Success Stories

Desert Child

If you’ve ever thought about starting a professional band, you know that there are a number of obstacles that need to be overcome.

But, did it ever occur to you that the band is a business? This is what ultimately led Ari Newman and his band, Desert Child, to the SBDC.

Desert Child’s journey began in the Utah desert, when four of the five members met as guides with Open Sky Wilderness Therapy. All of the men had musical backgrounds, and through their time in the wilderness, they soon realized that they had more to offer than simply playing Kumbaya around the campfire. But, none of them dreamed they would be able to play professionally.

As they researched the music industry, they realized that there was a real demand for local bands to play at weddings. They released a music video, which brought in more than 20 bookings. “The weddings gigs are fueling our dream of being an original touring band,” Ari explains. “It’s all about an effort to fund our art.”

They also discovered that they have a unique niche. All of the members come from a spiritual background, and through guiding, they’ve learned to communicate and work together. “We’re not coworkers,” Ari explains, “We’re friends and brothers.” So far, this has proven to be a key to their success.

By 2020, the band had been formed, and leader Ari Newman stepped away from guiding to take the band full time. That’s when he sought out the SBDC.

“Mary Shepherd was key in explaining how to start the LLC, what to look out for, who to connect with, and how to stay up to code. She’s served as a mentor who’s been able to go over details in a relaxed way.”

Ari continues to meet with Mary several times a year to determine the best method for driving revenue as a local business.

In 2022, the band changed their name from Durango Tire Fire to Desert Child, which proved to be a great move. They’ve played weddings all over the Southwest, including Aspen, Telluride, Santa Fe, Salt Lake City, and of course, Durango. “We came up with the name after working with kids in the Utah desert. From Biblical scripture to sci-fi, there is a mythic aspect in going to the desert. There is a primordial feeling of being reborn in creation. The new name has a lot of headroom, and we are slowly growing into it.”

In addition to playing weddings, the band often plays at community events. “We’re not just a rock band; we’re very much about the community. Our group is really brotherly, and there’s a positive energy to it,” Ari says.

One of the biggest challenges the band has faced is taking a chance on business ownership. “As any entrepreneur will tell you, starting a business is a risky venture, and there’s a lot of pressure to just give up and join a bigger company. New businesses take time to grow, and, especially in recent years, the landscape is always changing. It can be a windy road,” Ari says.

Against all the odds, the band has persisted and is achieving continued success. They will release their first album this summer, and their goal is to have every member full time by 2024.

If you’ve been dreaming of starting a professional band, or any other business, Ari offers this advice, “Be willing to ask for help and don’t chase the money. Chase the people who make you feel good on the inside. When you’re doing business with them, there’s an authentic connection. It’s not about money but about having a meaningful life.”


Trip Outside

Durangoans know…there’s no better way to explore the outdoors than through human powered adventures.

But, when you’re traveling out of town, that’s not always as easy as it seems.

Both Reet and Julie Singh worked for Home Depot Corporate in Atlanta for a number of years. Reet served in operations, where he worked with tool rental and rental systems, and later, merchandising, where he managed service providers and home product installations. Julie worked in finance, operations, and merchandising. When they weren’t working, the Singhs spent their spare time biking, kayaking, and adventuring.

Through their travels, they often found it challenging to find the best guides, gear rentals, and local resources. Often, they spent more time researching and planning than actually adventuring.

Thus, the idea of TripOutside was born.

In 2017, the Singhs left the corporate world and spent five years traveling in their RV. Their goal was to find all of the best local outfitters and guides and create a hub where they could be all in one place.

In 2018, they launched their website and focused on two destinations: Moab, UT, and Crested Butte, CO. In 2022, they were ready to settle, and they moved to Durango full time. They became part of the SCAPE cohort, which is how they connected with the SBDC.

The Singhs met with Bert Carder several times, and he was instrumental in reviewing their different marketing avenues. He helped them develop their customer value proposition, analyze their ideal customer, and work on partnerships within marketing.

TripOutside now features 350 destinations and more than 5,000 adventures. And, they are adding more every day.

“Our biggest challenge has been awareness. Since we are a marketplace, we started by working on the supply side. Now, we have 5,000+ adventures on our platform for our users, so we’re working on the customer and marketing side, which includes building traffic and improving conversion rates.”

This summer, the Singhs again met with Bert. He helped them build landing pages, do AB testing, and determine which messaging resonates most with customers.

“We’re excited to be part of the Colorado community—there are so many resources here! The SBDC helped us find the resources, bootstrap the business, and identify partnerships. SCAPE was really instrumental in helping us identify ways to grow. Startup Colorado recently sponsored us to attend an outdoor event, which was valuable for building awareness and making connections in the outdoor community,” Julie says.

As the Singhs have found, Colorado has a great network for entrepreneurs, and they encourage other new business owners to tap into the sources around them and collaborate as much as possible.

“Everything and anything is a challenge when you’re first starting out. It’s hard to launch, get funding, find resources, etc. So, take the little wins along the way and find the right partners and support. Also, spend time researching and involving all stakeholders in your launch process. There are many great products and resources out there, and recreating the wheel is not a good use of time or money. Others have done this before, so find supporters and take advantage of their insight and wisdom.”

Straight Edge Home Inspections

Is it really possible to combine many different skills into one profitable business?

It can be done. Just ask Jeff Sand.

His business, Straight Edge Home Inspections, provides residential and commercial home inspections and ancillary services, along with real estate photography and videography.

“Basically, my day consists of a combination of activities. In the morning, I can perform a home inspection, and in the afternoon, I can go to another property and conduct drone and flash photography, a virtual tour, and videography,” Jeff explains.

How did he get into these fields?

In 2008, he got his general contractor’s license and teamed up to launch a remodeling business in San Diego. The business was extremely busy, but it had high overhead, multiple jobs and crews, and a big shop. Eventually, it just became unsustainable, so he closed up shop and moved on with many painful lessons learned.

Jeff and his wife moved to Dolores in 2012, where he tried out a number of different career paths. As anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit can attest, he discovered again and again that he is at his best when he is working for himself.

In 2020, he launched Straight Edge. The SBDC introduced him to Region 9, and they were instrumental in helping him obtain a business loan. When the real estate business experienced a winter slowdown, he started working with Joe Keck, who helped him develop a plan to fine tune his marketing.

Through his work, Jeff came to realize that there is a huge need for realtors to be able to quickly edit photos and videos before uploading them to a website. After spending the past year in research and development, he is about to launch a new product called RealtyFeature. 

The browser-based platform allows real estate agents to upload any combination of videos or images and do some light editing. They can create a branding profile and select animated text features to display on a video. A guided component walks them through the process.

Joe Keck has again been instrumental in the process. “RealtyFeature is an easy way for non-tech savvy realtors to quickly create videos for different applications but still have polished branding and animated features. Joe helped me develop the business plan and marketing strategy before I started to invest money and time into it. He’s been a source of continuous, evolving support.” Launching a business is no easy feat, and Jeff offers other budding entrepreneurs this insight: “I heard somebody say ‘Don’t compare your insides to somebody’s outsides,’ and I think that is helpful to keep in mind when developing a self-employment or business project. Chances are, everybody else who has any degree of success still feels like they aren’t up to the task, not smart enough, or not deserving of success. Just keep showing up and strive to improve and embrace that you may be a persistent idiot, and that that may be what makes the difference.”

PJ’s Fine Bamboo Rods

There’s nothing like serving a niche of a niche industry . . . which is exactly what PJ and Rosanna Dufour have set out to do.

Paul “PJ” Dufour has been an avid fly fisherman all his life. A retired carpenter by trade, he discovered the art of handcrafting custom bamboo fly rods years ago. What began as a hobby turned into a business in 2020, and PJ’s Fine Bamboo Rods was born. “Fly fishing is already a niche industry,” Rosanna explains, “and bamboo fly rod fishing is a niche of a niche.”

Prior to launching the bamboo fly rod business with her husband, Rosanna spent more than eight years running a restaurant in Pagosa Springs, which is where she learned about the SBDC. “I bought the restaurant with no industry knowledge and a reputation that needed to be rebuilt, so I was working from the ground up. At my first consultation, the SBDC helped me get my books and payroll set up, which became one of the cornerstones of my success.”

By 2019, the Dufours were ready to sell the restaurant, and the SBDC was instrumental in helping them through the process. 

After the sale, they turned their full attention to the fishing rod business. Although they initially planned to open a brick-and-mortar location, they had to quickly adjust their business plan due to the pandemic.

“In retrospect, starting with ecommerce turned out really well. It gave us the time to do research and development, and we built the brand and business before expanding our offerings,” Rosanna says.

After two years of ecommerce, they were ready to grow. They applied and became part of the 2022 cohort of the SCAPE program. “That was an amazing experience,” Rosanna says. “To be able to make this succeed, we needed all the advantages we could get. With all the tools and resources from SCAPE, we developed a solid business plan. I felt so much more prepared for a startup this time around.”

Last summer, the Dufours signed a lease on a retail space in downtown Pagosa Springs and launched their brick-and-mortar operation. They now offer six-day bamboo fly rod building courses, and participants come from all over the country to attend.

Shoppers can stop in to watch PJ and class participants handcraft bamboo rods. All of the products in the store are natural material based. The apparel is bamboo, and the store features fine woodworking, leather goods, and other items that support local companies with the same values and morals.

“We always intended to expand and enhance the fly fishing community in Southwest Colorado. We didn’t want to be just another fly shop,” Rosanna explains.

Shortly after opening, The Durango Herald visited and wrote a piece about the new shop. Phillips 66 got wind of it and asked the Dufours to be part of their “Live to the Full” campaign. Next month, the company will be featured in Drake’s Fly Fishing Magazine.

Moving forward, the Dufours hope to keep the media synergy going and to continue increasing exposure. Their classes are booked through September, and custom fly rods are booking nine months out. The Dufours are also excited to increase their offerings. This summer, they will host their second women’s fly fishing clinic and adding fly tying classes.

Rosanna says, “We are very grateful for all the support in Southwest Colorado. A lot of business owners could benefit from all of the free resources in available. Mary Shepherd does an amazing job and can help owners build connections in just about any business area.”

SoulRide Psychotherapy

Some dreams are born in a moment, while others take time to grow.

For Aaron Thomas, his journey to a career in psychotherapy and trauma healing has been the latter.

“My vocational journey has always been body based, and I’ve always had a strong interest in the healing arts and human potential. Through the years, I’ve bumped into a number of career paths that led me to where I am today.”

In 1995, he found massage therapy and soon after became a certified massage therapist, which he did for more than 20 years. A few years later, he discovered yoga, which gave him a transformational lens. He started teaching yoga in 1998, and this path led him to meditation. Over the years, he studied all over the world, and he grew to appreciate the biomechanics and health and wellness aspect of each of these practices.

“But, none of those really scratched that itch,” Aaron explains. “I’m a natural born teacher, and I wanted to help people with their transformation. I longed to give them something deeper.”

In 2012, he was living in Boulder and stumbled across mindfulness-based psychotherapy. He hit the ground running. He enrolled in a three-year body-centered psychotherapy training at the Hakomi Institute where he specialized in neuroscience. Then, he stayed for another three years to help the next class.

“I could finally help people at the level I wanted to help them,” Aaron explains.

In 2019, he launched Soulride Psychotherapy and moved to Durango. While he had the background experience and training for the therapy aspect of his work, he was new to running a business. The SBDC helped him get his feet on the ground.

“I took the ‘How to Start a Small Business’ course and learned a lot that I thought I already knew. It grounded me in the logistics needed to run a small business. I’m also grateful for the one-on-one consulting I’ve experienced from them. Those resources have played a valuable role in moving my practice forward. It would be a shame had I not bumped into their office.”

Being a solopreneur, Aaron also appreciated the opportunities to meet and team up with others, so he hasn’t felt like he’s been going it alone.

One of the biggest challenges that Soulride has faced was the pandemic. Since he moved to Durango just six months before everything shut down, Aaron hadn’t had time to get his name out and become known. While other local therapists were overbooked, he was still working on establishing himself in the community. Since he had extra time on his hands, Aaron decided to focus on the back end of his business, which has proven to be a huge benefit.

For anyone who has been wanting to launch out on their own, Aaron offers this advice: “Patience is an underrated asset when it comes to starting a small business. You need to develop the skill of asking for help. And, it’s important to understand that, even though it’s your business, you really can’t do it alone.”

Skip to content