SBDC Template


SBDC Regional Event - Google's New Rules

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Location: The Summit

Is your Google listing not what it used to be?
Are you frustrated because you've noticed a drop in your website's ranking on Google over the last year? Has your traffic slowed to a trickle?

Well, you're not alone. Late last year, Google released one of their largest changes to their ranking criteria since 2011. Many sites that had been at the top of the page 1 for years dropped dramatically and businesses watched their revenue dry up.

If you're concerned that your website ins't getting the kind of traffic that is should or want to start your website off on the right foot, the East Colorado and Larimer SBDC invite you to to join us Tuesday, March 29th. Google expert, Chadd Bryant, will clearly explain Google's new rules and walk you through the Top 10 factors that Google is paying attention to this year.

During this workshop, you'll discover...
- How to write enticing content that also appeals to Google- Two ways to get more people to click on your listing - How to avoid being punished by Google ever again

Presented by:

Chadd Bryant,   Red Rocket Web Specialists 

Special Instructions: 

Individuals must cancel three business days prior to event for refund. Saturday and Sunday are not considered business days. 
Acceptable cancellation methods include by phone 970-351-4274 or emailing
No refunds will be granted if registrant fails to cancel three business days prior to event.

This event is sponsored by a partnership between:


Restaurant & Food Products - Competitive Advantage

Monday, February 15, 2016

Restaurant & Food Industry - "Competitive Advantage"

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

4:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Panel Event

A quick search of Larimer County restaurants yields nearly 2,000 results, not including food products. With so many food based businesses, how do you set yourself apart? For our March “Small Business After Hours Event,” we’re bringing together a panel of experts to discuss Competitive Advantage in the food industry. Some of the points we’ll be discussing are:

How do you position your business versus your main competitors?
How do you present your business to new potential customers?
How do you evaluate new products/services to better position your business?
What’s worked/what hasn’t from businesses who have been there?
How do you strategically price your offerings?

Join us for this great event and take advantage of the opportunity to learn and network with potential partners for your business. We’ve all got to eat, learn why we should eat what you’re selling!

Our panelists for this event will be:

Jennifer Lopez is the owner of Swallowtail Foods, LLC, in Fort Collins, which manufactures a line of instant chai latte mixes called Pi Chai. Pi Chai made its debut in 2014, and is sold at local stores & coffeeshops in Colorado. Jennifer has 25+ years of experience in the food & beverage industry.

Owner of Loveland's Generations Wine & Martini Bar, Erin Borsdorf came to Larimer county in 2006, operating/managing several restaurants including Cafe Vino, Vincent, Woody's Wood Fired Pizza, and Basil Flats (Longmont) among others before working at Loveland's Pourhouse Bar and Grill for two years. During this time she developed a business plan to open present day Generations. She has a background in secondary education, has worked as a political strategist in IL, and holds degrees in theatrical design, social sciences, and communication, as well as licensing as a secondary educator and real estate agent.

Ken King has operated, rescued, designed and built over 100 independent restaurants in his 40-year food service career. He has owned a successful steakhouse, family restaurant, hot dog stand, prime rib house, and European bistro.Ken is an expert at improving business performance, creating new brands, identifying opportunities, and working with clients on specific operational and development challenges. He is available to SBDC clients for troubleshooting, business evaluation, and specialized assistance.
Patrick O'Neill is a Colorado native, born to an entrepreneurial family. Patrick served 6 years in the Marine Corps as an intelligence analyst. He graduated from CU Boulder in 1991 with a degree in political science. Patrick then managed his family’s industrial painting business and later entered a career in law enforcement. In 2012 he and his wife, Stefanie, bought Vern’s Toffee House from her family and continue to nurture its growth.

Thank you to our event sponsor:

Top 5 Business Real Estate Tips

Friday, February 12, 2016
by Kat Rico

Our first 2016 “Small Business After Hours” event drew another great crowd! Presenter Andy Smith of Chrisland Real Estate Companies gave us some valuable information on expectations for leasing real estate for a retail business. In case you missed it, we wanted to give you a recap of what was discussed!

Andy gave us definitions for nearly 30 common real estate terms, a few worth noting are:
Baseline rent – This is typically the advertised rent cost for a property. Lessee beware though, this may not include all of the property fees, such as maintenance, snow removal, parking arrangements, etc.
Triple Net/Net Lease/NNN – A type of lease that includes the tenant paying maintenance, real estate taxes, and insurance premiums.
Rent escalator – The agreed upon amount of increase for costs associated with the lease, including rent. A common rate for a rent escalator is 3%.

Along with all of the great terminology, here are the top 5 tips we’ve pulled together from Andy’s presentation:
1. Everything is negotiable - This includes everything right down to the tenant finish costs; can the landlord front the cost for any finishing and add it to the monthly cost of the lease? It’s worth asking!

2. Find a real estate broker to represent your interestsThe landlord has a broker, but that broker is working for the landlord’s best interests. You want to have a broker working for your best interest. If you engage a broker, your broker has a fiduciary duty to you and only you. Worried that the landlord will not want to work with your broker? Actually, it’s the opposite; most landlords prefer to work with someone (like a broker) who already speaks their language.

3. Think about your timeline, now double itThese things take time! The days of 2-3 page leases are gone, most are more like 20-30 pages now. Along with a broker, it’s recommended that you retain an attorney to review and interpret the lease for you, so you know what you’re getting in to.

4. Location, location, location - Is the space you’re looking at good for its convenience or as a destination? If it’s for convenience, it’ll probably be easily seen from a major street and have ample parking and your customers will be going there for you. If it’s for a destination, your customers will go to the area as an attraction. Destination spaces tend to have a higher rent premium. 

5. Parking and pedestrian traffic - Does your lease include specific parking spots for your customers or employees? Is the parking in front of your business leased to another nearby shop? Clarify these details before signing a lease. Also, the city should be able to provide you with vehicles per day and pedestrian counts for the area you’re looking at leasing, but you have to ask.

Of course this doesn’t encompass every question that was asked last Tuesday, but hopefully it gives you a good idea of what was covered. Are you looking at leasing a space? Meet with an SBDC consultant to discuss what that means for your business before you make the leap! Schedule an appointment by calling 970-498-9295, or send us a request at:

2015 Economic Impact Results

Monday, February 01, 2016
The Larimer Small Business Development Center (SBDC) released its 2015 economic impact results, and related business education metrics.  “Our clients enjoyed sales increases of a record $9.0M, up 70% from 2014, “ said Mike O’Connell, Larimer SBDC Director. “It was an excellent and exciting year,” he added.

Through its relationships with commercial banks, micro-lenders, and other resource partners, the SBDC also helped match client funding needs with financial providers.  “We helped clients harness  $6.7M of capital formation for business growth, almost double last year’s number” commented O’Connell.

The Larimer SBDC also helped 21 new businesses start, and its clients created/retained over 550 jobs in 2015.

“Working with the SBDC has been crucial to my success”, says Kelsie Schwager, owner of the Fernweh Inn & Hostel in Fort Collins.  “As a small business, who wouldn’t want this help?”  The SBDC consulted with  600 clients, 50% more than the 2013 client base.  Almost 20% of these clients were women, veteran, or minority-owned businesses.

“Our consultants did a fantastic job of providing both general and specialized business advice.   We also conducted 70 training classes covering financial, marketing, business planning, and business start-up processes; as well as industry-specific events for our restaurant, retail, and health and wellness clients,” added Terri Donovan-Keirns, Larimer SBDC Program Coordinator.

Real Estate for Retailers

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Real Estate for Retailers

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

4:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Speaker: Andy Smith, Chrisland Commercial Real Estate
Our first 2016 Small Business After Hours is on the way! 

In his fast-paced and interactive presentation, Andy Smith will help new and experienced retailers better understand critical factors that are often minimized (or even ignored) when retailers seek property for their ventures.  Andy’s goal is to equip the small-business owner with knowledge that helps them find the perfect space for their unique requirements.  Topics will include: 

     - Terminology & Terms
     - Functionality Considerations:  Parking & Beyond
     - Zoning & Permits: 
     - Leasing or Buying:  Terms & Process
     - Common Pitfalls
     - Market Status & Trends 

Our instructor for this session is Andy Smith. As a longtime Northern Colorado civic leader, Mr. Smith recently served an eight year term on the City of Fort Collins Planning & Zoning Board, including the last two as Chairman.  As an Advisor at Chrisland, Mr. Smith has specialized in complex land development projects with an emphasis in affordable housing and infill (re)development, as well as an assortment of tenant representation assignments.  Prior to joining Chrisland, Mr. Smith worked in private enterprise roles that included commercial banking, turn-around business consulting, a successful technology start-up, e-commerce, manufacturing, and retail.  Additionally, Mr. Smith worked in the public sector as a downtown development planner and as an economic analyst. 

A Colorado native who has called Fort Collins home since 1992, Mr. Smith graduated from CSU with a degree in Economics.  Outside the office, Mr. Smith enjoys spending time with his large family, fly-fishing, and dabbling in the culinary arts.

Thank You to our Event Sponsor:

Larimer SBDC Success Story - We're a Little Bit Cheesy

Friday, November 20, 2015
Story: Kat Rico
Photography: LifeStorm Photography

What do cheese and art have in common? Both excite the pallet and have rich stories, according to The Fox and the Crow owner Tina Mooney, a cheesemonger and art history major.

The Fox and the Crow brings artisan cheeses and meats to mid-town Fort Collins. They understand that the world of artisan cheese can be intimidating and have crafted their shop to welcome people who may stumble in serendipitously. Little signs like: “We cut the cheese,” and “Please refrain from tapping on the glass. It scares the meats,” let customers know that while they take cheese seriously, it’s fun too. They regularly host wine and beer pairing classes, to bring knowledge, fun and taste together.

When asked about her passion, Tina said, “Cheeses really speak to me because they all have stories, especially artisan products.” If you point to any of the products in their cases (without tapping on the glass, of course), staff will give you a breakdown of where it came from, how it was made and how it will taste, before offering you a sample. “I give all of my new employees a cheese textbook. They do everything from cooking to serving to retailing, so I want them to be personable, knowledgeable and sincerely love cheese.”

As a first time entrepreneur, Tina began developing her business idea at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). “I looked online for business classes, and the local chamber referred me to the SBDC. I kept getting the last open spot in all the trainings I sought, so the timing lined up perfectly. It must have been fate!” Through the SBDC, she worked with several consultants, took business courses, and learned how to listen to customers. SBDC consultants helped her with projecting financials, marketing, connections for financing, and setting up a commercial kitchen. She went to San Francisco for cheese school, to learn how cheeses are made, as well as how to properly cut and package cheese. Tina made it from idea to open in eleven months, officially opening in November 2014.

“The biggest surprise has been catering. At first, we didn’t really know how to do it. Now we do events and platters, that I like to bring an artistic touch to,” says Tina. The shop also has a devoted fan base of customers ranging from age 18 to 95, another surprise that has allowed the business to establish lasting relationships. “Last year for Easter, I made these seven pound monster meat pies. They pre-sold, so I didn’t even save one for my family. One of our customers heard, and they made us one and brought it to the shop. That’s the kind customers we have. It’s really like that!”

Looking to the future, they are excited to be, “Drowning in cheese money.” This will allow Tina to provide her employees long term benefits. As much as Tina loves cheese, she looks forward to the day when she can step back and let the cheese wheels turn on their own.

For more information about the Fox and the Crow, 
check out their website!

Funnel Vision Wrap Up

Thursday, November 19, 2015
On Tuesday, November 10th, we held our final “Small Business After Hours” event for 2015! First off, we want to say thank you to all of you who chose to attend. Your feedback helped us build these events into a regular part of our programming for 2015 and based on your responses, we will be carrying them forward into 2016!

Secondly, we want to thank all of the people who participated as panelists and instructors. Without your willingness to help share your experiences and knowledge these events would have fizzled out quickly.

Now to the meat and potatoes of what the presentation was all about: How do we make sure that our clients need us, find us and call us? Reu Smith gave us some great examples of what this process looks like, both inside and outside of the Health & Wellness industry.

How should you be communicating with customers and potential customers? What elements should be included in your marketing campaign? Exactly who is this person you want to walk through your door and buy from you?

  1. 1. Establish your campaign goals – Before you create a single Tweet, marketing piece or purchase ads online or offline, set your goals! Do you want to turn more strangers into clients? Cross sell a new product to existing customers? Shorten your sales cycle? Make sure you’re using measurable goals so you know when you’ve accomplished them.

  2. 2. Develop your campaign persona – Who are you trying to reach? Develop a list of character traits, based either on the top 10 clients you currently have or the client you want to reach. Shoot for 150 traits. The first few will be obvious, such as gender, age, maybe what type of car they drive. Once you hit 100 they will start to get ‘silly but true.’ Now distill down these traits into a persona or two. Most businesses have 3 customer personas they target, your job is to select which one this campaign is trying to target.

  3. 3. The Sales Funnel – Just like a physical funnel, as you begin your methods will reach a wide variety of potential clients. As you move further down the funnel, you’ll probably lose some people, but that’s ok! The goal is to get the best client for your business, not just anyone who comes in off the street. Some examples for you: Healthy Hallie, Muscles Max, Elderly Ed.

    1. Strangers – Your goal with strangers is to attract them. This can mean using blogs to share your industry knowledge, basic social media posting, making sure your website is easy to navigate and using keywords so search engines drive traffic to your site. Strangers are possibly looking to purchase something, but unaware where they want to purchase from.

    2. Visitors – So you’ve done a good job attracting people, now its time to win them over and convert them. Create specific calls to action to capture their information by offering a free e-book, creating specific landing pages, using web forms and providing specific contacts on your website to help them get to the right person in your business easily. Visitors are aware of you and possibly looking to buy, but haven’t made a decision yet.

    3. Leads – It’s time to start to close the loop with your leads. The most important thing now is to begin the process of qualifying your leads. Are they the customers you really want? Make another list of characteristics you want your ideal client to have and use that to score your leads. Your leads are now ready to buy, but may be unaware of who they will purchase from.

    4. Customers – Now it’s up to you to delight your customers. Interact with the on social media; if they took the time to shout out our business, say thanks! Use e-mail segmentation to further narrow down information just for them. You’ll create loyal customers this way who will return to you and you just might get lucky and create a brand champion! Customers have decided to buy, and if you’ve done it right, they’re going to buy from you!

    5. Brand champions – Not every customer will become a brand champion, but those who do are your biggest cheerleaders! They love your product so much, they’ll help convert strangers into visitors through testimonials, reviews and social media interactions.
The Sales Funnel is a lather – rinse – repeat type of process; you’ll use it over and over again. As you use it more, you’ll get better at defining the persona you’re targeting, and more effective at getting the customers you want to need you, find you and call you!

Health & Wellness Business - Funnel Vision

Monday, October 26, 2015

Health & Wellness Business - Funnel Vision

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Speaker: Reu Smith, Customer Acquisition Expert

Do you have all the pieces for a great marketing plan but don't know how to start putting them together? 
Funnel Vision will help you understand the right piece to use as your starting point, and how to put your marketing pieces into action to complete the entire marketing puzzle picture. We will discuss how to attract strangers to gain visitors, how to connect visitors into customers and how to delight customers into brand champions. 

Funnel Vision will help you decide when and how to use social media, call-to-action, blogs, newsletters, posts, tweets, pins, pluses. 

Funnel Vision is taught by an experienced and eccentric marketing agency owner who will keep your attention while laughing and learning. You will have serious fun at this event!

Thank you to our event sponsor:

Hiring, Connecting With, and Keeping Employees

Thursday, October 22, 2015

On October 20th, the Larimer SBDC held our second Small Business After Hours event targeted at the restaurant and food product industry. We pulled together a great panel covering a variety of restaurants and a food manufacturer to specifically address workforce issues faced in these industries.

Carolyn Reed
Silver Mine Subs Franchises
Ryan Houdek
The Melting Pot,
Rodizio Grill, Social
Mark Havens
Cafe Vino
Josh Skow
Canyon Bakehouse

Restaurants and food product companies face unique issues when it comes to workforce. Some restaurants, like the Silver Mine Subs franchises owned by Carolyn Reed, are looking for entry level employees. Others like The Melting Pot, Social, and Rodizio Grill owned by Ryan Houdek, or Café Vino which is managed by Mark Havens, are looking for experienced restaurant staff who match the culture of their establishments. For food product manufacturers like Canyon Bakehouse, CEO Josh Skow says finding someone whose character traits align with the company goals is most important. Regardless, they all face the same larger problems of hiring the right person that fits with their company values, overcoming generational issues, and employee retention. 

Hiring Processes

Harness Technology – Using a digital application process helps Carolyn efficiently sort through applicants. She sets the metrics on the program to give weight to people with prior restaurant experience.Interview Best Practices – Sometimes it’s easier to find out if they’re not a right fit. Ryan asks disqualifying questions during the interview; if a candidate is expecting to always make $300 per shift, they’re probably not a good fit for his restaurant.Company Culture as a Hiring Tool – All of our panelists agreed that they are looking for candidates that fit their company values and culture. If there is a mismatch in the beginning, it is likely to cause a variety of problems later.

Generational Issues

Millennials Are… Different – Between a difference in learning styles, work ethic and a need to like their boss, millennial present a new set of challenges for business owners with generationally diverse workforces.Communicating with Millennials is… Different – According to Carolyn, you need to set your expectations for millennial workers upfront and in a clear manner. When communicating and coaching them, you have to decide if you will take a less direct tone or if the employee is worth the time it may take to get them trained.
An Intergenerational Approach is…. Different – The need to like their boss presents a unique opportunity for millennials in intergenerational workforces. “We are the missing element in learning a work ethic,” says Ryan. At the Canyon Bakehouse, they have a shift that is managed by a baby boomer with mostly millennial workers. Giving the team well-communicated shared goals helps them work as a team.

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Employee Retention

Compensation is More than a Paycheck – Providing benefits like health insurance add to the value an employee gets from their paycheck. Café Vino also has a profit sharing program. Mark says this gives him an extra 35 bosses telling him how he can do it better, and it also helps employees feel vested and take ownership of the business.Hire Slowly, Fire Quickly – Normalize feedback and coaching processes and address issues quickly and casually. From the manager standpoint, always document even verbal warnings, and don’t be afraid of using write-ups as a second step. The kindest thing you can do for your employees is let them know what the issue is and how to correct it quickly and professionally.
Honor Employees on a Regular Basis – Say goodbye and thank you to employees every evening, keep gift cards for when you catch employees doing something right, celebrate employee milestones on a regular basis. Hire the right management, because they will properly train your employees and provide them the right encouragement.
Of course it is difficult to capture a panel discussion like this in a few hundred words, but we want to make sure to share these insights with you. Are you in this industry? We’re planning for 2016 right now, so send your feedback on possible topics to!

We will be continuing with our Small Business After Hours series with a Health & Wellness Businesses “Funnel Vision” workshop coming up on November 10, 2015.

Grant Opportunity for Creative Businesses!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Colorado Creative Industries Grant

As part of the Larimer SBDC’s mission to connect local businesses to helpful resources, we are pleased to inform local “Creative” businesses about a $2500 Career Advancement Award grant opportunity from

Colorado Creative Industries (CCI), the state organization responsible for supporting and growing our Colorado artistic community!

The Opportunity:

This grant helps support Colorado creative entrepreneurs and artists by stimulating their commercial creative business, thus producing improved revenue, new audiences, and/or improved management practices. 
This grant supports activities such as exhibit/festival participation, conference or symposium presentation, purchase of equipment or materials to expand an applicant’s business, enrollment in a workshop or consulting program to build business skills, development of useful technology and promotional materials, and more.
Awards range from $500 to $2500, and funds are paid on a reimbursement basis after receipt of final report and expense receipts.
Applications from all creative industry areas are welcome, and additional points will be awarded to the 2015/2016 strategic priority areas, which are “Film and Video” and “Photography”.   

The Requirements:

Must be an individual artist/creative entrepreneur or creative sector for-profit business, registered in Colorado and in good-standing with the Colorado Secretary of State.
Must have NOT received funding from CCI within 12 months from the application date.
Must be at least 18 years old and a Colorado resident.
Applicants may request up to $2500. Applicant’s requested amount must be matched one-to-one with personal or donated cash from other sources.
This is a competitive award, and not all eligible applications will be funded. Applications will be evaluated based on Artistic Merit (50%), Career Impact (40%), and Budget (10%).
Only on-line applications accepted.
Application deadline is November 2nd at 4pm, for support of program activities during the first half of 2016.  Applicants will be notified of award status by Dec 15th. 

Next Steps and Application Information:

Information shown here is a summary of the program. For complete program information, please go to the program information on the Colorado Creative Industries website.
Detailed instructions for registering and using the on-line grant system should be reviewed BEFORE beginning your application.
To apply, you need to complete a pre-qualification quiz.  If then eligible, you will gain access to the full on-line application.  To access the pre-qualification quiz, click on