Month: February 2019

Plains To Peaks Chocolate

Plains to Peak Chocolate Company is run by Sunni Sylvester and her husband Jeff. The two did not always have aspirations to make their own chocolate, but like many businesses today, a simple passion and idea can be all it takes to start something great. The direction of your business career can be random, and that is exactly what happened with Sunni and Jeff.

“We started randomly. I would buy chocolate, look at the ingredients, and question the fillers in the chocolate. This led me to do some research and experimenting, and eventually I figured out how to make chocolate using the whole cacao bean,” said Sunni. “Now, we make our own bean to bar chocolate. We roast the beans at home, we crack them, winnow them to get the nibs, grind the nibs, add the coconut sugar, temper it, mold it, and hand wrap every one of our bars.”

A couple of years ago, when Plains to Peak was just an idea sprouting into action, Sunni decided to reach out to Boulder SBDC. Sunni, a registered nurse who still works full time, and Jeff, a designer working for the Saint Vrain School District in Longmont, did not have much of a business background when starting Plains to Peak. According to Sunni, “I didn’t understand how to set up an LLC, how to pay taxes, or any of that stuff, so I reached out to the SBDC. In our first meeting, [an SBDC staff member] listened to our story and aspirations, and later that same evening sent me steps on how to establish an LLC, and how to register with the state and the city. These clear steps were exactly what I needed.”

The Boulder SBDC places a large emphasis on maintaining relationships with its clients, and encourages attending our workshops, which is what Sunni and Jeff did. They took both Startup Roadmap and Startup Essentials workshops through SBDC, which Sunni described as “invaluable.” Sunni further explained “Since the workshops, we have reached out to one of your presenters several times, just asking for assistance with setting up the legal parts of the business. She has been very responsive, very supportive, and very helpful for us.”

As Plains to Peak Chocolate continued to develop, they began to think about the expansion process. Expanding a business can be extremely difficult if you do not have an explicit plan, and a strong grasp on finances. The SBDC set Sunni up with a consultant to talk over any expansionary plans. Sunni reflects, “The consultant talked to us about scaling, getting investors, taking out loans, our different options, and what we had to be ready for if and when we wanted to expand. It gave us reassurance that we were on the right path and that being cautious and using income right now to save up for our business down the road was a good idea.”

A further step the SBDC took to help Plains to Peak was connect Sunni and Jeff with other people who were in the process of setting up their business, and who are in different stages of growth. According to Sunni, “This helped us talk about scaling, and potentially getting a commercial space. Hearing how other people expanded their businesses was huge for us.” Sunni continued, “Someday we could see ourselves teaming up with other small food producers and maybe share a space. We’re always having those conversations and keeping our eyes open for opportunities.”

Right now Sunni and Jeff sell their chocolate every Saturday at the Longmont farmers market. They have come a long way since their initial decision to start selling chocolate. They have invested in new equipment to make production easier and truly feel that they are experiencing success. The two understand that while working under cottage foods law they can only sell direct to consumers, but they are looking to add more markets to their repertoire this year. They are constantly reevaluating their goals, and remaining cautious, but are very excited to grow their business and maintain their values.

Sante Fe Coffee and Burrito Company

Arturo Maestas launched the Santa Fe Coffee and Burrito Company, in Longmont, CO, on April 11, 2011. Santa Fe Coffee and Burrito Company is a Spanish and Southwest restaurant with a diverse menu, featuring both Spanish and American style dishes. Arturo has relatives in Albuquerque, NM and sought to bring the ambiance of Santa Fe, NM, to Longmont, CO. Arturo remodeled the entire restaurant with the help of few family members and friends. The beautiful wood columns in Arturo’s restaurant were made in and came straight from Santa Fe.

Before opening the restaurant, Arturo worked in remodeling and construction and was also involved in three Boulder restaurants. He says, “high volume work has stayed in his blood”. Although the restaurant hours are 7am—2pm, Arturo works long and hard hours from 5:30am—9 or 10pm. Arturo says that he is managing the work load and the business with his knowledge from previous restaurants and is learning as he goes, taking in things as they come.

In the future, Arturo would like to do some landscaping in the front of his restaurant and extend the hours of the restaurant into the evening. He would like to put a sign outside the restaurant that better allows traffic to see that the restaurant is there before driving right past it. Arturo will seek a liquor license for his business if he decides to open for dinner. When Arturo is ready to expand, he will turn to the Boulder SBDC again for assistance.

Stratom

Stratom Inc., founded by Mark Gordon in 2001, is a Boulder-based unmanned robotics engineering and manufacturing firm. Stratom provides integrated solutions and products to government and commercial clients around the globe. Prior to founding Stratom, Mark worked in Sr. Management for various high tech companies. There he witnessed the volatility of the high tech industry and its move to outsource many of its products and services to foreign markets. Mark decided that he wanted to build a company for growth and stability. Early on, Stratom focused on consulting, new product development, product launches, and product transfer services for clients like Advanced Energy Corp, UC Denver, and the National Veterans Training Institute. Mark recalls that it is was through UCD that they were introduced to government contracting opportunities.

Seeing government markets as being less volatile, offering long term contract opportunities and having greater long run stability, Mark decided to take the company in a new strategic direction. In the 2007-08 timeframe, Stratom shifted it focus to robotics and R&D. Bootstrapping the business, winning research dollars and government contract awards as well as increasing product sales, the company grew. Today, Stratom has set itself apart with a strong mix of subject experts and engineers who understand their target customers’ needs. They develop products and design services that have an identified need and market. Stratom engineers have a strong background in commercial products and they know how to bring Stratom’s products to market.

When asked what factors have been critical to Stratom’s growth, Mark says that the SBDC, his strong Advisory Board and the Rocky Mountain AUVSI chapter (Association of Unmanned Vehicles Systems International where he now serves on the National Board) have been instrumental to his company’s growth and success.
“As an early stage company, before setting up my Advisory Board, the SBDC team of consultants was a great sounding board for me,” Mark recounts. As the company began to grow, Mark took advantage of SBDC classes around Sales and Marketing and HR topics like Workman’s Compensation. He sent his staff to SBDC classes for training. As an advanced technology company, Mark has taken advantage of the Colorado Emerging Ventures (CEV) programming and team of consultants. The CEV team has provided market research and analysis around commercial applications for Stratom’s products and services.

“Now that we’ve moved on to become a second stage company – just shy of 30 employees — we’ve become involved with the SBDC Advanced – Economic Gardening program with one-on-one consulting, looking at some new markets that we’re trying to engage in” says Mark. “These would be new national and international commercial markets where we are trying to use our robotics systems across new applications. With this new full year program we get a lot of strategic consulting advice, research and one-on-one services to help us focus on these new markets and grow the company.”

In describing his experience over the years with the SBDC, Mark says, “I have been so impressed with the professionalism and passion of everyone working with the SBDC. They are not only willing to help, but they know how to help. There is a vast level of experience that I can tap into to help my business succeed.” It was through networking at CEV workshops and Chamber events that he also found his invaluable extended team of professionals and mentors. As a result, Mark has been a tremendous supporter of and advocate for the SBDC. He has been a keynote lunch presenter at SBDC’s full-day Emerging Ventures Event and participated in SBDC workshops, sharing his vast business expertise and advice with other Boulder County businesses.

Whitehorse Heart

“Whitehorse Heart is a consulting company dedicated to reinvention and wellbeing from a business, career and physical standpoint. We help you put another oar in the water to make an effective Plan B or help you get a fresh perspective and new direction in your job or career search. If needed, we can guide you to shift your shape physically so that your outside image and your mind’s eye image merge”, says Teri Sanchez.

“Since relocating to Colorado from New Jersey five years ago and connecting with the Boulder SBDC, the Boulder SBDC has had a positive impact on my success by supporting my evolving new business” Teri recounts. “Through participating in the innovative and diverse programs the SBDC offers, I have connected with other success-oriented business owners and continue to be privileged to learn with and from them. The topics the SBDC offers are relevant and timely and all aimed at business building. I have participated in a wide range of classes from polishing up my writing skills for more effective marketing messages to thought-provoking classes providing a fresh, new and stimulating look at diagnosing, predicting and solving my company’s challenges”. One of her direct sales businesses, featuring the “It Works” natural body contouring products has grown from zero to 280 business partners and customers in eight months. This allowed Teri to help others financially improve while increasing her own bottom line.

“You don’t have to build your business alone. Call the SBDC and get connected to experts who want to go to work for you to help you map out your own steps to succeed!”

Leenie’s Southern Cafe

Conversations, laughter, biscuits and homemade jam melt together at Leenies Southern Café. Established in January 2006, Mel Flores and Eileen Gilmore’s restaurant in Longmont, CO has become a destination for those looking for a classic Southern breakfast and lunch restaurant in Longmont.

The dining area is blanketed in simple white tablecloths and is surrounded by shelves loaded with Leenies jams and dishes while local artisan artwork decorates the walls. The atmosphere is relaxed and the menu features great Southern comfort foods items like fried chicken, homemade biscuits, and grits. Leenies boasts dishes made of preservative-free, fresh food products. The other ingredients of success behind this southern café — Mel and Eileen’s long hours of planning, preparation, and their creative vision – topped off with a little faith.

Mel and Eileen, sought the assistance of the Boulder Small Business Development Center well before Leenies’ start-up to help with corporate set up, assessing their financing options, finding legal resources and consulting help around their business plan. They ended up bootstrapping the venture, raising start up capital through family and found a space that was already set up as a restaurant and had a supportive landlord. They then went to work, putting in sweat equity to remodel the space themselves. Today they are keeping up with growing demand with a full-time staff of four, plus three part-time workers for the busy weekends. They are finding themselves just where they projected they would be in phase II of their business plan.

Soon, customers will be able to eat and sip in the quiet outdoors on a patio they are working to build. They are also planning a home-delivery service to Longmont and the surrounding area residents. Leenies’ jams, seasonings, and syrups will soon be available for sale in their restaurant and will be branded as Sweet South Food Products™. Patrons will be able to bring home the Creole and blackening seasonings, and triple berry, peach and strawberry jams that keep customers coming back for more.

Another differentiator – Mel and Eileen are committed to engaging with their customers and the community. ”We treasure the opportunity we have had to make hundreds of local friends” says Eileen and Mel. “We are a friendly neighborhood restaurant that at the same time offers delicious food. People know we are invested in the community and we want them to know that our taxes, community engagement and energy is committed to Longmont.”

As Mel says this, Eileen catches up with a family of regulars whose toddler whisks away toys Leenies keeps in the corner for patron families. The toddler shouts, “thank you” to Mel and Elieen for the delicious biscuit and jam waiting on his plate.