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The Denver Metro Small Business Development Center
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Pikes Peak SBDC

Briar Common Brewery + Eatery

Kent Dawson is no stranger to the hard work it takes to start his own business. He learned young as he and his brother Greg spent their summer breaks helping their grandparents tend to their farm.

“Spending time on ‘The Farm’ was no picnic: this wasn’t one of those grandparents spoiling the grandkids situation. It was exhausting!” Dawson recalled.

Dawson and his wife moved to Denver in 2008, looking to enjoy what Denver and Colorado had to offer, including opening his own family business – a brewery. And, it’s not a family business without Greg. “We got into this business because of a mutual love and appreciation for craft beer. We also wanted to live near each other and start a family business,” said Dawson. “Greg was the obvious choice to head the brewing program, and my role became the director of operations.”

The Dawson brothers wanted to pay homage to their childhood summers: “‘The Farm’ as we called it, and our grandparent’s tireless workmaintaining it well into their mid-70’s, were inspirations for both the theme of our brewery and the decision to become entrepreneurs.”

Dawson began engaging in the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center attending various start-up courses and the Funding Options Panel. He began to identify and refine his mission for their brewery, now called Briar Common. With a clear mission, they made substantial changes to their business model to ensure their classic and contemporary beers and globally inspired food were consistent with their core values.

“We’ve constantly modified our offerings to best reflect the desires of the consumer visiting a brewpub today,” Dawson said.

Dawson also took advantage of the financial consulting services that the Denver Metro SBDC offers at no cost. The consultants were instrumental in assisting him with financial statements, including projected balance sheets, income statements and statements of cash flow.

Briar Common opened in the Jefferson Park neighborhood in 2016 – establishing itself in Denver’s booming beer and dining landscape. Selling out of their seasonal beer pairing dinners and nightly specials, they have continued to see business grow. And, they continue to entice their customer’s taste buds as they just launched “Sour Seoul,” a Kimchi inspired beer, which Greg Dawson crafted in homage to his 12 years living in Seoul South Korea.

Dawson’s advice to anyone who is thinking about entrepreneurship: “Use resources from the Denver Metro SBDC and meet with as many consultants as possible. They all have unique perspectives and provide sound advice.”

If you want to learn more and take advantage of the consulting and classes offered here, visit our website.

Big Sky Aerial Technology

In business, the sky is the limit for Big Sky Aerial Technology—literally. This start-up company captures high-resolution aerial images for use in precision agriculture, allowing farmers to analyze the health of their crops.

Founded in 2015 by Ron Lester and Jerred Lane, the idea to launch Big Sky Aerial Technology was inspired by the years Lester and Lane spent working with land and air-based remote sensing technologies in the Middle East.

“With some of the most amazing technologies being implemented for war, we wanted to take some of what we learned and work with it here at home,” Lester said.

But as the two started working on the business, they quickly realized that while they had plenty of experience on the technical side, they would need some help on the business side. That’s when they turned to Chamber affiliate the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center, where they enrolled in its LEADING EDGE business planning course.

“We can honestly say that in starting a business, we were lost in all the business formalities,” Lester said. While Lane and Lester have over 35 years of combined experience in aviation and engineering, when it came to actually starting the business and writing a business plan Lane says, “We had a long ways to go.”

“You have to have a solid product that you understand and is in demand within your market range,” Lane said. Lester and Lane are confident there is a demand for their product – which will both save the farmer money and reduce the amount of unnecessary chemicals into soils. Currently only five percent of farmers use this type of technology and interest in precision farming is continuing to build among the agriculture community. “Our customer base is out there,” Lane said. “[They’re] just waiting to have a system like ours that delivers a world-class product.”

Lane and Lester are in the process of laying out a well-defined business approach so they can “build a long-term sustainable business with a successful future,” Lester said. “While we are still encountering challenges along the way, with the help of the Denver SBDC we are able to overcome unexpected obstacles and continue on towards our goal of Big Sky Aerial Technology being a leader in the remote sensing industry.”

While taking the 11-week LEADING EDGE business planning course course, they purchased their first aircraft, fine-tuned their brand and market position and continued working on sensor design and software processing. They plan to start doing business this summer.

“The next few years are going to be very promising for us,” Lane said. “Precision farming is the way of the future and we intend to help it get there.”

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 important commitment to strategy is for every business.

Brittany began with the SBDC through our programs. Starting with our Start-Up Basics Track and a few individual seminars, but then went all in and signed up for the Leading Edge NxLeveL class that was facilitated in the fall. From then on, it was evident that Back2Basics Magazine was going to get started and be a successful venture.

The NxLeveL program put her into a position where she could take the natural step of leaving her job and move directly into a full-fledged commitment of making this business work. “After 11 weeks of creative thinking and business planning, I had a roadmap to guide me through the next chapter in my life,” said Brittany. The two and half month program built her confidence and understanding of how best to build her magazine and develop a logical growth plan for the business.
“If it had not been for the SBDC and the consultants who helped advise me, I would still be talking about starting this magazine and not actually working to make this dream come true,” she said. The entrepreneurial dream that she had experienced for many years is now a reality because of her effort and commitment to strategizing how best to develop the start-up, and by using the powerful resources of the SBDC network.

Back2Basics 2014 Year In Review:

Alt Ethos

You may have seen their installations during Denver Startup week or read their name in 303 Magazine as “Denver Artists to Watch in 2018.” Alt Ethos is introducing a new way of capturing the attention of audiences through experiential design. By combining mixed reality (MR), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to create interactive light displays, people are more than just viewers – they become part of the art display.

CEO Ethan Bach and cofounder Eric Davis began seeing Denver Metro Small Business Development Center (SBDC) consultants in January 2016 to explore several ideas for new programs and ways to expand their team. A year later, they enrolled in Leading Edge for Entrepreneurs to learn business basics and refine their five-year plan. They credit Denver Arts & Venues for making it possible for them to take the course through their Create Denver scholarship, a partnership with the SBDC that covers half of the program fees of creative and artistic businesses.

“Not only did we learn skills necessary for strengthening the foundation of our company, we also met other entrepreneurs and strengthened our relationship with the SBDC and Chamber,” Bach said of the course.

Since working with the SBDC, Bach and Davis brought on two more teammates – Paul Elsberg and Zac Layman. They also received several awards and recognitions including “Companies to watch from Denver Startup Week” by Denverite, second place in the Leading Edge business plan competition and were selected to represent Colorado in Washington, D.C. at the America’s Small Business Development Showcase.

And, they launched the nonprofit Denver Arts + Technology (DATA) to create a community center that puts research, education, creation and exhibition together under the same roof, developing curriculum for K-12 workshops and programs, creating an immersion lab, providing a professional job training program, creating diversity and fostering world leaders in immersive 360-degree technology.

Moving forward, they look to other like-minded companies like Moment Factory, Obscura Digital and Meow Wolf: “Seeing their success, we know that the world is changing and we have a good chance of actualizing our dreams,” Bach said.

2018 is a year to strengthen their foundation, increase revenue, offer new products and develop stronger relationships in Denver and nationally.

“When people scoff at these goals, we remind them of Elon Musk and his accomplishments. We are inspired by those who have set out to take on what others consider impossible and believe the world could use more of this type of ‘insanity,'” Bach said.

Metro Denver is a city for arts and culture, with its arts and culture district contributing to $512.8 million in economic impact in 2017. In fact, its vibrancy and support for startups and the arts is what made it the perfect home for Alt Ethos, Bach said: “We look forward to supporting the ethos in Denver as a dynamic engaged city that fosters arts, culture and technology.”

If you want to learn more about Leading Edge or the Create Denver Scholarship, visit our website.

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