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Wordsmith Wood Shop Success Story

Monday, July 15, 2019

Story written by:Shelley Widhalm

Pictures by: Mike O'Connell

Owners of Wordsmith Wood Shop blend ‘creative skills’ with customer service.

Loveland area couple Gib and Lisa Coalwell made a few wooden boxes decorated with sayings but a large order put a toll on their small laser engraver.

The owners of Wordsmith Wood Shop needed to hire staff, get three more engravers and quickly learn manufacturing on a large scale. The couple blends handcrafted wood and engraved words to createheirloom boxes, bookmarks, recipe cards, coasters, magnets and cutting boards for their wholesale, retail and individual customers.

“At that point, we realized this is getting bigger than us,” Gib said.

The Coalwells received a purchase order in May 2018 that more than doubled their sales. They turned to the Larimer Small Business Development Center for advice after initially meeting with the Loveland Business Development Center in 2008 when the business was still a hobby.

“The one thing about the LBDC and the SBDC, no matter what we need next, they have it,” Lisa said.

The Coalwells originally didn’t plan to own a business but circumstances led them to combine Gib’s hobby with Lisa’s word-based career. Gib worked for 25 years in chemical manufacturing, and Lisa taught for nearly 20 years in Thompson School District, plus worked as an education reporter and freelance writer.

In 2001, Gib’s job ended with a company closure. He got a practical job but also acknowledged his love of woodwork after seeing a local artist at a craft show. He participated in his first craft show in 2001, launching Orion’s Woods named after his and Lisa’s view of the stars.

Gib started with custom-order boxes, selling them at shows, and then in 2011, a repeat customer wanted an engraved wedding gift. He hired out a laser engraver, and at Lisa’s suggestion bought one in 2012. They began engraving boxes for customers, but a year later, Lisa noticed the engraver often sat idle and suggested bookmarks with sayings to create a product supply.

“We always say it’s peanut butter and jelly that go together, Gib and Lisa and words and wood,” Lisa said.

In 2013, the Coalwells started an Etsy Marketplace online store, and with advice from the LBDC, rebranded as Wordsmith Gifts. They later became Wordsmith Wood Shop for an even better fit for their special event and location mementoes, logo branding and clever sayings and designs.

“We mix words and we mix wood. That’s what we’re at today,” Gib said.

In April 2016, the Coalwells went on a trip to Texas and stopped at a major retailer to drop off samples, receiving a large purchase order for 5,000 bookmarks. A year later, they added a second major retailer, plus started making ornaments and recipe cards, and their sales numbers doubled. Adding magnets in 2018 again resulted in another doubling of sales.

By then, the Coalwells realized they needed staff and met with Nikki Larcher, an SBDC consultant, to learn about human resources and now have five employees. They see other consultants, such as Mike O’Connell about business planning, Franklin Taggart about marketing and Amy Alcorn about social media. They also enrolled in the Small Manufacturer’s AdvantEDGE program and in April received a $6,000 scholarship. They meet with Jonathon Jaggers, a manufacturing consultant, for intensive training to develop a business plan and optimize their manufacturing processes, productivity and financial results.

“Their partnership is a blend of creative skills and excellent customer service,” Jaggers said. “They are responsive in filling their customers’ needs and requests.”

Advance Colorado Procurement Expo

Tuesday, April 16, 2019
The Advance Colorado Procurement Expo, now in its 10th year, is Colorado's premier buyers and sellers marketplace! Every year, businesses are invited to participate in this day-long event, which focuses on state and local government procurement. Businesses (sellers) exhibit throughout the day to showcase their goods and services to local and state government agencies (buyers). Exhibitors are able to meet with procurement professionals from those agencies to learn how to best sell their goods and services to them. All businesses, including those owned by women, minorities and veterans, are encouraged to participate. In addition to the expo hall, training sessions are held in the afternoon on the topics of government procurement. There is also a keynote speaker during lunch, as well as engaging one-on-one sessions between buyers and sellers (by appointment only). There is no cost for government agencies (buyers) to participate. Businesses may purchase an exhibitor table or a general admission ticket. Spaces are limited and early registration is encouraged, as this event does sell out!
 
To view a list of buyers participating, please visit www.coprocurementexpo.com.
 
This event is proudly brought to you by the Minority Business Office of Colorado, State Purchasing & Contracts Office, Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado Business Development Foundation.

New Consultant, Andrew Meade joins the SBDC team!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Please join us in welcoming Andrew Meade to the Larimer SBDC!  

Andrew worked for over 35 years in the construction industry.  As a project manager he has built dozens of large commercial construction projects.  As a business unit manager, he ran regional profit centers for a major U.S. general contractor in Redwood City and San Jose, CA. 

In 2003, Andy and some partners founded a commercial general contracting firm focused on high-tech and healthcare construction in Silicon Valley which grew rapidly to an annual volume over $50 million and more than 80 employees.  After 8 years as its President, Andy moved on to pursue other interests including small business consulting.  As a volunteer business coach with an anti-poverty entrepreneurship program, Andy spent a year in West Africa in 2014 helping twenty local businesses develop and execute long term growth strategies.

A registered Professional Engineer and licensed General Contractor in multiple states, Andy has a BS in Civil Engineering from MIT and received a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering from Stanford University.


Welcome Greg Moore to the Larimer SBDC!

Wednesday, April 03, 2019
We are excited to announce that Greg Moore has joined the Larimer SBDC consulting team!  Greg comes to us with a wealth of knowledge including: Web Design, SEO, CRM Development, Lead Generation, Trade Show Planning & Management, Sales Management, Marketing, Advertising, Brand Building, Motivational Speaking, and Business Coaching.

From Greg:

Hello, my name is Greg Moore and I'm a family man, entrepreneur, and business coach. My superpower is the ability to find hidden profit and growth potential in ANY business.

After graduating from The University of New Mexico with a degree in Applied Mathematics, I entered the workforce as a Satellite Engineer maintaining software for the government. Later, my wife and I answered an internal desire to enter the business world, so we started our own remodeling company netting over $50 million in sales in less than a decade. Due to innovative marketing, advertising efforts, and creativity, our business was very prosperous. Much of our success was earned by our internal core belief that empowering and mentoring employees evokes a mutually beneficial environment.

Now I run a marketing and business coaching firm called AvaWing. Understanding the challenges of being an entrepreneur, such as working with little capital and the need for guided direction and quick, useful information enables me to pass my knowledge onto others. I also know that as a small business, implementing smart and economical strategies to get sales, leads, and clients is crucial.

Through conducting national workshops, 100's of sales meetings, and pitching large corporations such as The Home Depot and Ace Hardware, I've gained invaluable industry knowledge. Working in the fields of Engineering, Pharmaceuticals, Chemistry, Probiotics, Photography, Hospitality, and Home Improvement also taught me substantial business expertise to offer our community.

My skills include Web Design, SEO, CRM Development, Lead Generation, Trade Show Planning & Management, Sales Management, Marketing, Advertising, Brand Building, Motivational Speaking, and Business Coaching.

Working with you to lift your entrepreneurship spirit to help you grow, build, and escalate your business will not only create higher profits, but teach you how to maximize the potential in your industry.

“Ultimately it’s all about cash flow”

Thursday, March 28, 2019
“Ultimately it’s all about cash flow” by: Fred Burmont

OK, you are in business but now you have questions:

Why do I not have any cash since my business has profits?
How much can I take as my “paycheck” from my company?
Can I afford to hire some help?
What are my most profitable products (or services)?
How much do I need to sell to break even?
What do I need to do to increase profits?
Do I need to get a loan or line of credit?

Since 2014 I have had the opportunity to assisting more than 500 Larimer Small Business Development Center (SBDC) clients to understand their business financial statements and better manage their business finances.                                   
As an experienced CFO, and former small business owner, I know that of the three basic financial statements, the Cash Flow Statement reflects the “life blood” of the business and that sufficient ending cash balances are the key to a healthy business.  
The Cash Flow Statement (Statement of Sources & Uses of Funds) can be derived from the historic accrual-basis Balance Sheet (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Owner Equity) and the Income Statement (“Profit & Loss Statement”).  However, I have found that many small business owners are not familiar with accrual-basis accounting--but they do keep track of their bank account on a cash-basis. 
Therefore, my approach is to assist our clients in using their operating cash (checking) account as an intuitive way to plan the cash flow of their business. 
I have developed a MS Excel spreadsheet “Biz Cash Flow Model” as a tool to project cash flow and ending cash balances on a monthly basis—in parallel to the business’s monthly bank statements.  There is a version for “Products-type” businesses, and one for “Service-type”.
The “Biz Cash Flow Model” is available to use free of charge by any of our SBDC clients.  

Fred Burmont
Certified SBDC Business Consultant
March 27, 2019

Frederick J. (“Fred”) Burmont, a semi-retired former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and former Colorado-licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with more than 40 years’ financial management experience.  Since 2014 he has provided his services as a Certified Business Consultant for the Larimer County, Colorado Small Business Development Center (SBDC).  He specializes in assisting clients to understand, plan and manage their business finances.  He has helped clients to develop Business Plans and cash flow projections.  As of 3/1/19 he has conducted 829 consulting sessions for 512 SBDC clients.
Previously Burmont served 5 years as the Vice President of Finance for Upstate Colorado Economic Development a not-for-profit agency devoted to supporting economic development and job opportunities in Weld and Larimer County communities. His responsibilities included managing the Weld/Larimer Counties Revolving Loan Fund, a federally-funded financing program for small businesses.
He has 25 years’ experience as a corporate finance officer including 15 years as part-owner and Financial Vice President of Chaparral Industries, Inc. a metal products manufacturing company headquartered in Denver.  He served as the CFO, responsible for all financial, strategic planning, accounting, budgeting and cash management functions.  The company grew from 10 employees and    $1 million in annual sales to 93 employees and $14 million in sales over the 15 years.
For 6 years he served as Senior Business Manager/Division Controller for Knowledge Interact, a division of Soft Bank Group/Comdex, and for 4 years as Vice President of Finance & Administration for Staodynamics, a publicly-held (NASDAQ National Market) manufacturer of FDA-approved transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation medical devices.
A native of Colorado, born and raised in Denver, he is a graduate of the University of Colorado with a BS degree in Business, majoring in Accounting and Finance, and the University of Denver, Graduate School of Business Administration, with a Certificate in Marketing Research. 

4 Big Ideas for Selling Your Product Online

Tuesday, March 12, 2019
4 Big Ideas For Selling Your Product Online
by  
Ecommerce is one of the areas I get asked a lot about when I work with food businesses. It is tempting to think that if you just build it they will come and then a month or two later they are wondering why product isn’t flying of the digital shelf.

I knew I wanted to dive into this topic more and go over the high-level ideas around setting up an ecommerce store and choosing the best platforms for your type of product.  Since this presentation was part of Artup Week, my goal was to keep the presentation broad enough for artisans of all kinds making a physical product they wanted to sell online.  I was so fortunate to connect with Ben McConnell of Blue Parable who specializes in helping clients set up and see success in the world of ecommerce.  We got to work last December to map out the ideas and I quickly realized that I needed to take my own advice that I give to my clients and turn it over to an expert.  I know a lot about ecommerce, at least enough to be dangerous, but Ben is THE expert.

With only 45 minutes, we broke it down to four big ideas we wanted everyone to come away with

1)  Myths of Ecommerce
2) Opportunity is Big
3) 4 Platforms to Know
4) Your Business is Unique

My favorite part of the presentation is around the myths of ecommerce. I see clients fall into both of these a lot.

  1. An ECommerce business is cheaper to operate than a brick and mortar business
  2. An solopreneur can make millions of dollars selling online

The reality is that no one can really operate as a true solopreneur, doing everything well, at least not for very long. I thought this slide illustrated all of the things an ecommerce entrepreneur needs to do. This just reinforced the theme that came up for me throughout Startup Week is that you can’t, and shouldn’t, go it alone.  Get expert help and focus your resources on doing what you are really good at.

The other takeaway is just how big the opportunity is.  But you have to find your customers by being on the right platforms and investing in your business with some marketing initiatives.

We did record the presentation, but it isn’t “mic’ed” so it is a little hard to hear. You can also get the handout we gave out here or get the whole presentation here.

Following the presentation we had a panel discussion with Ben, Charity of TechKnow and also an ecommerce business owner and Lukas Matthews of Twin Scroll Marketing, an Amazon optimization service.

I am also including some links to articles I have read recently about selling on Amazon that may be of interest to you:

Pie Shell Blog here about selling on Amazon

Amazon pushes for more exclusive products here

QuickBooks for Small Business Owners – Online and Desktop Versions

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

QuickBooks for Small Business Owners - Online and Desktop Versions | Digital Workshop CenterQuickBooks for small business owners is recognized as an industry leader in accounting software, helping you keep track of bookkeeping, inventory, payroll, expenses, sales, and more. QuickBooks not only provides easy ways to manage accounting, it also offers marketing solutions, real-time reporting, year-to-year comparisons, data tracking functions, and more. QuickBooks should be at the top of the list for business owners and those seeking to upskill their accounting resumes of programs to learn and understand how they function.

One of the first steps to learning QuickBooks is to understand the different program levels and available versions of the program. QuickBooks offers both an online and desktop version of their program, as well as different membership levels depending on what features you want the program to have.

To help you decide which is best for your business, understand the main differences between the QuickBooks online and desktop versions: 

  1. Fees: Quickbooks online offers a free 30-day trial period; while the desktop software must be purchased before use. Desktop has a one-time upfront cost, but the online version has different monthly pricing levels depending on use and needs. The desktop version may include upgrade costs to meet your business’s complete needs. Determine what your QuickBooks will need to do and how you or your business will be using the software before deciding.
  2. Access: QuickBooks online is a cloud-based software, meaning as long as you have a good internet connection, you can access your books anywhere, anytime. QuickBooks desktop, on the other hand, is only available on the computers it is installed on.
  3. Program Functions: The basic functions of QuickBooks online vs. desktop are the same in terms of invoicing, accounts payable and receivable, and so on, but the online version actually provides more included features than desktop. Compare the features of each here.
  4. Support: The online version of QuickBooks comes with free support; the standard desktop version does not have included support unless you upgrade to the Pro Plus edition.
  5. Customizability: Both the online and desktop version of QuickBooks offer some degree of customizability. However, if your business must account for calculating and rebilling of job costs or needs to calculate discounts by customer, the desktop version is the only of of the two that can currently do so at this time.

As with anything, both the QuickBooks desktop and online versions each have their own high and low points. QuickBooks Desktop makes sense for businesses who are concerned with the following:

  • Security: If you want to keep your data off the cloud and only in your office, the desktop version may be best for your business.  
  • Simplicity: If your business has a fixed office location and only needs to give access to a handful of users, desktop might right for you.
  • Costs: To avoid the monthly recurring fee, desktop is the only answer.
  • Custom Features: If your business needs to include customer discounts or complex job costing, the desktop version is a better choice.

QuickBooks Online might be right for businesses needing:

  • Remote Access: If you need to access your books at any point, anywhere, the online version is better able to meet this need.
  • Multiple Users: If your books need to be accessed by multiple people at the same time, the online version is better able to handle this.
  • Support: If easy-to-access support is important for your business, the online version provides more support options.
  • Features: The online version offers more included features for users in terms of automation, applications, and the like.

Regardless if you decide to utilize the online or desktop version of QuickBooks, having a deep understanding how the program functions is valuable for your small business or accounting career. If you’re ready to learn more about QuickBooks and it’s features and how to effectively use it, consider taking a course at the Digital Workshop Center. We offer classes for both the online and desktop version in a group setting or in a one-on-one basis in Fort Collins and Denver, Colorado. By joining us for our QuickBooks classes, business owners will  learn the skills you need to successfully manage your small business accounting, how to optimize both the online or desktop QuickBooks versions, generate critical business reports. Applicants will learn the skills necessary to succeed in an bookkeeping or accounting job. Learn more about the QuickBooks classes offered at the Digital Workshop Center and register today!

Terri Donovan-Keirns - Assistant Director at the Larimer SBDC

Friday, February 01, 2019

Jimena Peck Photography

Wednesday, January 02, 2019
Jimena Peck Photography 

Jimena Peck is a native of Argentina, who has built a vibrant photography business.   “I do mostly editorial work that helps tell a story. I also do food photography and portraits. My style is clean, simple, and especially features natural light. I sometimes travel to remote sites for the project.”

After earning a Journalism degree in Argentina, she moved to Holland and began doing photo shoots for the digital marketing platform of a specialized shopkeepers association.  She moved to Fort Collins in 2015 and expanded her freelance business.  In early 2018, she had built up her client portfolio enough to go full-time!

As a former model, Jimena experienced and witnessed many aspects of the photography industry.   “ I traveled internationally a lot, and was often language-limited, so I started doing photography to communicate”.

Jimena was hiking with a friend who told her about the SBDC.    Jimena met  with SBDC Creative consultant Jennifer Spencer.   “Jennifer is always helping out. She helped me with self-confidence and developing my skills. She helped with pricing and managing accounts.”   She(Jimena) also met with Amy Alcorn, SBDC social media specialist.  “Amy helped me with the text on my website. I’ve worked two years on my SEO, because “being found” is my most important goal.” 

Jimena has set up her LLC, and plans to implement QuickBooks software in 2019. 

The Larimer SBDC offers specialized classes and consultants to our Creative clients like Jimena, who add so much to our communities.  “I wasn’t considering myself as a business.  The SBDC gives you the option of talking to someone who understands your situation, and what you need.”

See Who's Joining Us in 2019!

Monday, December 10, 2018

We are excited to introduce the new consultants who will be joining us in January, 2019! These consultants come to us with a wealth of knowledge from Marketing, Restauranteur, Partnership Relationship Management and much more. To see their full bios visit: http://www.larimersbdc.org/about-us/consultants

Craig McBreen

Fort Collins Marketing Specialist

Craig is the owner of McBreen Marketing, an integrated marketing firm that specializes in helping small businesses develop distinct, cohesive, and systematized marketing that brings results.

His mission is to help start-ups and small business owners craft an online presence that builds authority, increases brand awareness, and is built for long-term success. And he has over 20 years of experience leading teams of creative professionals.

Craig is also a certified Duct Tape Marketing Consultant.


Jeff Jensen 

Fort Collins Business Consultant

Jeff has lived in Larimer County since 1974 and graduated from Larimer County Vo-Tech, Colorado State University and the Leadership Program of the Rockies.

Jeff specializes in strategic planning, (short and long term), new business and succession planning. He has built service and retail.
businesses  "Budgeting and P&L decision making is critical to success and I can aid with helping build or evaluate this for your business."

Jeff has been building new and turnaround business for nearly 35 years. His consulting has been built around small business (less than 50 employees) and political consulting.


John Verderame

Fort Collins Restaurant Consultant

John Verderame began his career earning a Bachelor's Degree in Business Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts. He successfully navigated the restaurant industry for almost twenty years in New York City in many high profile front and back-of-house roles. Verderame has helped develop and execute concepts, designed spaces, and expertly crafted food and beverage menus and wine lists. 

Verderame recently employs both his hospitality and education expertise as an Instructor at Front Range Community College in the Business and Hospitality Management department where he wears his chef whites instructing college students in culinary arts coursework, cost controls, purchasing, and management. Verderame's diverse and lengthy experience in the industry working with prestigious and elite Chefs and restaurateurs from concept to opening and expansion makes him a valuable mentor. His ability to hire, train and develop staff, and to teach management how to see what the guest sees creates a new standard of service for an unforgettable experience.

Rich Chiappe

Estes Park Marketing Specialist

Rich began his career in sales for large corporations transitioning to business development for multiple high tech startups before eventually building his own businesses. Most recently, he helped his business partners grow their aviation manufacturing business from $1M to over $5M in annual sales becoming the industry leader in their space.

After raising their three children, Rich and his wife moved to Estes Park where they now own and operate a very successful lodging business.

Rich holds a BBA in Marketing from the University of Texas and loves helping fellow business owners create, stimulate and grow opportunities for their businesses.


Ben McConnell

Loveland Marketing Specialist

Ben McConnell is co-founder and CEO of Blue Parable, a Loveland based software start-up focused on bringing elegant, intuitive software solutions to businesses big and small.

In addition to running Blue Parable, Ben serves as Manager of Ecommerce and Digital Marketing for Cloz LLC, a Loveland based boutique retailer owned by his fiancée Anna Gutierrez and her mother Penne Sperry. Cloz operates two brick and mortar retail stores in downtown Loveland, each with an accompanying ecommerce site.

Ben has a passion for business architecture. He's well versed in a myriad of business analysis and modeling techniques that enable process centric design of business solutions. He loves sharing these tools with business leaders and helping them improve their existing products and services, or create new ones.

Ben's expertise includes software development, product management, project management, business architecture, process engineering, IT architecture, team management, service management, ecommerce, and digital marketing.