Month: February 2019

Flight Deck Grill

One day, after leaving her full time job, Diann and her husband were at the Vance Brand airport in Longmont for flight class. She really just wanted to sit down at the end of the day and have some good food and cold drink. She realized that the Vance Brand Airport in Longmont, CO had a lot to offer except a restaurant. That desire and realization was the birth of The Flight Deck Grill. Over the next 35 days, the Flight Deck Grill mobile grill was born. It started with a small street cart and that soon that evolved to a custom mobile food truck. Five years into the business with zero debt – the food truck paid off within the first year- Diann is looking to build her own two- story, hanger restaurant and museum at the Vance Brand Airport in Longmont. NxLevel Leading Edge Start-up Business Class through the SBDC. The goal to write her business plan. In August 2012, she had only a vision for the business. By December 31st she had developed a business plan that with the SBDC assistance won the” best business plan for 2012”. She was on the path to success.

When asked about her experience with the SBDC programs and workshops, Diann replied, “I really enjoyed the people. They were a key resource for me. Their knowledge and personal experience was amazing and as a fellow business owner was invaluable”. Diann says that she will continue to seek SBDC consulting and guidance because, “there’s no time to make the same mistakes that others business owners have made. I can learn from them and not make the same mistakes.” She couldn’t be happier with her entrepreneurial life. Diann feels that it will only continue to get better because shelives by the motto, “When the fun ends, I’m going home.”

ERC Insulation

ERC Insulation is a local, majority woman-owned and operated business based in Boulder, Colorado, serving Boulder, Denver, Jefferson, Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin Counties. The story surrounding the formation of ERC Insulation began in 2006, when Elton and Christine Randall formed Elton Construction and Design. Elton had difficulty finding a spray foam contractor for his jobs, so he sought a solution to this problem. Elton purchased a trailer with a spray foam reactor, which he could use to do his own spray foam jobs. “Elton used it a few times, and then, this massive piece of equipment sat in our driveway. We started getting more calls for spray foam subcontracting work and what I saw sitting in my driveway was an opportunity”, recalls Christine. Thus, ERC Insulation was born in 2010, and Christine became CEO. The timing couldn’t have been better: “We were intimately familiar with the building codes in Boulder County through Elton Construction and Design, so we benefitted greatly from the Federal grants for the Energy Smart Program since there was a lack of spray foam providers”. ERC became a qualified contractor for the Energy Smart and Smart Regs programs as well as Elevations Energy Loans in Boulder County. They also became a registered contractor for Xcel Energy, including Home Performance with Energy Star. ERC holds a Class-C Contractor’s license and is accredited as a spray foam installer, providing cellulosed foam installations as well. Together, ERC and Elton Construction and Design, offer residents and small commercial businesses a one-stop-shop for energy evaluation and energy solutions implementation.

Early in the company formation process, Christine attended the, “Ramp Up: Make Your Business Profitable and Sustainable” business training series produced by the Boulder SBDC with sponsorship from the Colorado Green Building Guild. Christine was able to build a network of “like-minded” business people through the series, which became invaluable to her and the business: “The class facilitated our connection to a great group and together we helped each other build our businesses”. Since the “Ramp Up” series, Christine has continued to attend Boulder SBDC workshops and events such as the annual “Contract Opportunities Fair”, as well as the Colorado Emerging Ventures programming. Christine takes advantage of the no cost, one-on-one consulting program where she has found Sharon King, Boulder SBDC Director, to be “supportive”, “knowledgeable”, and “inspirational: some people offer consulting from a place of never having done: Sharon comes from a place of personal experience and knows how to help” say Ms Randall.

Three years from launching, ERC has 18 employees and is growing rapidly. Besides great timing, mentors and partners like the Boulder SBDC, Christine attributes their success to a strong focus on quality products, installations and personal customer care. ERC hires employees who understand the thermal envelope and can see the bigger picture of their jobs. Christine does not believe in asking employees to do something she would not do herself. Some days you will find her scrambling in crawl spaces, to help crews with installations. Christine cares deeply about her community, is a mother, business leader and environmental advocate. She is already thinking about their next company venture.

Brewmented

We brew what we teach and we teach what we brew — and we’re gonna have fun. — Bill Campbell, Brewmented

Oftentimes, a good business opportunity can be found by looking at an established industry in new and unique ways. For Bill Campbell and partner, Vlad Aleksiev, Brewmented was a solution to converting craft beer drinkers and wine/mead/cider affectionados to home brewers and winemakers. A home brewer since the 1970’s, Bill Campbell has watched the huge growth in the craft beer industry and the number of craft beer drinkers wanting to brew at home. It’s no secret that, along with the growth of the Colorado craft beer scene, craft beer is becoming increasingly more eclectic. Rather than leave these thirsty beer connoisseurs hanging, Brewmented was created to teach their target market how to make their favorite fermentable beverage and perhaps inspire underrepresented segments of the market (e.g., women, first-time brewers, millenials) to take up the hobby and brew a batch at home.

Formed in 2017, Brewmented’s business model is built on three pillars: a fast-growing e-commerce website, a brick-and-mortar store selling a slew of products to help with home brewing, and an in-house brewery and taproom where the magic happens. Education and community engagement are at the heart of the business, with Bill Campbell and other Brewmented partners sharing their knowledge with all who are interested. Colorado is a “hot-bed of homebrewing” and Brewmented is ready and waiting to “serve” the enlarged market.

Since the launch of their online store in 2017 and the opening of their brewery, taproom, and physical store just a few months later, Brewmented has kept the momentum going. Future goals include: 1) continue to establish Brewmented as a destination homebrew store, 2) substantially increase revenue through the Brewmented online store, 3) become recognized as one of the top 5 players in e-commerce education and products for home brewers in the US, and 4) replicate the Brewmented brand and business model to expand beyond the Colorado region. To help them along their journey, Boulder SBDC assisted Brewmented in business/financial planning and funding, including helping them receive a $250,000 SBA loan awarded by Colorado Business Bank.

Bill Campbell talks of his company with pride and passion. He describes their brick-and-mortar store as a “place to come in, learn about homebrewing, and drink good experimental beer” with hopes of it becoming the “go-to destination home brew store.” Despite their knowledge of the beer world and Brewmented’s big goals, partners Bill and Vlad remain humble and transparent, saying, “We recognize where our strengths are but we also recognize where we needed outside expertise.” Boulder SBDC is proud to have helped Brewmented thus far and is excited to see them achieve their business goals in the years ahead.

Boulder’s Best Organics

Sure, visitors to Boulder enjoy the Flatirons, the creek path, and the Pearl Street Mall. But they also enjoy Chocolove dark chocolate, Justin’s peanut butter, and Pangea lotion. Locally made products define the unique character of Boulder just as much as the town’s natural setting. This inspired Arron Mansika to form the company Boulder’s Best Organics.

Boulder’s Best Organics creates gift collections of the finest organic items exclusively from Boulder based companies. Mansika chose to include only certified organic items to ensure high quality, and because of the tremendous health and ecological benefits. It helps that Boulder is the focal point of the organics industry, spawning some of the largest natural foods companies in the world and home to dozens of smaller manufacturers. Boulder’s Best Organics now carries nearly 100 items from twenty four companies.

Mansika didn’t want his to be just another gift-basket company though. Instead, the organic collections arrive in Presentation Boxes, which has proven key to the company’s success. Easy to stack, ship, and reuse, the boxes are so user friendly that many business customers order several dozen at a time so they always have a gift ready to give whenever they need one. Further, the boxes feature watercolors of picturesque scenes, and are fully recyclable.

With a basic business plan, Mansika walked into the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), where director Sharon King and consultant Chuck Hunker provided everything from technical skill to moral support.

In less than a year, the company was chosen to provide 2,400 gifts to the county’s fifth largest employer, secured an exclusive contract with one of the county’s largest real estate brokers, and earned Top-Ten Eco-Gift by a national magazine.

Mansika also completed the SBDC’s Leading Edge series, spoke on the Boulder Chamber’s “Power Panel,” and personally presented a gift collection to then-Governor Ritter.

Sales are certainly not limited to tourists or local businesses. With Boulder’s recognition as a leader in healthy living and high quality products, Boulder’s Best Organics receives online orders from all over the nation. And since people are free to “Create Your Own Collection,” the company is sure to deliver exactly what the customer wants.

Since this story was written, founder Arron Mansika sold Boulder’s Best Organics to new owners who have continued to grow the venture significantly.

Boulder Acupuncture and Herbs

Boulder Acupuncture and Herbs is a small business that is founded, run and owned by Norah Charles, an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. What makes Boulder Acupuncture and Herbs unique is that Norah works primarily with patients over 70 years old. Norah treats senior clients with a host of difficulties, including chronic pain, depression, and isolation. In addition to her acupuncture, Norah uses over 300 Chinese herbs for distinct wellness purposes.

Starting a business is not often easy, and it certainly was not for Norah. “I started up with virtually no money, which was really challenging,” said Norah. “I had to do everything on a shoestring and that meant that I had to learn to do everything by myself. That was initially the hardest part.”

Norah first reached out to the Boulder Small Business Development Center in May of 2015. She has since worked with consultants at the SBDC in regards to her budding business, specifically marketing.

“Before I even started my practice I went in to the SBDC and did some one-on-one consulting, which was great. We talked about basic finance, like recurring costs versus one-time costs, and all these things that I had never thought of. It helped me feel like I had the intelligence to run a business. I knew I had skills as an acupuncturist, but no business skills. The SBDC consulting team really showed me that I could do it.”

Even with some consultation, establishing yourself as a prominent and profitable business is a tough task, especially in the first couple of years. According to Norah, “When I eventually went into practice, the first year was very hard, but the first six months were particularly brutal. Sometime over that time period, [an SBDC staff member] called me and asked how I was doing. At the time I was really not doing well. I wasn’t going to fold my business, but I was worried I was going to run out of money.”

Norah continued, “But when he called out of the blue to just say, ‘hey, how are you, we’re here for you, and if you ever feel like you’re going to shut down your doors, please come talk to me before you do that,’ it was so powerful for me. When you’re a solo entrepreneur, you feel pretty alone so to have that lifeline, and to know that if I needed to shut my business I could call [and the SBDC] would find a way to help me, it was a big deal.”

Norah now has a multitude of clients, and her business is growing. She is also a volunteer acupuncturist with the Colorado Acupuncture Medical Reserve Corps, offering acupuncture on-site to first responders and community members affected by natural disasters or catastrophic events. She continues to be ambitious and has serious aspirations to expand her practice and impact on the community.

“I have a pretty big vision for my business. For the business itself, I hope that it thrives and continues to serve seniors in Boulder, but my real larger vision for what I’m doing is that, in my profession, there is not a lot of specialization, and specifically there are very few people who focus their practices on seniors. I feel like this is an underserved population that can benefit from what I do. My plan is to get the skills I need, and then help train other acupuncturists to work in eldercare.”

Norah’s focus and dedication coupled with her ambition and readiness to reach out to the Boulder SBDC has enabled her successful business.

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