Pikes Peak SBDC

Mesa Verde Motorsports

Entrepreneurial blood runs through Jason Spruell’s veins.  His grandparents opened Gene Patton Motor Company in Cortez, CO back in 1970.  The business sold motorcycles, off-road vehicles, snow mobiles and snowblowers.  They also had a service shop.  Jason’s parents, Kelly and Dennis, currently own and operate Cortez Animal Bed & Breakfast which they opened twenty-five years ago.  His brother opened a glass shop six years ago.  “Everyone in the family ran a business,” Jason explained.  “I worked at my grandparents’ shop when I was a teenager.  I loved the industry.  After working at the shop for a few years my grandmother told me I needed to learn about the corporate world.”

He took a few business classes and managed restaurants.  For twenty years Jason worked in law enforcement in Montezuma County and the Town of Mancos.  Jason said, “I had always wanted to have my own business. My grandfather sold his business thirteen years ago.”  The owner did not have family ties.  “I wanted to buy it and bring it back into the family.”

In April 2018, Jason contacted the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Fort Lewis College through their website.  His parents used SBDC and Region 9 before they opened their bed and breakfast.  Jason knew how useful SBDC had been to his parents.  Current SBDC director Mary Shepherd replied to Jason’s request and informed him that Joe Keck, a former director, would be in touch.

“I reached out to SBDC because I didn’t know what to do.  Would purchasing the business be feasible for me?  Was the price right?  Would the business be able to support itself?  When I spoke with Joe, he gave me all I needed to get the process going.”  Joe provided him with guidance, industry information to research and analyze, and financial spreadsheet software.  Jason studied the industry standards and what related businesses were doing.  The two also talked about different scenarios Jason could encounter during the buying process.  “We met and spoke over the phone several times.  The research I had done matched what Joe had found.”  Their analysis concluded conditions were favorable to proceed with the purchase.

The most important bit of guidance from Joe came as a suggestion.  Joe believed Jason should do franchise specific research to help him obtain financing.  Honda, Yamaha, and Kawasaki were the vehicle manufactures Jason’s business would sell.  Once the business was registered with Colorado’s Secretary of State, he could apply for financing from the franchises.  The standard practice in this industry requires a business owner to obtain a financial loan from the manufacturer if capital wasn’t available to purchase the vehicles outright.  Financing would allow the vehicles to be delivered, then showcased for sale on the showroom floor.  Jason took Joe’s suggestion.  He submitted the necessary information and was eventually approved by all three franchises.  In November, almost three weeks afterwards, Jason opened Mesa Verde Motorsports.  He realized his dream and brought the business back home.

Mesa Verde Motorsports has been open for two months.  “I just want to help people get into the vehicle or toy that they need or want.  I would tell everyone SBDC is a great organization.  They listen and do the necessary research.  Joe knows his stuff and has been at it for years.  I am appreciative to Joe and Mary for helping people get into business.”

WeFill

“We are here to care for the future generations of all species.” That is a bold statement. It happens to be the motto for Durango’s newest business, WeFill. Forward thinking owner and biologist Cristin Salaz created her business model to be a part of the pollution solution. WeFill is a refilling station for household and personal care products: dish soaps, household cleaners (all purpose, laundry, toilets and drains), castile soaps, shampoo and conditioning bars, and shampoos for babies and pets. Her mission is to limit the amount of plastic containers in circulation.

Cristin said most of the garbage floating in the ocean is plastic. She was so affected by this that she went from room to room in her home to count all the plastic containers. “I was astounded by how much two people and a cat wasted! I remember how my grandparents, even my parents, shopped without all the waste we see today. There used to be a milkman that refilled out glass bottles. We have gotten away from that. I decided to open a store for people to refill their plastic and alternative to plastic containers.”

The first thing Cristin did with her idea was contact the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Fort Lewis College. Several years ago, Cristin met with Joe Keck to discuss a business plan. She recalled how helpful the experience was. Regarding WeFill, there was no business model to emulate. Cristin first spoke with SBDC Deputy Director Mary Shepherd. “Mary was excited for me and found the idea unique. She has an open-door policy and said for me to come in with any questions, regardless of how silly they may seem. I came in with a list of questions and Mary put me in touch with the right people.”

Cristin met with business operations advisor Carl Malmberg. He helped her understand financial projections. “I didn’t have to know all the answers but I had to decide what my budget was going to be. Carl showed me how to do financial projections on a spreadsheet and had me fill out my personal goals and business aims. All of that goes into the business plan.” Cristin will utilize the plan to see how she can adjust her operation and monitor patterns over time.

Patty Zink was another SBDC advisor Cristin met with. Patty’s background is in marketing and sales. Her advice for Cristin was to network herself. Patty suggested Cristin join Durango’s Chamber of Commerce and the non-profit organization Local First. Both are deeply invested in the community. Those groups would put Cristin in the position to market herself and talk about WeFill. “Patty also told me to get better with social media platforms.”

Hannah Birdsong, SBDC’s office manager, shared a related perspective. Hannah offered two recommendations. The first was to use Instagram as a social media platform. The second recommendation spoke to the qualities Cristin should look for in people she would employ. “Hannah thought it would be best to hire people who have a similar personality to mine. A personality that I, myself, would like to be greeted with. This quality can’t be taught.” Cristin continued, “Hannah also suggested whomever I hired should understand how to use Instagram. I hired two people. I refer to them as my team rather than employees. They take care of the Instagram posts (and teach me how to do it) as they learn all the business quirks and how to talk with customers.”

WeFill opened their doors December 15th. “We had one hundred plastic containers refilled within the first three days of business. We want all our products to be made from plant based materials. Reducing the amount of plastic is our number one goal. Reusing is number two. If we can reuse plastic, that is the best. People feel good after they refill and walk out our door. We view WeFill as an education center too. We can teach and learn tricks from our customers as well. We listen to our customers and take their suggestions.”

Cristin is in the process of applying to SCAPE’s (Southwest Colorado Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurs) 2019 Accelerator program. Acceptance would allow her to pitch WeFill to potential investors and mentors. She hopes to advance her business and improve her model. “I recommend SBDC one hundred percent to anyone looking to start, or grow, a business. I have made numerous recommendations to my friends already. SBDC is so well rounded. They have helped others and have seen so many businesses succeed. They can assistance with anything. Everything from how to start a business to the nitty-gritty of financial matters. They know it all.”

Create Art & Tea

What happens when an entrepreneur envisions a grass roots movement centered around tea and art?  Create Tea & Art (CT&A) of course!  Caprice Fox is building community by combining the comfort and health aspects of tea with a gathering space for local artists and their hand-crafted works.  Caprice said, “People enjoy having tea to come to with the art.  There is an enjoyment of the social aspect.  I’m still learning how to combine them.”  To keep CT&A sustainable, Caprice reached out to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Fort Lewis College.  Caprice took over lease when the previous owner moved out of state.  She first inquired with the Women’s Resource Center.  “I asked, ‘How do I become a small business owner?’”  They recommended SBDC.  Caprice went to the SBDC website, read through their information and scheduled an appointment online.  “It was very efficient.” 

Caprice met with Mary Shepherd, the SBDC Deputy Director for the Southwest Colorado region.  “Mary was over the top with ideas.  She suggested I learn QuickBooks (QB) and consider areas to focus on like how to classify my business and register it with the Colorado Secretary of State, create a vision and business plan, and mentioned different ways to market myself.”  CT&A was Caprice’s first retail business.  She said Mary provided great council and looked to her as a mentor.  “Mary wants to help people.  She even came into the shop and looked things over.  I thought that was going above and beyond.” 

Caprice did attend the SBDC sponsored ‘Starting Your Business’ seminar at the Durango Public Library.  This is a setting in which professionals from numerous backgrounds introduce and address entrepreneurs on proper business procedures.  Caprice followed that with another SBDC program on QuickBooks.  “The QB class was great for me to see where my expenses go and where bank records get recognized.  It also has a profit and loss statement.  This is a way for me to overview what I need to do for next year while I maintain good financial records.”  For those seeking help with SBDC, they allow two personal meetings with advisors at no charge.  Caprice chose to meet with accounting advisor and QB class instructor Laura Hokanson.   

Caprice opened CT&A on Memorial Day and had her grand opening August 17th.  When I took over in May there wasn’t much in the shop.  I had to paint, add furniture and bring in artwork.  I had a tea bar built over the summer.  The Chamber of Commerce had a grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony for me and the store was filled with people and artists.  Mary and SBDC are the reason I got into my business with confidence.  Without guidelines of where to focus my energy I wouldn’t have known where to put my energies.  Personally, the business is a big adventure.  I recommend people jump in, go for it, and do their best.  This is the happiest I’ve ever been.”

Spire Physical Therapy & Wellness

“I want my clients to own their health, empower them to take charge, help them learn, take ownership of their bodies and do what they love.” That is a quote from Jacki Gilpin. She is the owner of Spire Physical Therapy and Wellness, located in Cortez, CO. She chose to leave her previous job as a staff therapist as the clinic’s primary focus was on the bottom line. The structure emphasized billing more each visit and having a patient come in more often instead of getting the patient better. Jacki said, “There was frustration working in that system. I was getting burned out on the clinic’s demands and not enjoying the profession.”

Jacki obtained board certification as an orthopedic therapist as she pondered her next career move. “There wasn’t another setting I came across that worked with my goals and I believed the community deserved a higher level of service. It was near the spring of 2018 when I heard about the Leading Edge program (LE) hosted by the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Durango. I needed help with the planning stages to develop my business. I came to LE with a general idea on how to run my business, but had no business experience.”

Jacki said LE was great to acquire fundamental business knowledge. SBDC advisors taught the ten-week class. “The SBDC consultants have a marketing and finance background. I met with each personally for one-on-one advisement.” The LE program offers two meetings with SBDC advisors in addition to the class. “Those meetings made the class content more relevant to my business and turned concepts into reality.” One example Jacki highlighted was the importance for her to implement a marketing approach called a value proposition, and how she learned to design one specific to her business. “A value proposition would send a loud and clear message to potential customers informing them what makes me special and what separates my business from other professionals.” Jacki also learned from her classmates. “My classmates were in various stages of their own business development. To hear different points of view regarding one specific issue was helpful.”

Jacki’s major challenge was finding a work space. Her initial thought was to collaborate with a local business to keep overhead costs low, but that didn’t pan out. She referred to such challenges as speed bumps. Jacki had to make changes to her initial plans in order to bring her vision to life. Jacki launch Spire in August 2018. She offered physical therapy, dry needling and equipment Pilates in a small rented space in Cortez, and taught mat Pilates from a local gym. That arrangement felt somewhat chaotic and limited. Jacki decided to make a leap and find a facility large enough to provide all her services under one roof. That was the ultimate vision for Spire. She plans to move into her new space early November. “Whether a person is needing help recovering from an injury, illness, looking to maintain or improve their health, I want them to come to me as their first resource.” Jacki’s mission is to focus on her clients’ well-being and overall care as she creates individualized therapy programs. In the future, Jacki would like to host wellness workshops and broaden her service offerings. “I understood that starting a business would be a lot of work. I work more hours than a traditional job and have way more responsibility. I’m a one-woman show, but this experience is much more enjoyable.”

BOMDIGGITY

David Mallin was eleven years old when he visited Big Thompson Canyon one summer with his family. “I had an epiphany there. I was to share the beauty I saw with the world.” Several months later, as David cut wood for kindling, the shape of a bird was revealed in the wood’s grain. He carved that image from the wood. He soon became an apprentice to Kansas City sculptor Adie Klugman, and his artistic passion drew him towards carving and indigenous cultures.

As an adult, David married his wife, Gail, and they had two children. The family lived in Colorado, mostly in the Durango. He was sculpting and had opened several studios at various times. In 2015, after the death of their daughter, Nattie Joy, David and Gail moved from Denver back to the southwest, and eventually settled in Mancos. The town had a thriving art community. David rented a studio in a converted movie theater. However, when the landlord saw his welding equipment as a potential fire hazard, David soon received a notice to vacate.

In the summer of 2017, David saw a ‘For Rent’ sign in the window of the former Mancos Brewery. “I thought that would be a cool place for a studio,” he said. Soon after, David had a dream of that building with a carved owl on the outside and a crowd of people carried out art and gifts from the gallery. In the dream, Nattie Joy gave him the name for his business, BOMDIGGITY. “That was her word for awesomeness.” David had another vision besides art. He wanted to give people the opportunity to experience spiritual and ceremonial artifacts through traditional drums, flutes, and metaphysical goods. He decided to name his gallery and studio ‘BOMDIGGITY – Mancos Mystical Market (B-MMM).’ To create this, David needed a business plan. He recently met Mary Shepherd, the Deputy Director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) of Durango, and subscribed to their email list. One email from SBDC highlighted the Leading Edge (LE) program. LE is a six week class for entrepreneurs wanting to learn how to start a business, create a business plan and provided them with resources to achieve their goals. The class was to be taught by Cindy Dvergsten. Cindy is an SBDC advisor.

As an artist, finance was not one of David’s strong points. “The LE class removed the number crunching anxiety and helped me learn how to budget, set goals and create action plans. Cindy’s background is in agriculture, although her teaching easily crossed over into retail. My biggest lesson was how to price my work. There are a lot of factors aside from wholesale price. There are overhead factors, shipping costs, perceived value and actual value. My art is one of a kind. Determining a price was no easy task.”

Two other areas David learned about were how to structure his business and market effectively. To properly structure B-MMM, David had to acquire a business license, learn about municipal codes, obtain a trade name and learn how to file sales tax. With marketing, “It is essential to determine where my dollars work best. I need to know who my customers are.” David opened his gallery May 25th, 2018, one week before the class concluded.

“I learned SBDC and the LE program were well worth the time commitment the class required. There is a lot of time and effort involved, but what you put into it, you get back. The information was valuable, especially for a startup. What was beneficial was all the information Cindy made available. The resources are great. And, the students were a very diverse group. We all learned from each other.”