Pikes Peak SBDC

Express Employment Professionals

For Nina Anderson, helping people has always been a passion. Nina is the owner of Express Employment Professionals in Grand Junction, CO. Express offers a wide range of services for job seekers and employers and is a national chain. The job seekers can have their job skills evaluated so they know what skills they need training in and then can be matched with an employer that meets the job seeker’s skill set and career preference. Express also provides many services to the employer. Along with the hiring of employees, Express can also handle a majority of the employer’s human resource needs.

All of these services became available in April, 2007 when Nina opened her business. She has a strong human resource background and passion to help people. This passion sets her apart from other employment service businesses. She truly cares about helping job seekers find a career and helping employers find the employee with the perfect fit. Nina’s background in human resources took her career all the way to Vice President of the Human Resource department in her most recent position. When she realized that she needed to have a college education to advance her career , she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management. Through past positions, Nina dealt with Express to fill job openings. She liked the service so much that she decided to open her own franchise.

To help her create a successful business, Nina utilized the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). She attended classes in finance and marketing. She also used consulting sessions to help her set up different avenues of marketing to help promote her business, which lead her to compete in the elevator pitch competition and win first place at the 2007 Western Colorado Venture Forum.

Thanks to the help of the SBDC and the passion that Nina has for helping people, her business is successful and growing.

Leuallen Sales & Service

Kevin Leuallen’s grandfather, Floyde, and father, Charles, inspired him to become an entrepreneur. His father owned various food delivery routes, a donut store, a mini storage, a miniature golf course, and a liquor store along with A & W and Dairy Cream restaurants in Rifle, Colorado. As a young boy working for his grandfather, Kevin used to help out in his restaurants . Kevin also helped his dad deliver Holsom Bread in the Rifle, Colorado area.

Kevin later worked a Pepsi delivery route and had his, then, 2-year-old son, Brandon, sitting at his side as he made his deliveries. Kevin went to work for a public utility company for a few years before he realized his passion was to build assets and start new food-related businesses as his grandfather had done. His son Brandon followed in his footsteps and partnered with his father in what is now Leuallen Sales & Service. Kevin’s wife Tammy and Brandon’s wife Betty Jo are also a big part of their success.

In May 2014, Kevin and Brandon purchased a Blue Bunny ice cream distributorship in Grand Junction. His son Mike has joined him to expand the ice cream business. They currently run this and their other food distribution businesses out of the Business Incubator Center where they are able to access the services of the Grand Junction SBDC as they continue to grow. Sales tripled from 2014 to 2015, and the SBDC has been critical in helping them expand. Kevin and Brandon feel they can ask any question and the Grand Junction SBDC is able to find answers acting as a mastermind group of consultants to help them learn and grow.

Their advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to “keep it simple and do a really good job at whatever you do, follow that where it leads you and look for open doors.”

The SBDC has helped them have a solution mindset, not a problem mindset.

Kevin and Brandon believe that one of the keys to their success is that they genuinely care about the people that work for them and their family. They listen and find ways to actually help them. “If you know what people need,” says Brandon, “you can care for them.” Leuallen Sales & Service has successfully grown their business by this principle.

Southern Ute Cultural Museum

Lynn Brittner, Executive Director, started planning the Southern-Ute Cultural Center and Museum over ten years ago. The Center’s opening this past May was her reward for years of dedicatedly holding the vision.

Brittner’s relationship with the Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center started way back at the beginning. She needed help and only had three staff. A grant from the Administration for Native Americans provided funds for her to take Board members to visit other successful and non-successful museums around the country with an emphasis on tribal museums. They had a lot to learn about creating a world class structure inside and out in Ignacio.

The Southwest Colorado SBDC Director had students from a business class at Fort Lewis help with the research she would need to write the business plan. “The SBDC has also been a consistent support and on-going resource. They have introduced me to people who could help with various aspects of the project and found us grant money to update the strategic plan.”

Brittner was surprised at how many details have to be considered in creating a museum and exhibits. “We had to consider the exterior design, the interior design, signage, height of the educational plaques, size of the displays, as well as their user friendliness and degree of engagement.”

The Cultural Center and Museum features a panoramic cinema, stunning exhibits and interactive display. Priceless artifacts can be viewed as well as beautiful jewelry, baskets and bead work.

In addition to exhibits teaching about the history and culture of the Ute Indians, the museum sponsors cultural events and has a facility available to rent for weddings, parties and staff retreats.

The Rock Lounge

Marcus Garcia has been the owner of the Rock Lounge (RL), an indoor climbing gym in Durango, since 2014. Marcus had transitioned from being a RL employee, a rock climbing guide, and owner of a small construction company before then. The RL was profitable in his first year, yet he thought there was more potential to be realized. Marcus had sent his business manager to a locally sponsored event which introduced them to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Fort Lewis College. SBDC is a free resource for entrepreneurs wanting to start, grow or sustain their business. Marcus contacted SBDC and was put in touch with an advisor whose specialty is business operations.

The SBDC consultant instructed Marcus to create a profit/loss system to find where the RL made and lost money. In addition, the SBDC consultant provided insight and structure on financial costs and overhead projections. Marcus saw positive gains over the course of that first year into the next two years. “The SBDC consultant helped me understand how the business worked and what made this business unique.” In March 2017, the property owners sold the building where the RL was located and they had to be out by the end of April. Marcus contacted Region 9 (a non-profit that promotes economic development in southwest Colorado) for a small business loan, but was rejected. This left him unsure of how to proceed. He reached out to the SBDC for guidance. The SBDC consultant contacted Region 9 on his behalf and learned Marcus would need to provide a sales forecast for the next three years to show future profit. Since the RL was profitable during Marcus’ three years as owner, the SBDC consultant gave instruction on how to create a financial spreadsheet which would provide the details Region 9 wanted. During this time, Marcus had friends who had offered him a building location to relocate the RL.

The loan Marcus had applied for would be for interior reconstruction. As the building codes and requirements were being sorted out, the SBDC consultant spoke directly with the loan officer to justify RL’s business model and explain their financial projections. Marcus said that the SBDC consultant’s involvement was an important reason the loan was secured in November 2017. Construction soon began with the help of Marcus’ friends and members of the community. The RL reopened in February 2018. “I learned the importance on how to account for all expenses, including the small ones. From the cost of a computer servicing, paper towels, to knowing the exact point of sale that comes from the swipe of a card.” Due to the loss of time between closure to reopening, the RL is not yet where it was financially from early 2017. “We have been reaching out to the community to let them know our new location (111 East 30th St., Durango). I want the RL to be a climbing community center and a place where the youth of Durango can find who they are through climbing.” Marcus will revisit SBDC at six months’ time from the reopening to review the financial information and stay on course with the projections. The RL currently has one full time and six part-time employees. His present focus is to raise $120,000 to expand by constructing a rope climbing area.

“SBDC being free to the public was the biggest thing for me. They helped get me in the right direction and guided me along the way.”

Espinoza Cultural Services

A small business based in La Jara is proving that a San Luis Valley company can ‘play with the big boys’. Dee Espinoza founded Espinoza Cultural Services, LLC (ECS) in 2010. Espinoza ran the company by herself out of her La Jara home for the first 2 years. She now employs 13 full time professionals (although some are seasonal) and 3 part time. ECS recently purchased and renovated a vacant historic building in downtown La Jara and has opened offices in Wheat Ridge, Colorado and El Paso, Texas. They currently have employees working in six states.
ECS provides cultural and natural resource regulatory compliance services to local, state and federal agencies and commercial clients, such as engineering and environmental firms. The work is highly specialized and all of ECS’ key staff must meet or exceed the Secretary of the Interior’s Qualifications for Archaeologists, Historians, and Archeological Historians. While they do considerable work in Colorado, many of the projects they work on are out of state and located as far away as Louisiana.

In their industry, ECS regularly competes against large companies that have decades of experience. “Our industry is very geographical,” says Espinoza, “We can’t boast a long list of projects in each geographic area as some companies can, but our staff has experience in nearly every state and territory of the US.” In order to compete, ECS provides clients with personalized attention and is responsive to their project needs by implementing change orders immediately. They also keep their overhead low so they can offer more competitive prices than large companies can. ECS has strong relationships with other small firms, such as RMC Consultants, Inc., to create all the ‘benefits’ of a large company in a small package.

ECS obtained several certifications from the Small Business Association that have helped them to win a growing number of contracts with the world’s largest customer, the federal government.
These certifications include Economically Small Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB), Minority-Owned Small Business, and Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone). Most significantly, they are currently the only small business in the San Luis Valley that is in the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program, which provides small businesses that are socially and economically disadvantaged with a broad scope of assistance so they can gain a foothold in government contracting.

The 8(a) program allows participants to receive sole-source contracts and they can also form partnerships to go after larger prime contracts as a team. “It took 4 total months to get our 8(a) and, within one month, we had the first 8(a) contract,” said Espinoza, “Within the first two months of 2014, we had more contracting revenue than we had the whole last four years combined.” Over the course of 2014, business has grown exponentially with the help of several large contract wins. ECS has recently been awarded work with National Parks Service for compliance related to the Gulf Oil Spill; a four state yearlong contract with the Forest Service for cultural resource work; and a Tribal Monitoring contract for a water line in South Dakota. They are also team members on two large, multi-year contracts: one for the Navy (NAVFAQ SW) and one for the BLM (for southeast New Mexico). ECS currently holds eight multi-year contracts, providing stability for long-term growth.

Opening their new office in La Jara and bringing professional jobs to the area has long goals for ECS, which strives to make a positive impact on the local economy. “The extra distance we travel to keep business here in the valley is our trade off to do our part to stimulate the local economy,” says Espinoza. Espinoza is a Trustee with the Town of La Jara where she helps the community and local businesses. She has also served on the Board of Directors for the Conejos County Chamber of Commerce.

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