Tony Martin’s business is to go downhill – fast! His business, DaLe Llama Bike Tours (DLBT), is trending uphill, but their passion is to take people down hills and mountain sides. DaLe is a play on words for a Spanish phrase meaning “let it rip,” and “go for it.” Tony leads mountain bike tours to Ecuador for big descents as they ride downhill and single track. DLBT’s purpose is to shred sick trails, stimulate local economy and share culture.
Last November Tony returned from South America as he mountain biked through Bolivia, Peru, Columbia and Ecuador for a year and a half. Towards the end of his trip he was offered a guide position with a touring company and led two trips himself. He came back inspired and motivated to begin his own touring business.
A friend of his recommended he contact the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Fort Lewis College (FLC) to learn how to get his business going. Tony emailed SBDC’s Hannah Birdsong and set up an appointment with regional director Mary Shepherd. “I met with Mary for an hour and a half. She told me how to put a business plan together and about the process of establishing a business. Mary was super knowledgeable. She used to be involved in public relations and marketing for an outdoor company and offered great ideas for me to connect with others. Mary also explained the choices I had to set up my business as an S-Corp or LLC. An S-Corp has greater tax advantages but comes with more red tape and costs several thousand dollars to maintain. However, she indicated if I submitted a 2553 form I can allow myself to be taxed as an S-Corp without having the specifics or paying out thousands of dollars.” Tony also met with an SBDC advisor for financial matters. He taught Tony how to organize the monetary side of business, highlighting topics such as cash flow and balance sheets. “SBDC advisors also helped me learn what my hidden costs were going to be.”
As Tony worked on his business plan, he entered the FLC ‘Hawk Tank’ contest. The Hawk Tank is a contest for FLC students and recent alumni to pitch their business in front of a board of judges. A winner from each group (student and alumni) would be chosen for having the best business idea based on a detailed business plan and presentation. The winner would be awarded a five-thousand-dollar prize. “I worked on my business plan for six weeks, thirty to forty hours a week. I saw Hannah several times. She reviewed my business plan outline and rough drafts. Hannah also talked to me about social media. She’s a boss! I created two accounts for my business using Facebook and Instagram with her help. Mary and Hannah also let me practice my presentation in front of them. Everything came together for me the day of the Hawk Tank presentation.” Tony’s plan and presentation earned him first place amongst all alumni contestants on April 6th, winning five thousand dollars! All his invested time and effort and paid off. “I have a totally different perspective after meeting with SBDC.”
Tony led his first trip to Ecuador in May and has two more tours booked this coming month. Tony summarized, “SBDC is the most properly allocated money the government has taken out. You can go in anytime and talk with them for free. They have tons of experience. Mary and Hannah are super knowledgeable. They helped me all along the way. Overall, they are really good people. All of the SBDC advisors are knowledgeable and helpful. I totally recommend them. Five star!” Tony concluded, “I give SBDC a huge shout out for making my business possible and clearing a cloud of confusion from me for not knowing what needed to be done.”