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SUCCESS STORIES

The PB Love CO

“We want to feed people real, delicious food and make them happy!” That’s how PB Love CO , a Denver Metro Small Business Development Center (SBDC) company describes themselves, and it’s apparent in everything they do. PB Love is committed to creating stone-ground, handcrafted, artisan nut butter, using only real-food ingredients in every jar they make.

Mario Esparza had been perfecting the flavor, consistency and ingredients of his own nut butter for over 12 years, but the idea of making it into a business never occurred to him. The idea was sparked a few years back when a friend tasted it and said “Mario, you should sell this – I would buy it!”. Almost immediately, Esparza began making small jars to give to friends for feedback.

Esparza came to the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and SBDC in 2014. He and his co-founder, Andy Mason, wanted to create a business model, learn about their target market and map out next steps. The company launched in March 2015, with their first sale on April 9 of that year. Mason left the company in 2016.

After a few years of seeing consultants, Esparza joined the fall 2017 LEADING EDGE for Entrepreneurs cohort where he not only created a business plan, but also established relationships that still flourish today.

Esparza and a few others from that LEADING EDGE class formed a monthly accountability group. “These relationships have helped me in so many ways, but the most help I get as an entrepreneur is the emotional, moral and sincere support from this group,” Esparza said.

During LEADING EDGE, he joined Trout Tank, the SBDC’s pitch accelerator program. As his business grew, he knew he needed capital and to sharpen his pitch: “I learned how to actually talk about my business, which has helped me begin to solidify the brand that is PB Love Co.”

Esparza was a finalist in the Trout Tank Food Frenzy and pitched PB Love Co to lenders, investors and the Denver business community.

“The SBDC has been a major help in just being there for emotional and moral support. That can breed a lot of confidence which can foster excellent productivity and result in executing our business plan,” Esparza said.

As a part of becoming an entrepreneur, Esparza has found that becoming a leader is extremely challenging. “Becoming a leader is very different than being a leader. It means learning how to work with people in what you ask of them, and the results they produce are incredibly impactful and productive because they trust you and they believe in your message – the most challenging part is learning about yourself,” Esparza said.

This does not happen overnight. You realize where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and develop the skills to build a strong team that you can trust and that trusts you. “Being a leader is the most challenging thing I have ever done,” Esparza said.

Halfway through their third year in business, Esparza is challenging himself and his team to grow into strong leaders as they develop and release new products into the market.

dance2b

Jennifer Tisdale learned early in her years as a consultant that creativity and business opportunity are imperative for a successful startup. Looking for a dance studio to express her own creative outlet, she explored the Denver region to see what dance studios existed and what they offered. The more she searched, the more she realized that a true business opportunity existed. Her idea? Start a boutique fitness studio that provided daily dance classes for adults.

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Back2Basics

Brittany Winkfield is like a lot of entrepreneurs. She saw a gap in the marketplace and instead of waiting for someone else to fill it, she went after it herself. Led by a belief and desire that a Christian lifestyle magazine existed within the community, she used her creative skills, business network, and the SBDC to create Back2Basics Magazine. And she did it with the grace and style of a dedicated entrepreneur that understands how

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Snooze

On any given morning, Snooze’s retro, 50’s-style space is jam-packed with people clamoring to get their names on a lengthy wait list. The draw? A stack of sweet potato or cinnamon roll pancakes, or what some have dubbed “the best breakfast burrito in the world.” A touch of upscale flair makes Snooze owner Jon Schlegel’s fare stand out among fellow bringers of breakfast and lunch. Offerings include “Vanilla Almond Oatmeal Brulée” or “Pork’s Benediction,” a

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C-21 Project

Keaunna Figgers, Denver’s newest fashionista, is raising awareness of Down syndrome and doing so in style through her company The C-21 Project, which refers to the extra 21st chromosome that she was born with. Born with Down syndrome, Figgers faced obstacles from the start – she had open-heart surgery at just 3 months old and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at a very young age. Growing up with arthritis, Figgers would spend hours coloring in

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Wong Way Veg

When Lisa Wong stepped foot into the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center in 2011, her dream of starting a food truck in Denver was just that – a dream. Wong envisioned herself running a business that would marry her love for vegetarian food with her passion for building community. Two years later, her dream became a reality. But Wong’s dream didn’t come to life without hard work. In the fall of 2012, she enrolled

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Ristole

“Moving to Denver set me on a trajectory that changed the course of my life.” For Ristole CEO Jackie Adams, a woman whose life has already taken many turns, that’s saying something. Starting her career in computer programming, she quickly found the hours behind a computer screen tedious. She then applied for and was accepted to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania, where she taught high school math in Swahili. After returning to

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