Success Stories

The Repair Doctor

Fabian Rajo is good at fixing electronics. From transistor radios to computers, he knows his stuff.

Last year, while working for a local computer company, he got an idea: he wanted to open a small electronics repair business in Cortez. He realized that many people need their gadgets repaired . . . from cell phones to tablets to apple watches to game consoles . . . and he knew that he had the skills to do it.

But, he didn’t have the background knowledge to launch his own business.

Then, he heard about the SBDC. He immediately signed up for the Starting Your Business Workshop. But, the morning of the class, he came down with COVID and couldn’t attend. He reached out to Allison, and she introduced him to the Leading Edge Workshop series.

Fabian applied for a scholarship and was thrilled to be approved. He attended the first classes, and after that, he hardly slept for three months. “I spent every free minute creating a business plan, researching how to manage and start my business, and more. It was a big step!” Fabian says.

At first, he didn’t think there was any way he could get the funding to launch. His personal finances were tight, but he persisted. “I spent my last $50 registering with the State of Colorado, so I could send Region 9 my Certificate of Good Standing.”

When he found out that his business proposal had been accepted, he was ecstatic.

Fabian and his wife were able to remodel a portion of their home to serve as the business storefront. They chose a 50s theme. The shop has a vinyl player, records from the 50s and 60s, and an assortment of arcade machines that customers can play while they are waiting.

“Anyone who knows me knows that I love the 50s. I just think it was a great time in our history. It was an honest time.” Back then, people didn’t just throw things away. They fixed them, which goes hand-in-hand with Fabian’s business.

Fabian is thrilled to offer his services to the residents of Cortez. And, he does so without any pushy sales tactics. “I wanted to veer away from those sales tactics that I don’t believe are honest or an honest way of living,” he says. So, when people come in for cell phone repair, that is what they get. Fabian is also bilingual, and he looks forward to serving customers who speak both English and Spanish.

Fabian’s long-term goal is to open stores all over Colorado. He loves supporting local economies and teaching repair skills to others. But, for now, he is focused on getting the first store up and running.

Repair Doctor officially opened their doors on May 23. Right now, all of their work is by appointment only. As the business grows, they will start taking walk-ins.

Throughout the process, Fabian has persisted in the face of all sorts of challenges. From activating—then having to reactivate—his account on Google My Business to facing zoning issues, he refused to give up.

For other entrepreneurs, he offers this advice: “The only obstacle you will run into is your own thoughts in your head. Continue to push forward and don’t stop at the first no you receive.

 I wasn’t a great candidate, but I had a great idea. Without persistence and all of the support I received, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

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 of 100 treatable acres for each project, and “The bigger the better!” owner Sarah Bangert says. “This is more cost effective for clients and keeps the goats in one place for a month at a time.”

So, how do they transport so many goats? They are loaded into two semis, which carry about 500 goats each. Upon arrival at the project site, they are herded on horseback and spend their days grazing. At night, they are moved into an electric fence pen.

In addition to providing targeted grazing services, Sarah also breeds, raises, and sells the goats for meat. “It’s a dual enterprise business, and we’d like to expand to 3,000 nannies and service more of the large contracts with big land managers and holders such as the forest service, the BLM, and large energy companies.”

Although targeted grazing is widely used in other parts of the country, the concept is relatively new in Southwest Colorado. When Sarah first decided to launch the business, she attended an SBDC conference, which is where she connected with Cindy Dvergsten. “Cindy was a huge help. She looked over the business plan and financial projections to get them ready for investors.”

The company’s first full season was in 2019–2020, and they’ve experienced a warm welcome from the community. The results from their projects and the potential for this tool have brought attention from cattle ranchers and residents of the Four Corners alike. “People really like it! It’s novel out here. Everyone loves seeing it work,” Sarah says.

One of the highlights of the business has been seeing the success of targeted grazing, especially on gamble oak since this is a huge challenge in our region. In addition, Sarah has seen an improvement in local ecosystems.

Of course, any small business comes with its challenges, and Sarah is quick to speak openly about the hardships facing agricultural entrepreneurs. “I wish people would talk more about the challenges of going into business,” she says. “Cash flow is always an issue, and there are a number of uncontrollable events, like weather. Getting initial financing is a huge challenge because not a lot of people are willing to finance startups. Then, there are the logistical challenges, such as having a full-time employee because the goats need constant supervision. I really commend the SBDC for being an organization that helps entrepreneurs get up and going. We need more organizations that can help people get started!”

So, if you’ve been thinking about launching your own business, Sarah offers this advice: “For any entrepreneur, networking is really important. Do as much planning as you can on the front end and expect things to go differently along the way. Create risk and management strategies and have them in place as early as possible. For those trying to break into agriculture, you have to get creative. Properties are priced for beauty and not natural resources anymore, so you’ll need to do some things different. Just be willing to think outside the box!”

A Fusion of Expertise: Mind Body Soleil

Fifteen years ago, Marie Soleil fell in love with the healing arts.

Like many, she had grown up indoctrinated in western medicine. But, when it couldn’t help her overcome a panic disorder, she pursued more natural means of healing. “When I realized that I could heal myself,” she says, “I was hooked.”

She started working as a massage therapist and soon became a personal trainer, yoga teacher, stretchologist, Master Meditation Teacher, and group fitness instructor.

Marie couldn’t get enough, and over the years, she continued to study. She learned acupressure, aromatherapy, Biofield Sound Therapy, Cranial Sacral Therapy, Chinese Meridian Therapy, Fire Cupping Therapy, Gua Sha, Hydrotherapy, Lymphatic Drainage Technique, Myofacial Release Technique, Rei Chi, reflexology, and much more.

When she moved to Durango in 2021, she knew it was time to launch her own space, so she could fuse all of these experiences. She met with Emily Meisner at the La Plata Economic Development Alliance, and Emily introduced her to the SBDC.

“Mary Shepherd was fantastic. She showed me that launching a business wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. She helped me file for my LLC and get my business license. She’s been someone who helps me brainstorm and gives me a place to bounce ideas.”

Mind Body Soleil launched in 2021, and although she knows it will take time to build clientele, Marie has been excited to see steady growth.

As a firm believer in the power of knowledge, she works to educate every client who walks through her doors. “I feel like if people know the WHY, the HOW becomes easier. When I teach, I bring in my anatomy expertise and am looking at alignment, musculature, and kinesthetic movement.”

Marie understands that healthy habits can be created. Ultimately, we are the ones who do the healing. As a facilitator, she is just there to help.

To encourage her students, Marie recently stepped out of her own comfort zone and launched a YouTube channel. “You have to be willing to stink at something new in order to create something better,” she says.

Ultimately, Marie’s goal is to create a safe space where everyone feels welcome. “At Mind Body Soleil, we have a nonjudgmental clinical approach. I want everyone to feel seen—not judged or intimidated. Everyone who comes in is looking to work on themselves. I want to walk them through those challenges. I want them to come to a space and feel like they belong.”

Her advice to other prospective entrepreneurs? “Learn to trust yourself; the whole process is about taking advice but being discerning. You must have faith in your own abilities. Then, just do it. After all, what’s the alternative? Don’t let people discourage you!”

Follow Mind Body Soleil on Instagram and YouTube at @mindbodysoleil. 

Gleason Bison: Raising Bison

In 2010, Sarah Gleason discovered that she wanted to raise bison.

She was living in Durango and working as a marketing assistant for Zuke’s (yes, the dog treat company), and she became interested in agriculture and livestock.

“I visited a bunch of bison operations,” she says, “and I was hooked.”

Throughout the process, she discovered holistic management, which is a decision-making framework that works in sync with nature to raise animals in a way that is sustainable for the land, animals, and people. Shortly thereafter, Sarah was introduced to Holistic Management International—an organization based in Albuquerque that provides education and training for ranchers and farmers.

She began holistic management training, which is where she met the SBDC’s consultant, Cindy Dvergsten. “That connection launched me on the trajectory I am on now by opening my eyes to the world of managing land and livestock regeneratively.”

But, it would take 10 years for Sarah to make her dream a reality.

In 2012, she went on to work in marketing for Whole Foods before taking a position with the Savory Institute, which was started by Allan Savory, the founder of holistic management. “I traveled the world meeting with farmers and ranchers who were managing their land regeneratively and experiencing incredible results.”

In 2020, Sarah returned to Durango and started Gleason Bison, a 900-acre holistically managed bison ranch in Hesperus. It’s a cow-calf herd, so she sells calves and a meat label. Locally, Gleason Bison meat is sold at Sunnyside Meats and James Ranch. It’s also the only bison meat available from www.REPprovisions.com, where it can be purchased as a subscription and shipped nationally for free.

Sarah understands that relationships have been pivotal to helping her launch her business and overcome a number of obstacles.

“Anytime you make a career shift, it’s challenging,” she says. “And, livestock and agriculture is historically male dominated, so beginning brand new as a female in this industry comes with a unique set of challenges. Of course, the biggest barrier to starting a ranch is getting your hands on cash and capital for land and infrastructure. Partnerships are essential, and the SBDC creates and fosters those relationships.”

Recently, Sarah has been partnering with students at Fort Lewis College, and she was featured in FLC Voices, the campus magazine. She enjoys working with students and teaching them methods and best practices of holistic management.

For anyone who is interested in starting their own business or ranch, she offers this advice, “At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships. With enough human creativity and the right partners, absolutely anything is possible.”

Phoenix Physical Therapy

Phoenix Physical Therapy: Rising from the Ashes.

In 2017, veteran physical therapist SueB Earl found herself looking for a new place to call her professional home.

After working for the Mercy system for more than fifteen years, she unexpectedly lost her position. She pursued the private sector but couldn’t seem to find a good fit.

So, she finally decided to open her own practice.

In 2012, she had launched Footworks—a custom foot orthotics business—as a side gig. At the time, she had no idea how to run a business, and she relied heavily on the SBDC for guidance. Through the years, she continued to be an active part of the SBDC community; she attended the annual women’s conferences and a number of workshops.

But, when she decided to launch a physical therapy practice, which was going to be a full-time venture, she found that she needed quite a bit more help with the business side of things.

“I consulted with Mary, and she gave me some reference materials. She was very encouraging, which really helped! I got access to some different tools that helped me start putting the business together.”

Then came the business plan. Not having a background in finance, SueB felt helpless when it came to crunching the numbers.

Mary connected SueB with Laurie Keck, who proved to be a lifesaver. “She spent at least 10 or 15 hours with me and held my hand through the entire process. I got the information, and she organized the numbers in the business plan, which ultimately allowed me to acquire the loan I needed from Region 9. Her expertise was invaluable.”

Once the loan was secured, SueB needed a name for her practice. Her daughter suggested that she use a name that represented herself, and a friend immediately told her, “Well, that’s easy. Phoenix.”

SueB has been no stranger to challenges in her life, from battling cancer to dealing with professional setbacks and personal calamities, and she immediately knew that the image of a Phoenix rising from the ashes beautifully represented her new life and career.

Since opening her doors in November, the business has been a “soaring” success. The schedule is already full, and she has recently hired a new therapist. “I’m going to need to get back with Laurie to create a working business plan, not just one to get a loan. I’m looking forward to having her help me crunch numbers.”

“I would tell any new business owner that the SBDC is an amazing resource. They are there to guide you, support you, and provide resources, so you are making informed decisions and not just shooting in the dark. Also, Region 9 is great for helping small businesses get loans.”

SueB is also grateful to both the Durango and physical therapy communities who have been incredibly supportive. “Knowing that I’m beholden to Durango and appreciated—that feels pretty good.”