Success Stories

Durango Primary Care

Sometimes, there is beauty in tradition.

At least Dr. Adam Owens of Durango Primary Care thinks so. After more than a decade of practicing medicine in modern healthcare settings, Dr. Owens knew he needed a change.

He wanted to get back to an old-fashioned business model that allowed him to spend more time working directly with his own patients. He decided to open a direct primary care clinic (also known as a concierge clinic). Under this model, patients pay a modest monthly fee and can see the doctor as often as they want. The clinic also conducts lab work, provides medications, and more.

Once he had settled on the idea of opening the clinic, he knew he needed help with the business side of things. “I didn’t have a concept for the first steps of opening a business,” Dr. Owens explains. “I was paralyzed from taking that first step. This is where the SBDC was so helpful. I walked in with an idea, and they showed me how to make it happen.”

In meeting with the SBDC, Dr. Owens was able to gain a healthy view of the realities of business ownership. He developed an understanding of what needed to be done, and he spent considerable time making it happen. “I used their assignments to create a business model. They gave me the launch point that I desperately needed.”

In addition, all of the planning and preparation allowed Dr. Owens to quickly make his idea a reality. “When it was time to go, I was able to launch fast because I had a three-month plan in place. I hit the ground running.”

So far, the launch has been smooth. Thanks to his work with the SBDC, Dr. Owens was able to anticipate a lot of issues and plan ahead. In addition, he knows he has people to go back to when he needs help.

“The whole process has been pretty amazing. I understand the business and have the resources when I need them. I’ve even started doing the books. I wouldn’t have opened the clinic without the confidence that I gained through the process.”

Cedar Enterprises Wildfire Mitigation and Landscaping

In just over two years, Cedar Enterprises went from a one-man show with a pickup truck to a team of employees executing government contracts.

How was all this possible?

Owner Bryan Wendt credits the supportive team at Southwest Colorado SBDC.

Cedar Enterprises specializes in landscaping and fire mitigation. For his first five years in business, Bryan was the sole owner and operator and focused on small residential projects. In 2020, the company was awarded a 100-acre forest service contract, and he quickly realized that he needed to invest in equipment in order to fulfill it.

Bryan reached out to the SBDC and was connected with Carl Malmberg. “Carl sat down with me and went through a cost-benefit analysis. He helped me identify the value of the contract, the machine loan payment, the cost of diesel fuel, and more. I began to understand what the risk looked like, so I could develop a plan to move forward. I realized I was going to need a loan, which was nerve-racking, but it all worked out great. It was the first major stepping stone in the company’s growth.”

Ultimately, Cedar Enterprises was able to execute the contract in just three months, and the company has continued to bid on and receive other government contracts.

Soon, Bryan realized he needed help and hired two, full-time employees. Then, in 2022, business started to slow down. Fire mitigation calls weren’t coming in, and he was facing huge expenses.

He was connected with Bert Carder to review his marketing efforts. The first thing Bert noticed was that his old website was not secure. This meant that any prospective visitors would get security flags before visiting the site and that very few would actually be willing to click the link. He also identified a new competitor on the first page of Google, which meant that Cedar Enterprises was being out-marketed.

“Bert helped me put together a new website in just a few days. We ran some Google ads, and I quickly landed a job that paid for all the work he did and then some. He went above and beyond the call of duty to help me and saved our season this year.”

Bert also showed Bryan the importance of Google reviews, returning phone calls, and displaying a professional image—all of which reflect the quality work that Cedar Enterprises is known for.

Bryan is grateful for the SBDC for all of their support. “Cedar Enterprises probably wouldn’t be around right now if it weren’t for the SBDC. Carl, Bert, Hannah, and Mary have all been so helpful and encouraging!”

Farm to Summit

Nothing says Durango like dehydrated meals.

After all, we use them for everything…camping, backpacking, river trips, backcountry ski trips, and even lunch on busy workdays.

Thanks to Farm to Summit, you can now purchase dehydrated meals made right in the heart of Durango! The company also makes instant lattes for those mornings when you don’t have time to stop by the coffee shop.

“Our focus is on providing better tasting meals for the backcountry market,” says co-owner Jane Barden. “Our meals are also better for you and the environment. We don’t use preservatives or ingredients that you can’t pronounce, and we work with area farmers to source locally as much as possible. Our packaging is Omnidegradable, meaning that it is compostable AND can break down even in a landfill.”

Jane and her business partner, Louise Barton, are passionate about giving back to the local community, so 2% of their proceeds are donated to nonprofits working to decrease food insecurity.

So, how did all this come to be?

Both Jane and Louise are passionate about backcountry adventures, and they have combined backgrounds in farming, fine dining, and ecology. In 2020, they decided it was time to create a dehydrated meal that aligned with their vision for a viable future of food.

When they decided to start their company, Jane and Louise reached out to the SBDC. As a Fort Lewis grad, Jane was familiar with the organization and was thrilled to connect with them. “I really didn’t know how much Durango had to offer in support of small businesses.”

The SBDC helped with their financial projections, which ultimately enabled them to get a loan. The loan was instrumental in transforming their building on North Main into a commercial kitchen. It allowed them to purchase equipment, including a stovetop, prep tables, an ice machine, racks, and a number of other supplies needed for a commercial kitchen.

“Without that loan, we wouldn’t have been able to launch,” says Jane.

The SBDC also directed them toward resources, networking opportunities, and much more. In the spring of 2021, they started selling their meals at the Durango Farmers Market. Now, their meals can be purchased at all the local gear shops, on their website, or at a number of gear stores across the US (including the REI Flagship Store in Denver).

So, what’s next for Farm to Summit?

The owners are looking forward to expanding at a steady rate over the next year. “We are excited to grow and hoping to at least double in size when it comes to production,” says Jane. “We have about 50 wholesale accounts right now, and we want to bump that to 100.”

They also hope to continue bringing on staff. Right now, the company has one part-time employee, and they would like to create at least two more full-time positions. In addition, they want to continue supporting local farmers and giving back to the community.

If their story inspires you, Jane and Louise encourage you to “Get open and put yourself out there! Begin networking and leaning into your resources. Even if you don’t see the monetary value, it’s still valuable because so many people want to share their knowledge with you. Connections mean everything!”

The Painted Playground

A few years ago, Heather Freeman started a paint party business.

She set up painting workshops in local restaurants and created an artistic experience for those in attendance. Then, about a year ago, she dove into creating her own art and realized how much she loved it. She decided to become a full-time, professional artist.

As she shifted to a new business model, she realized that she needed to learn how to sell her art. She reached out to the SBDC and was connected with Bert Carder. “He was so willing to sit down with me, and he helped me focus on the things that would make the most impact. There are so many things to do as an entrepreneur, and it’s easy to spend a lot of time trying to do them all at once. Bert helped me realize that to be successful, I needed to sell. Together, we created a plan do that.”

Based on her meetings with Bert, Heather began to focus her efforts on showing up where prospective clients were ready to buy. She set up an Etsy shop and started a Google Ad based on people searching for the type of abstract art that she makes. In just a short time, she started seeing an increase in followership.

In addition, she was able to let go of some forms of advertising that weren’t bringing in paying customers, such as social media. “After our first meeting, I got right to work,” Heather says. “At our next meeting, Bert assessed what I had done, what was working and what wasn’t, and helped me tweak a few things. At each meeting, he gave me more than I could ever have imagined.”

Looking forward, Heather still plans to make some changes to her website, and the future is bright. She’s doing all of her own artwork and feels inspired to keep creating. “I’m having such a blast painting my own stuff that I don’t want to stop! I’m really excited to make beautiful, colorful, fun art that inspires others and makes them feel good. We all deserve to be surrounded by beauty. Living in Durango, we have so much beauty around us. Everyone should be able to bring that beauty into their homes and offices as well.”

Currently, Heather sells locally out of her studio in The Smiley Building and online to people across the country.

Her tips for other aspiring artists? “As artists, we often feel we need to figure things out and do everything ourselves. My advice is to reach out and ask for support. You don’t have to be a ‘starving artist.’ A lot of people want you to succeed and can help you do that!”

Durango Car Care

After 20 years, Bryan Hill decided it was time to make his dream come true.

He’d been working as an auto mechanic in a local shop but had always dreamed of owning his own business.

When Durango Car Care came up for sale, he and his wife, Jenn, knew this was the opportunity they had been waiting for. They jumped on it. Shortly thereafter, they realized that they needed help.

They reached out to the SBDC and were connected with Bob Jagdfeld. “He was amazing,” Jenn says. “He met with us after hours and helped us hash things over. He asked very direct questions and brought his expertise from years in lending practices. We were perfect candidates for an SBA loan, but without Bob, we never would have gotten the funding.”

In addition, Bob prepared them for every step of the purchase and launch process. “He helped us get our paperwork in order without ever giving his own opinion. He taught us how to help ourselves.”

The shop has been open under its new owners for almost a month, and it has been a resounding success. Durango Car Care offers full-service automotive repair, and they already have two full-time employees. Word of mouth advertising has kept them plenty busy while they settle in.

“Bob was so instrumental in helping us get through funding; to have Region 9 and Bob behind you . . . wow! It really feels like it’s been a group effort, and we think of Bob as an ‘honorary owner.’”

As the business grows, the Hills want to be excellent owners. They see their employees as family and want to foster growth. They hope to hire a full office staff, so Bryan can work more directly with clients. In addition, they are looking into purchasing equipment that will allow them to provide full services for diesel vehicles. They’ve already set up quarterly meetings with Bob to ensure they stay on that track.

If you’ve bent thinking about purchasing a business, Bryan and Jenn offer this advice: “The SBDC is priceless; you’d be crazy not to call them . . . and it’s free! There are so many things you can get hung up on as a new business and so many hurdles to tackle; they clean it up for you. After we went there, we were stunned with all the ways they offered to help. They are invaluable. Call them!”

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