Pivot

Blickel

A community college instructor and his team have launched an open learning management system,  Blickel. Now, it will assist educators who are being affected by the COVID-19 (Corona) Virus. Like an  increasing number of educators across the country, Math Instructor Gregory Carlson’s classes were  moved online.  Blickel is an open learning management tool that allows anyone to create and share interactive  educational, individualized content. Blickel includes privacy features that can be utilized by a single  teacher or an entire school district to ensure that only the teacher can follow the individual student’s  progress in real time.  Carlson said his team is taking timely action to offer relief for his fellow teachers. “We are making  Blickel available to instructors for free for two weeks after they create their account, followed by a low  $25 monthly fee for the rest of the school year which will enable them to create an unlimited number of  student accounts.” 

In 2018 Blickel formed, and since their initial formation, they have gone through multiple  transformations and pivots. They started the business by building on their extensive software, coding  and technical knowledge, and believed they would be able to make a better product offering than current  micro learning solutions. Now in 2020, the platform has released a full scale launch and they have begun  to reach their target markets of traditional, non- traditional students, community groups/nonprofits,  government and businesses who need to deliver digital lessons.   “We use the business advice and the one on one counseling that SBDC offers. ​They have given us an  individualized look and series of steps based on where our business is currently and where it is going. ​ SBDC has  treated us as if they also have a stake in the success of our business,” commented owner Gregory  Carlson. “SBDC has helped us remain focused on the tasks that we need to complete immediately to  ensure the growth and sustainability of our business. SBDC has improved our day to day business by  helping the team plan effectively and by checking in on us to make sure that we are meeting the  appropriate deliverables and are on track. ​We have learned that the promotion, pricing, and distribution of a  product is as important as the actual product itself. “  Blickel itself is unique as a platform mainly for its incredible interactivity. Blickel can measure learner’s  progress through every step of the educational journey. Learners can also take diagnostic tests and  quizzes that can give them a road map before they even begin learning, either to reinforce what they  already know or to begin at their level. While some software offers something like this, Blickel can break  it down to the individual question, and it works even if teachers have created their own content!   While Blickel has a dedicated team of software engineers, one area of expertise that the team did not  have was business skills, including communication, budgeting, planning, and marketing.   “​We would encourage other companies to remain honest about their weak points and their blind spots​. We  have gained greatly from being able to talk to the experienced business advisors of SBDC who are able to  see a broader picture and help us escape from the day to day software technical difficulties that can  quickly consume all of our bandwidth if left unchecked. We are grateful for their advice and look  forward to continuing to work with them.”  For more information, visit ​www.blickel.com​ or see:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geFdaavPz6o

Go West Camps

Few experiences rival summer day camp for building skills, new friends and fun through age-appropriate activities. Local Camp Directors Andrew and Arianne VanDerWege own and operate Go West Camps and have welcomed thousands of kids to their Colorado Springs 21st Century camping experience since 2014. 

When COVID-19 hit the region, the couple looked to the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center, American Camp Association and their local bank to make a heart-wrenching, but crucial pivot canceling their 2020 season to ensure the long term success of their business. 

“By February, most of our camp sessions were full, which is typical for us,” said Arianne, Education Chair for the American Camp Association Rocky Mountain Region and a longtime leader in professional development for the Colorado camp industry. “Summer 2020 was shaping up to be our best season at Go West with 160 campers in each of our camp sessions.”

The couple work year-round to plan, prepare, staff and train to ensure a safe and meaningful experience for campers, ages 5-14, for a 9-week camp season. Today, in the middle of camp season 2020, mountain biking, rock climbing, paddle boarding, art, gardening and teambuilding aren’t happening at Go West Camps.

In late February, attending an industry conference in San Diego, there was discussion about the coronavirus in connection to their industry for the first time. Andrew contacted his insurance provider to discuss how Go West’s insurance coverages would relate to the (then) little-known virus. Their insurance carrier communicated that the coverages Go West had including a communicable illness policy would not provide insurance protections in relation to the growing pandemic. 

“The camp industry has always been a leader on health issues,” said Andrew, “Arianne and I were concerned; camp the way we do it at Go West looks and feels like this: children and staff close together in small and large groups, personally, and powerfully. Playing, laughing, hugging, riding in vans, and building relationships. Go West is the opposite of social distancing. The benefits of it are tremendous and magical,” said Andrew. “All of that is in contrast to precautions necessary for a ‘COVID-safe’ environment that the camp industry eventually provided guidance on. After weeks on an emotional roller coaster, we had to make a very difficult decision.

“Ultimately, our industry was authorized to remain open this season. The question shifted from, ‘can we operate?’ to ‘should we?’. Our number one priority is the health and safety of the kids in our programs and this summer we also wanted to ensure the health and safety or parents, grandparents and our community,” said Andrew. 

In late May, Andrew and Arianne contacted their Summer 2020 camp families to announce the closure of camp for the season and the plan to return pre-paid camper tuition – representing all of the camp’s annual operating funds. 

“Many of our camp families chose to roll over their tuition and apply it to Summer 2021,” said Andrew. “We have very loyal alumni and we are very appreciative for the families who are helping us in the most tangible way to prepare for camp next season.”

At the same time, the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center, a longtime community partner, reached out to assist the small business owners in applying for pandemic-related Small Business Administration and local relief funds. 

“We were proud that we had started our business debt free but understand that part of being business owners is doing what we need to do to fund our business in this time of need ,” said Andrew. “We were worried; but the process was made easier with the help of the Pikes Peak SBDC and ABC Bank. We received SBA Paycheck Protection Program Loan and Economic Injury Disaster Loan, both of which will help us through these difficult times.”

“Go West Camps is a perfect example of a business making a timely and informed decision to close for the season,” said Aikta Marcoulier, Pikes Peak SBDC Executive Director. “The season itself is the main source of income for the businesses each year. Closing, was more than a tough decision for Andrew and Arianne. Keeping kids, families and their business safe took priority. No doubt, this smart decision making will ensure support and loyalty from his customers. This smart decision allows Go West Camps to support adventures for years to come.”

Combined with cash reserves from pre-paid summer 2021 tuition, Go West Camps is confident they have the funds to survive the pandemic, yet also plan and prepare for future seasons serving Pikes Peak area youth. 

“We know we made the right decision for the safety of our campers, their families, and the community” said Andrew. “We feel incredibly blessed for the support we continue to receive from this community.”

Pikes Peak SBDC has been helping local small business owners plan, prepare, recover and grow from the unexpected since 2012. Learn more: Pikes Peak SBDC

Go West Camps is taking reservations for Summer 2021. Learn more: gowestcamps.com

Auto Pros

The Aurora AutoPros mission guides owners Edgar and Reneé Leon’s daily operations: to provide the highest quality mechanical repair solutions in a professional, honest, and transparent manner. They keep their environment clean, educate car owners and are family-friendly. Their customers value AutoPros’ personalized service given by ASE certified technicians. As a TechNet Professional Repair Shop, AutoPros’ customers receive a nationwide 36-month/36,000-mile warranty on all repairs that also includes roadside assistance for all invoices of $25 or more.

 

With just two bays at the start on April 1, 2013, over the last seven years, they’ve added four full-time employees and two more bays, working on 150 cars per month on average. They also started a towing business, Regal Towing, LLC, in 2019. With a lot of questions at the beginning, they could lean on the expertise and support of the Aurora-South Metro SBDC. Reneé Leon explains, “The SBDC staff was fantastic about following up and answering questions—from understanding financial statements to marketing. The consultants’ passion for helping grow small businesses is evident in how they present ideas and look for helpful opportunities.”

 

The Leons realize that people are keeping their vehicles longer, so they build on their customer relationships, receiving glowing reviews and referrals. They hold their competitive edge in several ways. Aurora AutoPros keeps up with ever-changing advancements in automotive technology by updating their equipment. They are members of the ASA (Automotive Service Association). They offer six-month no-interest financing to those who qualify. Most importantly, they maintain high-quality repairs and quick turnaround with their fleet accounts and individual customers.

 

Their goal is to add another technician and eventually purchase a building. Aurora AutoPros is an active member of the Aurora Chamber, and they serve on the 7-20 Memorial Foundation.

 

During the trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Leons have adapted to COVID-19 by keeping family, health and community as top priorities. Automotive repair was deemed an essential business, and Aurora AutoPros is grateful to be able to support the community by providing access to reliable transportation. They immediately updated their procedures to ensure safety to both customers and workforce. In addition to their practice of wearing gloves, they disinfect keys and fobs, use disposable floor mats, steering wheel and seat covers, and disinfect each vehicle. They’ve eliminated many face-to-face interactions by using text and email, sending digital inspections with videos and photos, accepting payment on the website, and more. They added pickup and delivery service to those who need it, especially during the pandemic for first responders, medical professionals, and other essential businesses and their employees. www.AuroraAutoPros.com