Success Stories

Rachel Curran Oddbird Baking making a cake

Odd Bird Baking Co.

Nothing says Durango like a local, family-run business…and Odd Bird Bakery is just that.

Seven years ago, Rachel Curran started a craft bakery in her home kitchen. She specialized in pastries, and when the pandemic struck in 2020, she started offering Pajama Boxes. They contained a dozen assorted pastries and were delivered to people’s homes on the weekends. “It was a treat for many people,” Rachel says. “When everything was shut down, they could still get fresh baked pastries delivered to their doorsteps.”

At one point, Haley and Lori, owners of Still Life Coffee and Botanicals, ordered a Pajama Box and liked it. As it turned out, they had a kitchen and needed a pastry program. They reached out to Rachel, and their partnership began. “We have such aligned visions for our businesses. We have a similar aesthetic and vibe. It’s been a great opportunity to grow and support each other,” says Rachel.

Soon after moving into Still Life’s kitchen, Rachel needed help. “My husband left his 9-5 engineering job, and we took a crazy leap. He learned how to bake pastries, and we juggle small business ownership while homeschooling our children.”

In the true spirit of a family business, Rachel’s parents run the bakery stand at the Durango Farmer’s Market each week, and her kids help out by stamping bags, giving change, and assisting wherever possible.

As the business has grown over the years, Rachel has reached out to the SBDC on a number of occasions. “Mary has helped us generate ideas and has been a great resource. She’s helped us navigate the small business world and determine the smartest moves for our specific situation.”

All of Odd Bird’s delicacies are made from scratch and are based on the Curran’s own, original recipes. The name, “Odd Bird,” aptly describes their business. Their pastries are “out of the box” with combinations that aren’t standard or traditional. But, they are delicious! The baked goods are seasonally inspired, and the company uses local ingredients whenever possible. Their goodies can now be found at Red Wolf Coffee (in Mancos), Still Life Coffee & Botanicals, the Durango Farmer’s Market, and the local produce stands. They also make wedding cakes and provide food service for events.

As the family looks ahead, they are trying to formulate a clear vision of what the business will look like. “It’s a lot,” says Rachel. “It’s great and totally everything we want it to be. It’s always a learning process—as soon as you get it down, something changes. Running your own business is really scary and can be really hard. It takes up so much of your time and energy, but it’s also really amazing.” She encourages other prospective business owners, “If you are going to go for it, you just have to kind of—go for it!”

Next time you’re in the area, be sure to stop by Still Life Coffee & Botanicals for some delicious pastries. The Currans would love to meet you!

Choice Athletics

Baseball in Bayfield and Durango will never be the same.

At least, that’s what Choice Athletics owner Dennis Dempsie is counting on.

For years, Dennis watched local baseball teams struggle to stay competitive because of the short practice season afforded by local weather. For young athletes with aspirations to play college or even professional ball, this was a huge disadvantage.

He soon realized that local teams desperately needed an indoor training facility. He reached out to the SBDC to get information about starting a business. “They connected me with Bob Jagdfeld. He helped me get a business plan together and gave me a spreadsheet to work on projections and financials. We had several meetings, and Bob helped me fine tune the plan, so I could get a loan from Region 9.”

From there, it took about two and a half years for Dennis to find the right location. He looked at numerous facilities in Bayfield and Durango but struggled to find one that was reasonably priced and didn’t need extensive work to get up to code.

Toward the end of 2022, he finally found a 5,000-square-foot training facility in the Grandview area southeast of town. He started ordering all of the equipment in January, and in May of this year, Choice Athletics opened its doors.

The facility features batting cages with hand-fed or automatically operated machines, 3,200 square feet of turf space, a large indoor golf simulator, and tons of high-tech equipment. “Our technology allows players to track and manage pitching, hitting, and more. Our golf simulator features a 16’ x 10’ curved screen with more than 55 pro courses. It’s superior to anything in the area.”

The space can also be rented out for parties. The simulator has more than 30 games including bowling, horseshoes, corn hole, alien shooting, and more.

As the cold weather arrives, Dennis is optimistic that business will continue to pick up. The Fort Lewis Girls Softball Team recently signed an agreement to use the facility several nights a week for practice, so Choice Athletics is officially a college training facility. Dennis is hopeful that other teams will soon follow suit, and in the coming years, he plans to expand to include an athletic training area complete with space for weight training, stretching, and more.

If this like your dream, Dennis offers this advice, “Do your research. Reach out to the SBDC and other business owners. Even if they aren’t in your industry, there are plenty of tidbits you can pull from. Start talking to anyone, and you will find local support.”

Crossroads Coffee

Coffee is more than a recipe…it’s an art form.

Jon Roberts, owner of Crossroads Coffee on 11th and Main, couldn’t agree more. As a latté artist who competed nationally and took third, he’ll tell you, “Slinging coffee is a fantastic way to make a living.”

After running the coffee shop at Mercy Regional Hospital for several years, he came down with COVID and wasn’t able to continue working at the hospital. After several months, he decided it was time to launch his own coffee shop.

He enrolled in the SBDC’s LEADING EDGE program, which helped him create a business plan, structure his business, and more.

“LEADING EDGE gave me the confidence to jump in, even though I hadn’t fully recovered from my bout with COVID,” Jon says.

When it came to selecting a location, he originally planned to open his shop in the Mercado District of Three Springs. But, when he found out that the space in the Crossroads building was available, he simply couldn’t resist.

He’s been the owner of Crossroads Coffee for almost one year, and he absolutely loves being a sole proprietor. “At the hospital, I was the only daytime barista and was making 200+ drinks per day. Here, the pace is slower…it’s like my retirement job.”

So, what makes Crossroads Coffee unique?

“It’s a little footprint but a big coffee shop!” Jon says. “My latté art is the most defining factor. I can draw anything—Mona Lisa, Starry Night—I took third with a portrait of Van Gogh. And, I can copycat any drink from anywhere. Coffee really isn’t as hard as people try to make it.”

In addition, the coffee is all local. In fact, Jon worked directly with Desert Sun Coffee Roasters to fine tune the perfect Italian Roast for both his drip and espresso drinks.

When it comes to the business side of things, he keeps his pricing simple and competitive. “I used to work for a Japanese chef who thought all coins were bad luck. So, now I keep it all even. Coffee is $2, a Chai is $3, and a Latté is $4.”

Recently, Jon obtained a restaurant license, which permits him to make breakfast sandwiches, pastries, or whatever else his heart desires. “It’s a little nefarious…people come into the bank or offices, and the whole lobby smells like cookies,” Jon says with a smile. He has gluten free and vegan options, and everything is house baked.

“I love running my own business. If you are thinking of starting a business, I’d tell you to start working 80 hours per week and get a good grasp of your industry. And, absolutely go check with the SBDC first. Mary Shepherd and Jasper Welch were huge helps for me. They have fantastic insight and resources that they are more than willing to share.”

The best way to learn more about Jon Roberts is to stop by Crossroads Coffee at 1099 Main Avenue. He’s open Monday–Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. (If you’re lucky, you might catch him there on a weekend too!) And, bring an idea! He’s always looking for new designs to draw on his lattés.


Good things happen when two businesses merge into one.

At least, that’s what Margaret Baumgartner and Carin Brophy have discovered.

For several years, the two women owned shops in Pleasant View that were right across the street from one another. Last year, Margaret and her family purchased The Hogan on highway 160 (just west of Mancos). Next to The Hogan was a former coffee and sandwich stop, and Margaret saw the building’s potential. She approached Carin about creating a joint shop, and in February of this year, they began to plan.

Carin applied for a social media and marketing grant through Colorado’s Small Business Accelerated Growth Program, which was focused on digital marketing. As part of the deal, they received a consultation with the SBDC. “The timing was perfect!” she says.

During their initial conference call with Cindy Dvergsten, they began by discussing their budget. “We started thinking about things we hadn’t considered before. We weren’t planning to pay ourselves, but Cindy explained why it was important to account for that. She gave us excel spreadsheets, which were timely and perfect for our process. It saved us from making mistakes, and we were able to plan better. The info she gave us was very helpful, and it really challenged our brains.”

Carin and Margaret also attended the SBDC conference in May. In fact, they delayed their store opening, so they could both attend. They split up the sessions and learned a lot. “Our heads were about to explode from all the great info! It helped us get off on the right foot.”

So far, the new venture has been working out great. CountyRoad9 has an assortment that suits both local clientele as well as tourists. They sell gifts, decor items, bath and body products, hats and bags, apparel, fabric, notions, and patterns. The biggest hurdle they’ve faced is fitting everything into a small space, and they are already thinking about expanding to offer classes in the coming years.

“Partnering up was the best decision,” Carin explains. “By doing this together, we had a joint vision, and everything has worked out close to that vision. We are able to be open more days per week now, and two heads are better than one! We share just about everything, and having a business partner gives us someone to bounce ideas off of.”

Both women know that owning a business is not for the faint of heart. “We knew summer was crucial, so we opened as early as we could in May. We worked straight through and many long days to make it happen. But, we know that if it’s what you are passionate about and what you want to do, you have to stick with it.” The best way to learn more about CountyRoad9 is to head to Mancos and check it out!

Eight Four Ranch

Every cloud really does have a silver lining.

At least, that’s how Brian Wattier sees it. When he lost his job in advertising and sales last year, he saw the opportunity to do what he’d always dreamed of—own a ranch in Colorado.

He took his family on a trip, and when they came to Pagosa Springs, they knew they’d found their new home. They sold their house in California, packed up, and moved.

Since they’d never owned a business or farm before, they knew they’d need assistance. Brian reached out to the SBDC and was connected with Richard Lindblad.

“We hit it off great,” Brian said, “He’s a super nice guy, and I can’t say enough about him. With his help, I established three-year cash flow goals and created a robust business plan.”

As they worked together, Brian looked at several different business ventures, knowing the business plan would change based on the type of land he purchased. “Richard helped me diversify and be agile while still working on the business strategy to present to the bank,” he said.

When property came available, Richard helped Brian home in on his cash flow document and presentation. He provided Brian with connections to First Southwest Bank, where he was able to acquire funding to purchase the property and get agricultural equipment.

Brian and his family now have 42 acres of pastures, beautiful views, and irrigation, and they are preparing to launch 8-4 Ranch, LLC.

Brian plans to raise pastured pork, chickens, dairy cows, and honeybees. He also plans to create a no-till market garden and build a butcher shop, so he can sell raw milk, cheese, honey, fruits, vegetables, and charcuterie meats. The property has a small cabin that he plans to rent out, so others can get hands-on experience with regenerative farming practices.

Brian is grateful for all the help that Richard and the SBDC provided along the way. “Richard has been more than a consultant—he’s been a mentor and even a friend. He went above and beyond, tying the pieces together to make it all happen.” For anyone who’s dreamed of starting a business or farm, Brian offers this insight: “If you want to go for a dream, sometimes it takes risking everything you have. But, you have to have a strategic plan to get there. This is a family dream and we risked everything, but we have a plan to make it successful.”

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