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Spidertrax

Wednesday, August 02, 2017
Spidertrax Off-Road
Owner: Thom Kingston















Story written by: Shelley Widhalm
Photos Courtesy of Spidertrax

Thom Kingston helped start Loveland-based Spidertrax Off-Road not in a garage like some startups but in a fully equipped shop at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
In 1999, Kingston and his former partner and co-founder, Eddie Casanueva, initially snuck into the school after-hours to develop and manufacture parts for the off-road industry until they got official approval and could work during the daytime. “We were manufacturing all of our parts, using the tools of the university to pull it off,” said Kingston, who has a degree in mechanical engineering.

Kingston and Casanueva moved their fledgling operation to Longmont in 2001, bringing a few parts on pallets. They relocated the shop again in 2014 into an 8,000-square-foot building at 174 12th St., SE.

Spidertrax makes products for rock crawling, a motor sport involving driving over tough, rocky terrain. The company, which produces everything in-house, develops and manufactures drive trains, axles, hub units and knuckles, all for the front and rear of the off-road vehicle.

“When we competed in racing and rock crawling, 
you couldn’t get through a day of rock crawling without something breaking,” Kingston said. “It was what happened, because it was so extreme.”
Kingston, who has a staff of 16, takes the approach of looking for causes of failure to improve his product lines, regularly meeting with top off-road drivers at competitions. He doesn’t simply design on paper or use Computer-Aided Design but employs materials, workmanship, and engineering and design principles to transform what the machines can do.

His product lines impressed the producer of “Monster Trucks,” who called Kingston last year to request design specs for drive trains, axles and other parts to use in movie stunts, along with a large inventory of spares. Kingston didn’t hear from the producer after putting in his order, so when the movie came out, he decided to email him. With an apology, the producer said what Kingston had made at Spidertrax was of such high quality nothing broke.

 “It’s nice to be able to serve and over deliver, and I try to stay on my toes for that,” Kingston said.

To continue expanding his business, Kingston began working with Robert Coffey, a Loveland Business Development Center/Larimer Small Business Development Center financial specialist, in February 2016. Kingston, who had reached a point where he needed to generate more sales to grow his business, wanted to get ideas for improving his budgeting and financing.
“The key thing Thom wanted to focus on was a financial budget because there 
 seemed to be a lot of wasted resources, and forming a budget helps you develop discipline in operations,” Coffey said. “How does that financial data give you perspective on how your company is performing?” 

 Coffey helped give Kingston direction to improve his interpretation of the balance sheet and P&L statement financial data in making sound business decisions, he said. 

“It played a very key role at the exact right time,” Kingston said. “They have been absolutely phenomenal in taking the business to the next step.”

Trailcraft Cycles

Thursday, June 22, 2017
Family First, Business, Amazing!


















Trailcraft Cycles
Owners: Ginger and Brett Rosenbauer

Story written by: Lee Porter
Photography by: Lee Porter

When their son Elijah was three, Ginger and Brett Rosenbauer put him on a bike and he took off like a rocket.

Elijah just turned seven when he got his first “real” bike, and it turned out to be heavy, and needing modification. So, it was in the hot tub of their west Fort Collins home that Ginger, a stay at home mom and Brett, an executive at the Fort Collins bike manufacturer Niner, decided to start Trailcraft, a bike company devoted to small ones—kids, and now, small adults.

Coming up with an idea is one thing, putting together a business is another. Brett took on the task of researching:
“I have a pretty good pulse on the market, so I feel like we saw a trend, maybe three years before it was ready, and we launched at the prime time,” he said.

Ginger set about the work of learning how to run a business. As a MSW social worker, her education didn’t help much, but when Public Service Credit Union recommended she seek help at the SBDC, she was delighted.

“I needed help with the accounting piece, with inventory and cash flow analysis,” Ginger said.
And I got it with Andrea (Grant). She’s been a great help.

“Andrea gave us a great set of spreadsheets that has had a profound effect—inventory management, cash flow analysis. This has been really helpful in going to the banks. It (made) us look really professional as a company to have all our ducks in a row. It’s meant we’ve been able to get good lending-- which has been super important to us.”

“We did a first small run of 50 frames and parts. We launched two ways, on Kickstarter and our website with Rocket Jones.” Ginger added.

“I think both Ginger and I saw this as an opportunity to create our own business that will work with our family. We can take Fridays off and go camping together. At Niner I was the original Fort Collins employee. It was a lot of work—70-80-hour weeks, so I’ve got an understanding of what it takes to start a company from the beginning,” Brett said.

“The key is that we captured a market that was emerging,” said Ginger. “We were able to see, like Niner in the 29-inch wheels, that the market timing was just right when we launched with TrailCraft. Now, the market is really taking notice.

“We’ve gone from focusing solely on little kids to 9-14 year olds with our 27” bike and now an even bigger bike designed for smaller women.”

“We have fun playful bikes for anyone who’s under 5”6’,” Brett said.

What would the Rosenbauers recommend for budding entrepreneurs? Go to the SBDC, Ginger says. “It is so amazing to me the level of professional advice and it’s free, it just blows my mind.”




Larimer SBDC Success Story - New Ownership, Same Great Service, Same Great Team

Thursday, September 29, 2016
New Ownership, Same Great Service, Same Great Team

Owners: Tim & Julie Kenney
Story & Photography: Kat Rico


In 2014, Tim and Julie Kenney purchased Clay’s Ace Hardware, a mainstay of south Fort Collins since the original owners, Jim and Lisa Clay, started the store in 1998. Tim and Julie felt the entrepreneurial call, but did not necessarily want to start their own business, so they began looking for businesses to purchase. Their focus rested on a brand that was recognizable, and an existing business that had a culture built around service to the customers and community. They learned that Tim and Lisa Clay were considering selling their store located on Harmony Road in Fort Collins, however the Clays cared deeply about their employees and customers and only wanted to sell to someone with the same values. Tim appreciated this and said, “It’s the idea that people are coming to our store for more than an item.” 

Tim began investigating the Ace Hardware franchise model and discovered it was a cooperative, meaning each store is locally owned, but they still have a national organization with one vote per store. The franchise is particular about the owners it selects, and he went through the process, discovering the support the model offered along the way. Outside of the support from the franchise, Tim made his way in to the SBDC for consulting on the purchase process. The purchase took about a year to complete.

A key recommendation from one of the SBDC consultants was that he simply work in the business for the first few months of the transition. “We were focused on continuing the path of success of the previous owners and made no changes for the first six months,” said Tim. The store is classified a supercenter based on sheer size, with 17,000 square feet of retail space and a team of 31 people. There are approximately 13 full time employees, and the core group of employees have been with the store between 5 to 13 years. By heeding this advice, the Kenney’s were able to make the ownership transition and maintained 100% employee retention. “It’s the same great service with the same great team,” Tim says proudly.

The store remains deeply rooted in the community and regularly hosts fundraisers in it parking lots for local high school clubs, sports teams and others. They strive to maintain a welcoming attitude and create a fun environment with these events, an element other stores struggle to emulate. There are over a dozen events each year at the store.

Tim is excited for the future of the store and the possibilities of expansion. As he has come to understand the history and culture of the store, he has faced challenges, but with the support of the Ace franchise and SBDC consultants the ownership transition has been a success. 

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!


Larimer SBDC Success Story - From Surviving to Thriving

Friday, May 15, 2015
Story and Photos by: Kat Rico

Some entrepreneurs wear the label of ‘serial entrepreneur’ proudly, and Diane Muno is no exception. She spent 15 years in healthcare management as part owner of a Chicago business that was successfully sold. She began looking for a business to buy when she found The Spruce House in Estes Park. “It had a cozy feel, like Grandma’s house, along with good financials.” In 2010, she celebrated the grand opening of The Spruce House and The Christmas Shoppe.

After she took ownership of these two businesses, she discovered a fellow business owner wanted to sell her retail shop, The Bean Blossom, which Diane jumped at the chance to buy and convert her vision for The White Orchid. She had a bridal store concept simmering and decided the brand provided her the perfect opportunity to expand. In 2012, The White Orchid Bridal was opened. 

This was about the time Diane had her first brush with disaster. In June of 2012, the area surrounding Estes Park was plagued by wildfires. She recalled taking delivery of inventory as the fire helicopters flew overhead, but her businesses survived. 

Diane wasn’t done with disasters yet though; in September of 2013 Estes Park was hit with flooding not seen for well over 100 years. “The flood almost bankrupted us,” Diane said, “but while I was busy worrying about how to meet payroll, my staff were dealing with not having a place to live. Seasonal employees just packed up early, but longtime residents were forced out of their homes and really struggled because there were no rentals available.” One of Diane’s businesses closed for 75 days and another for 10 days, but the impact of loss of tourism lasted longer.

Facing the difficult decision of whether to continue the businesses, Diane applied for an SBA Disaster Loan. “When I got the check, I cried. I was glad that I could continue my businesses, but afraid to take on more debt.” Through this assistance and United Way grants, her businesses were able to continue, but the tourism-based economy didn’t bounce back quickly. She continued working with the Larimer SBDC to apply for the Recover Colorado Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR), which she was awarded in early 2015. “The SBDC outreach and assistance helping us get organized for the application process was crucial.”

Diane worked with the landlord of the White Orchid Bridal property when she saw businesses to the left and right of her store closing. After proposing another business venture, a wall was brought down to expand the shop for Diane’s latest brainchild: a shop with trendier items called Liz & Jo’s. The grant money allowed her to finance the expansion, purchase inventory, advertising, a website upgrade for all her shops and even shoot a commercial.

When asked about the most exciting part of owning multiple businesses Diane says, “It’s about seeing them thrive versus just surviving. Consumerism has changed; the way people has vacation has changed. The silver lining of the flood is that it forced us as a community to deal with changing competitive tourism.”

To help with ongoing economic recovery and planning, Diane contributes to several boards. The town has received an EDA grant for economic development she hopes will move the economy from seasonal to a more sustainable year-round economy. Diane is proud to help move the community forward, both as a business owner and an active individual. “Our contributions will pay off in the future.”

More information about Diane's businesses can be found online at: 
     Liz & Jo's

Hear more about Diane's story:

Fernweh Inn & Hostel

Monday, March 02, 2015


Fernweh Inn & Hostel

Owner: Kelsey Schwager

Story written by: Kat Rico
Photography by: Lifestorm Creative Media

Walking up to the Fernweh Inn & Hostel, you pass through a white picket fence into a well-kept yard with a random dog toy or two scattered about. The Fernweh immediately feels like home, which is exactly what owner and founder Kelsey Schwager envisioned. “My goal is to give guests an amazing experience so they’ll continue to stay at other hostels while traveling.  The Fernweh provides a safe, clean and comfortable environment, which is what every traveler deserves.”

Since Kelsey was 19, she’s spent as much time as she can traveling around the states and abroad, staying primarily in hostels. When she speaks about her experiences traveling, her passion is evident. She firmly believes hostels are a wonderful alternative for budget conscious travelers, but there are misconceptions about what hostels are in the United States. This sparked her dream of opening her own hostel. She pursued degrees in business, recreation and tourism, and earned an internship at a hostel in Gunnison, Colorado. Her three month internship turned in to three years of employment, as she learned the ins and outs of managing a hostel. “I knew I wanted to pull people together for a diverse social experience in a constantly changing environment.”

A combination of opportunity and hard work allowed her to purchase the Sheldon House, a designated historic landmark, with an ideal location in Old Town Fort Collins. In July 2014 she moved in, and with the help of friends and family, began the process of converting the old bed and breakfast to Fort Collins’ first hostel. Her biggest challenge before opening in October 2014 was city zoning regulations, but with persistence she received the approval she needed to realize her dream.

After she began accepting guests, Kelsey made her way to the Larimer SBDC. “When I went in, I wasn’t even sure I was a ‘real’ business yet. They’ve given me a lot of confidence and their excitement for me is inspiring.”  Through meetings with several SBDC consultants, she received assistance with accounting, marketing and background activities guests don’t see. “Sure, my guests see me cleaning and answering emails, but that’s only about 10% of what it actually takes. All the background stuff, the other 90%, is huge.”

Currently, her hostel provides amenities such as bikes for guests, full use of the kitchen, a common area complete with board games, movies, books, a piano and fireplace, and even a costume closet. “Since I have been open, I’ve surprised myself and created the space to draw exactly the crowd I wanted. It is inspiring me to dream even bigger and think of new ideas.” Showing off the outdoor space behind the hostel, she talks about the future of a food garden, hammocks and a fire pit for summer relaxation.

“I’ve spent years gaining experience in the field, and working with the SBDC this year has been crucial to my success.  The assistance and affirmations I’ve received there makes me think, ‘As a small business, who wouldn’t want this help?’”

August Ink

Friday, December 12, 2014

Andrea Daniel in the August Ink Studio
SBDC Success Story Client
 “I love the problem solving that comes with owning a business!”

Taking the leap into entrepreneurialism happens for many reasons and takes you down many roads, as Andrea Daniel has learned. After leaving a full-time job, Andrea decided to begin selling pillow covers on the handmade goods site Etsy, while searching for a job in an unstable economy. Despite a bachelor’s degree in math and a master’s in public administration, she had trouble finding employment. At the same time, what began as a creative outlet to fill the gap turned in to a business that she could do for a living. Her first business saw early success, but it wasn’t established correctly, which led her to the Larimer Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for direction. 

In February of 2014, she hit the reset button and took another running start at business ownership by registering August Ink, selling custom screen printed t-shirts online. Her reasoning for the product shift was, “Pillow covers are fun, but everyone loves t-shirts.” The SBDC was helpful for her to have accountability and a consultant to bounce ideas off of. “The SBDC helps put my business into a framework. I understand why I should make the decisions I do for my business, and working with my consultant helps me set goals.”

To start over as a business owner is difficult, but Andrea sees that as part of the challenge of business ownership that she enjoys. Day-to-day tests like having enough time and doing it all on your own are always there, but “I love the problem solving that comes with owning a business,” she says. Knowing other business owners has been a huge asset as well, not only for partnerships and collaborations, but because starting a business can be lonely.

Since opening August Ink, she has expanded beyond t-shirts to begin offering tote bags, printed artwork and drink koozies, one of which was featured on BuzzFeed that gave her a great confidence boost. Her products feature inspirational messages and are her creative outlet that communicates her optimistic view on life. “I struggle… It’s a good struggle and it’s so worth it. At the end of the day, you’re putting yourself out there.” When you look through her store, you can see little bits of her personality, from a love of the Fort Collins community, to quotes from the show “Parks and Rec” and author J.R.R. Tolkien.

For now, her business is based out of her home studio, where she handles everything from design to printing to shipping, but Andrea is excited for what the future will bring for her business. She is especially excited about the possibility of opening a retail store front to contribute to the vibrant Fort Collins business community, as well as hiring her first employees. “It’s an exciting time for women and entrepreneurs. You’ve got to make your own way, and when you do, you can do awesome things!”

Story written by: Kat Rico
Photo credits: Andrea Daniel and Becky Young Photography

Babette's Feast Catering & Bakery

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Written by John Feeley, Photos Courtesy Bob Wonch, LifeStorm Creative Media



“I needed help. We wanted professional advice. We were starting to grow.”
Rudy Burns,
Co-owner, Babette’s Feast Catering and Bakery
Client, Small Business Development Center
Pictured with wife and co-owner Angi Burns

What’s a CPA working as a health-care administrator to do for a second career? Follow his passion. What’s a nurse practitioner to do in her off hours? Dream up cake creations.

Rudy Burns’s passion is to feed people, and his wife, Angi, has a creative side. While living in Arkansas, Rudy attended the Arkansas Culinary School in Little Rock. They consulted with a Small Business Development Center, where they were counseled to stay away from opening a restaurant. But catering – there was the opportunity to follow his passion.

Moving to Fort Collins to follow their dream, they settled on buying an existing business – Babette’s Feast Catering and Bakery. (Yes, it’s named after the movie.)

Three years into the business, they focus on the bakery – meaning custom cakes; catering – weddings and lunches; and wholesale baking – supplying hotels and independent coffee and tea shops with quiches, croissants, sweet breads, and carrot cake and other desserts.
A year after taking over the business, they realized Rudy needed some more advice. As a CPA, he had the finance side of the business down pat. And the cakes, with Angi’s assistance, were hitting a creative sweet spot.

“We needed help,” Rudy says. “We wanted professional advice. We were starting to grow. We had no marketing background, and the business was about to take off.” The business has grown 150 percent. And it’s no longer just the two of them. They have three employees.
Says Angi, “We wanted to make sure we were realistic in our expectations.”

The Larimer Small Business Development Center helped them start down the path by giving objective advice. They met one-on-one with a business consultant, a marketing consultant and a social-media consultant (find Babette’s on Facebook, Pinterest, and the web).
Their business plan includes maintaining the fundamentals that has made Babette’s successful – things like traditional recipes and natural food and flavors – and adding a retail cake shop. Custom cakes are their speciality, but they see a niche in Fort Collins for a walk-in store. And they’re ready with a name: Daddy Cakes Bakery. That would be Rudy.

“So far, it’s been a lot of hard work,” Angi says, “and we will keep working hard to become as successful as we possibly can be.”





Cyd Springer - 'Springing' Her Art Business Forward with the Larimer SBDC

Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Written by Jonh Feeley, Photos Courtesy Jafe Parsons and Mike O'Connell

Artist Brushes Up on Business, Social Media Skills
After 25 years in northern Colorado as a graphic artist, copywriter, and greeting card designer, Cydney Springer put down the computer mouse and took up an artist’s paintbrush. With two years of study under other artists and a lifetime of interest in painting, she set out to capture the beauty and awe of Colorado landscapes.

She works with oil paint in an Estes Park studio with windows that frame Longs Peak. It’s no wonder landscapes and nature are her forte.

Exhibitions throughout United States
Over the past 10 years, she has exhibited throughout the United States, from the American Artist Professional League Annual Show in 2006 in New York City; Nomadas del Arte exhibitions in Santa Fe, N.M., and Dallas, Texas, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art in Alabama, and seven times an artist featured in the Governor’s Invitational Show in Loveland, Colo.

Several galleries represent her work: Aspen and Evergreen Gallery in Estes Park, Elk Horn Gallery in Winter Park, Mary Williams Fine Arts in Boulder, Rich Timmons Studio and Gallery in Doylestown, Pa. And the newly opened Cydney Springer Gallery at the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park.

The business side of art
Artists are entrepreneurs, of course. They are their own business. Like many artists, Cydney reached the point where she asked this question: How do I market myself?

She came to the Small Business Development Center and signed up for a course called Leading Edge for Entrepreneurs. It’s a 12-week business class. The Larimer County SBDC offered the class in Estes Park. 

“The SBDC entrepreneur program is multifaceted,” Cydney says. “I learned quite a lot.”

Top-notch consultants for top-notch advice
SBDC puts clients in contact with expert consultants. Cydney worked with Nelia Harper, an entrepreneur and strategist with more than 10 years of small-business ownership, sales, marketing, and business development experience. She also worked with Adam Shake, owner of Neanderthal Productions Social Media Consulting in Estes Park, and Tony Bielat, owner of Estes Park Marketing and a certified Project Management Professional.

“We went over what I had been doing and what I can do with different products,” Cydney said. She is expanding her offerings with prints, and her card line has been successful, too. Her website is set up for sales.

And now her new venture, the Cydney Springer Gallery at the Stanley. About 75 people attended the recent opening. The gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

As if her painting and the new gallery aren’t enough, Cydney is organizing the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters to spend a week in Rocky Mountain National Park Sept. 17-28 as part of the park’s 100th anniversary. The gala opening is Sept. 25 at the Fall River Visitors Center. The French in the name of the association says what the artists do – they paint outdoors – in the “plein air.” So instead of being in her studio looking at the mountains, Cydney will be out in nature, her inspiration.