty-square foot kitchen into a two hundred sixty square foot kitchen, within a four thousand square foot building that offered indoor seating.”

The class and Cindy’s guidance assisted Cynthia’s transition.  One change Cynthia would implement would have the James Ranch Grill open year-round.  Cindy taught Cynthia how to financially project how much business would drop over the winter months by researching restaurants in town, and strategically apply her summer financial numbers towards potential winter numbers.  The final business plan that came from the SBDC class demonstrated to her family that opening the grill would be worthwhile venture, and to her investors, that the business would earn money and be deserving of a loan.

Cynthia summarized her holistic management class as the best practice to operate her business.  “It was so much deeper than selling food.  This is about stewarding the land and acknowledging that the decisions we make will have an effect on the community and future generations.  This must be kept in mind.”  Cynthia also applied the lessons of identifying core values in her search for hiring employees.  She required job applicants to fill out a work sheet to identify their core values for eventual hire.  Having employees with matching values brought great results.  Cynthia said her staff is fabulous.  She is so happy.

Cynthia concluded, ‘Entrepreneurs would benefit to see the different classes SBDC offers.  This class was diversified and was not a standard business approach.  For SBDC to provide that for a community is great.”

Pathways Physical Therapy

Cindy Schmidt has been a physical therapist (PT) for over twenty years and had worked over a decade in Grand Junction in various traditional settings.  At the same time, Cindy created her own part-time holistic PT practice and founded a non-profit organization to support holistic health care practices and improve communication amongst holistic and conventional practitioners.  She accomplished that with the assistance of the regional Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Cindy moved to Durango in November of

Read More »
Mountain Dough Bakery

Cupcakes…cookies…muffins…scones…is your mouth watering yet? Kim Solecki has always had a love for baking. It’s a passion she shared with her mother, and she’s always known she wanted to pursue it as a career. But, with a successful career in technology sales, she wasn’t sure how to fit it in. In 2011, she started attending classes at Johnson and Wales on the weekends. “I didn’t want my day job to know, so I snuck into

Read More »
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

Read More »
WildEdge Brewing

Tucker Robinson once worked as an archaeologist who brewed his own beer at home in his spare time. His affinity for making quality microbrews eventually led Tucker to pursue craft brewing as a profession. In 2013, he wrote an initial business plan with the goal of opening his own microbrewery in Cortez, CO. Several years later as his business plan seemed close to completion, Tucker interned at his friend’s brew pub in Rochester, NY. He

Read More »
Doggy Day Care

Jeff Edens learned about Doggy Day Care in Pagosa Springs because his friends Maria and Linda worked there. He purchased the business in July of 2011 and now they both work for him. Edens had a good business background as a result of previous business experience as a home builder and realtor. Doggie Day Care provides socialization for the dogs which includes reinforcing proper social manners such as no barking, no fighting and no jumping.

Read More »
Sunnyside Farms

By Malia Durbano When Holly Zink decided to open her fresh, local and organic meat and seafood business in 2002, she called Joe Keck to learn how to set up a corporation and to “make sure all my bases were covered.” When she moved to her new location inside of Nature’s Oasis in 2007, she realized there were some issues and difficulties with profitability. In 2008, she and her husband, Jesse Villanueba, attended the NxLevel

Read More »
Skip to content