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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 kat@larimersbdc.org!

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 www.coloradocreativeindustries.org/manage-your-award.

Call For Instructors!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Do you have valuable knowledge or a particular set of skills you'd like to share with small business owners? The Larimer SBDC is seeking instructors to develop and teach new classes for the Larimer SBDC beginning in January 2016. We are entering our planning stages now, so please submit your ideas and contact information to:

Terri Donovan-Keirns
terri@larimersbdc.org
Program Coordinator|
Larimer SBDC

We're looking for classes that will be unique and challenging for our entrepreneurs. Volunteering to teach a class with the SBDC is a great way to share your expertise with new business owners and contribute to a more diverse economic community. Contact us today!

Doing Business with the Government

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Doing Business with the Government

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

9:00 am  - 11:00 am

Larimer County Building


Have you ever thought about government contracting but didn’t know where to start? Join us for an interactive workshop about what government agencies buy, how you can market your products and services to federal and state agencies, and where to find opportunities.  You’ll also learn about the small business certification programs that can help you get your foot in the door. 

The Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) will show you basics of getting started.  The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Connect2DOT Program Manager will tell you about working with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).  If you want to get a slice of the billion dollar pie, don’t miss this workshop!

Agenda:
9:00 - 10:00: Federal Government Contracting
Learn the steps for doing business with the government
Registering in SAM and using online marketing tools
Presented by Kathryn Rowe, PTAC
10:00 - 11:00: Doing Business with CDOT
What CDOT buys and the certifications that can get you in the door
Forecast of anticipated 2015 CDOT bid opportunities
Presented by Cathy Kramer, Connect2DOT
11:00-12:00: Networking and Consulting
Stay after to network with other small businesses and talk with the business counselors from PTAC and Connect2DOT about your business

This is a FREE event, but pre-registration is required! Save your seat today!




10+ Retail Holiday Boot Camp Takeaways

Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Our Small Business After Hours series is proving to be a hit! Nearly 30 people representing a wide variety of retail shops throughout Fort Collins attended our September 22nd event.

Alyson MacMullan of Peak Retail Group gave us some great takeaways for retailers to remember as they enter their holiday planning period.
1. Lay all your key dates from November through January (yes, January) on a physical calendar
• Sometimes you may see correlations on paper that aren’t obvious in a digital format.• Small Business Saturday is November 28th this year!
2. Determine your goals for the holiday season
• Do you want more sales in dollars or in transactions? Do you have targets for how much inventory you want to move? Are you aiming for less January markdowns?• If you don’t have data from last year to drive your goals, make sure you begin collecting it this year! What works? What doesn’t?
3. Pick a color pallet for your store displays and stick to it!  
• Highlight high margin inventory in your displays.• Hint: It doesn’t have to be red and green, in fact, your store’s brand colors work very well! 
4. Consider all elements for the in-store experience: Sights, sounds, smells 
• Offer extras like a free stocking stuffer, free gift wrapping and bounce back offers with every purchase.• Do everything you can to keep shopping stress-free and easy for your customers. 
5. Proper staffing is a challenge for retailers during the holidays
• Signs are your silent salespeople. Make them informative and interesting so customers can answer their own simple questions.• Arm your salespeople with mobile payment options so they can help customers avoid lines at the register.
6. Social media is your friend!
• Post every day! Use a planning/scheduling service like SnapRetail, Hootsuite or SproutSocial to help you plan out several days in one easy shot.• People love contests and flash sales, utilize these techniques!• An image is worth 1,000 posts. Show your staff decorating the store!
7. E-mail is your friend too, but be cautious
• Find an e-mail template and stick with it for the season. It will make your life easier and your customers will recognize your communications.• ONE offer per e-mail only, and keep it clean and concise. People are already stressed during the holidays, your communication should make it easy for them.
8. 12 Days of Christmas Promotions are very effective!
• Drive traffic into your store by offering serious discounts (50-75% off) on a high margin, highly stocked item each day.• These are top secret deals! Resist the urge to reveal the promos early. Pre-schedule deal communication to save yourself a headache.
9. Your merchandise assortment shouldn’t vary dramatically during the holidays; the majority of your stock should be tried and true items 
• NEVER run out of your top sellers, that’s a missed opportunity!• Don’t accept late deliveries from your vendors. Communicate clearly and directly when you need your merchandise by and if they can’t meet your deadlines, don’t accept deliveries.
10. Restock key items for January and mix up the look of your store

Sound like a lot of information? We assure you, this was only the tip of the iceberg! 

Thank you Alyson for all of the excellent information you provided!

If you’re a retailer and need help digesting and applying this information, we encourage you to schedule with a Larimer SBDC consultant now to help with planning out your holiday strategy!