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Pikes Peak SBDC

Safe Rids 4 Kids

Firefighter. Paramedic. Emergency responder. Over an 18 year career, Greg Durocher spent his days and nights responding to some of the most devastating collisions and catastrophes.

To prevent accidents and injury, Durocher decided to learn as much as possible about child passenger safety. “As responsible drivers we can only do our very best to ensure that our precious cargo is properly restrained with the best options available,” Durocher said, “so that if a crash occurs, we are giving our little loved ones the very best chance at the best possible outcome.”

When presented with the opportunity to build Safe Ride 4 Kids with his wife and two business partners, Durocher decided to take his passion for child passenger safety a step further and start a business dedicated to keeping kids safe. “We help parents keep their children safe during the most dangerous activity they are exposed to every day – driving,” CEO Durocher said.

Safe Ride 4 Kids
Safe Ride 4 Kids offers car seat safety education and innovative product solutions. From conception to birth, Safe Ride 4 Kids protects mom and developing baby with the crash-tested Tummy Shield which redirects the lap portion of the seat belt to the upper thigh/lower pelvis. For children three and older, Safe Ride 4 Kids offers the Ride Safer Travel Vest, a convenient and legal alternative to the booster and car seat.

Developing a Business Plan

While Durocher had 10 years of experience as a child passenger safety technician and instructor, he knew that he and his business partners would need a little guidance when it came to the business side of Safe Ride 4 Kids. That’s when he turned to the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

Durocher had been in business just over a year and had been talking about writing a business plan since the very beginning. He met with a consultant at the SBDC and enrolled in the Leading Edge Business Planning Course.

“What a great experience that was”, Durocher said. “After 11 weeks I finally had a business plan but most importantly, I was able to share what I learned and take my business partners through the extremely valuable process of creating – not just writing – a business plan.

Competing in the Trout Tank

A year later, Durocher was selected to compete in the SBDC’s Trout Tank, where he had the opportunity to pitch to a “school” of 30 lenders, investors and venture capitalists for funding.

“I would strongly encourage any entrepreneur to commit to the process of competing in the Trout Tank,” Durocher said. “It’s not just about getting in front of the School of 30, which is very valuable in-and-of itself, but it’s about the process of distilling your vision down to 10 to 15 slides and communicating your dream in a compelling fashion in just five minutes.”

Durocher continued, “The most valuable part of the entire process is the journey you take to get yourself prepared. Give yourself and your business the gift of playing full out”

What’s Next?

While Safe Ride 4 Kids is still in discussions with lenders about potential funding – namely, First National Denver, presenting sponsor of the Sept. 2015 Trout Tank – Durocher is confident that he will find the right fit in a lender or investor. As a result of Leading Edge and Trout Tank, Durocher has also been able to make other great connections with strategic partners.

Since working with the SBDC, Safe Ride 4 Kids has grown revenue by over 200 percent. “Working with the SBDC has had a significant impact on my business because, as an entrepreneur, I often felt isolated and overwhelmed with all there is it to learn and know about starting and growing a business,” Durocher said.

Safe Ride 4 Kids is at a very exciting point in its business growth journey. “We have achieved some pretty amazing success so far and have done that applying what we knew and had learned along the way.”

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 in the NxLeveL for Creatives program and buckled down to write a business plan for her food truck. Her plan was reviewed by bankers from Wells Fargo and accountants from EKS&H and Wong was awarded first place in the Denver Metro SBDC’s NxLeveL for Creatives business plan competition.

After the NxLeveL course ended, Wong kept on trucking. She continued to visit the SBDC for routine consulting appointments to get assistance in a variety of areas from marketing to business-related legal advice. “Whether I have new ideas, feel stuck, or need a push in the right direction, the consultants offer knowledgeable advice with genuine concern to better my business. And the fact that all of the consultants have small business ties of their own gives me comfort and confidence in the advice they were giving,” says Wong.

Wong’s dedication and hard work did not go unnoticed among SBDC consultants, and she was referred to a banker who provided her with a small loan to get her business started. While Wong did not get the full $50,000 she originally asked for, she was granted a $13,000 SBA loan.

But she stayed optimistic about her dream. “If it wasn’t for the SBDC consulting and completing the NxLeveL program, I would have never been given the opportunity to connect with the lender and present my plan,” said Wong. And in July of 2013, she sold her first sandwich from her new food truck, WongWayVeg.

Providing original vegetarian cuisine, WongWayVeg is proud of its Colorado roots, showcasing a variety of produce from local farmers and vendors. “WongWayVeg brings a healthier, more compassionate alternative to the streets of Denver,” says Wong. “I am inspired by building community, educating others and seeing people smile when they eat my food.”

WongWayVeg has set up shop at some of the hippest spots in Denver – including Nooch Vegan Market, River North Brewery, the Park Hill Home Tour and Street Fair, and Sunday on the Streets, to name a few. Wong also showcased her new business at the Denver Metro SBDC’s 2013 Main Street Mentors Walk in August, where early-stage entrepreneurs were matched with seasoned business owners. Walkers were inspired by her story and delighted by her healthy breakfast and lunch options.

While Wong is still in her first year of business, she has already developed a private label featuring prepackaged foods and selling in small local markets. Wong projects steady sales from her food truck and plans to have enough cash flow to expand into a fully-functional kitchen.

Wong’s story shows that a dedicated entrepreneur can accomplish their goals even when there are roadblocks. “I’ve had to rework a few things, start up with a fraction of the projected cost and face some industry hurdles. Through everything, I was helped and encouraged by the SBDC. WongWayVeg is proof that you can achieve your dreams by starting with a little, making good connections, and being educated and motivated.”

Under the Sky Event Rental

The idea to launch Under the Sky Event Rental came to Rebecca Anderson when she told her seatmate on a flight to Denver about her wedding. She and husband Patrick had their intimate wedding under katas—Nordic tents that resemble Native American tepees. But, she had only seen them rented in her native United Kingdom.

“That planted the seed,” she said.

Back in the U.K., there are roughly 30 kata rental companies, up from just seven in 2007. When she inquired about distributing, she found out her company would be the first in the U.S.
“They’re just perfect for Colorado,” Anderson said. “They match the outdoor beauty.”

The Andersons decided they’d need help getting started. And, they’d be on a tight timeline in order to start renting the tents at the start of this year’s wedding season. They turned to the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center (Denver SBDC).

“I thought if we were going to look into it we should write a business plan and see whether it was viable and give ourselves an instructor and some support,” Anderson said.

They got on track with Leading Edge, where they wrote their plan, and Loan Request Preview—a companion program led by Denver SBDC consultant Dale Clack that introduces a business and its owners to a large number of lenders. To date, the program has led to $2.1 million in loans awarded.

“I wasn’t positive we were going to get lending,” Anderson admitted. “I felt like it was kind of a longshot.”

They were floored when they heard back from four lenders right away and ultimately received a $110, 000 from Wells Fargo. Now, their tents are en route to Colorado, which will be their first market. They hope to expand to other areas in the next two to three years. Anderson says they wouldn’t be where they are today without the Denver SBDC.

“It made us accountable,” she said. “The consultants are a resource that I think every small business should know about.”

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.

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 divine take on Eggs Benedict.

With locations in Colorado, California and Arizona, Snooze has fast become a staple for dining-out enthusiasts. Entrepreneur Schlegel cooked up the idea with his brother Adam after working for some of Las Vegas, San Diego’s and Denver’s most popular establishments.

Schlegel said he honed in on the first and second meals of the day because, “Everybody eats breakfast and lunch.”

With a near-perfect business plan in hand, Schlegel turned to the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center, where consultants provided help with business plan analysis, twice-a-month business counseling and assistance to secure funding.

Today, in part due to the SBDC’s services, Snooze is “re-energizing the way you think, feel, and ultimately eat breakfast.”

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