LCBD Rising Star – Starstream Productions

Karen Fournier
Karen Fournier, founder and CEO of Starstream Productions, has been a client of the Loveland Center for Business Development (LCBD) since 2011. Karen has served Northern Colorado as a video producer since 2007, creating high-impact promotional and educational videos for a variety of nonprofits and businesses.

Karen is also a volunteer instructor for the LCBD. Karen began teaching The Power of Videos in Effective Marketing at the LCBD in May of 2013. If you were looking for words to describe what Karen brings to the video world you might think of passion, dedication, creativity, compassion, humor, and heart.

Notable projects of Starstream Productions are:

  • Colorado Women of Influence: 12 Women of Vision spotlight videos (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
  • Colorado Council of Independent Reading Association: marketing materials
  • Northern Colorado Writers: conference-promotion videos
  • Loveland Chamber’s Dancing With the Stars 2014 Flood-Relief Fundraiser: 14 videos of dancer back stories and flood stories
  • Loveland Chamber’s Dancing With the Stars 2015 Fundraiser: 8 videos of dancer back stories and Heart-J Center and Habitat for Humanity videos
  • A Child’s Dream (nonprofit granting children’s wishes): gala fundraiser video
  • Alphabet Workout: 17 green-screen videos for a preschool reading program
  • The Boo Show (children’s variety show): – multiple episodes
  • A Wandering Botanist: monthly botany videos on a variety of topics
  • Hope Lives! (breast cancer support nonprofit): gala video – 2013, 2014, 2015
  • Project Youth and Chamber Music: promotional materials
  • Pretty Brainy (science programs for girls): promotional materials
  • City of Loveland: GoNoCO regional economic incentive video

In the video production world, Starstream Productions has been honored with numerous awards, such as:

2015 Telly Award-Winner:

Volunteers of America A video depicting words on cardboard signs which describe how it feels to be a homeless Veteran.

2014 Telly Award-Winners:

Hearts and Horses: Riding in the Moment (therapeutic horseback riding for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia)

Hearts and Horses: Hearts and Horses for Heroes (therapeutic horseback riding for war veterans)

Hope Lives! (breast-cancer services nonprofit): 2013 gala video

2014 Davey Award-Winners:

Colorado Women of Influence, A Meth Story: Megan Chenoweth

Dancing With the Stars with a Heart, A Flood Story: Senor Rafael at the Mexican Inn

MAH: Can you estimate how many people you have interviewed for your videos over the years?
Karen: I have interviewed almost 500 people on camera since I started in 2007. The entrepreneurial, giving spirit of the people of the Front Range make this an amazing place to live!

MAH: What words of wisdom do you have for others wanting to break into the video production field?
Karen: My advice would be to learn as much as you can in all the ways that you can. Take classes/workshops, do online tutorials, pay seasoned people to come and shoot with you and teach you all they can, and learn by doing, over and over. You’ll learn from your mistakes — don’t be afraid to make them or you will never learn a better way!

MAH: What are some challenges you face with producing a video?
Karen: Challenges can come with the location: too noisy or chaotic, too bright or dark (if you’re filming live somewhere and can’t control the lighting). Challenges can also come with people on camera who are extremely nervous, or working with children who refuse to cooperate. I have many tricks up my sleeve to get people to relax and just be themselves. You mostly just have to do the best you can and go with it — and get creative in editing. And finally, challenges can arise with equipment that malfunctions, programs that crash, or little glitches along the way — the technological stuff that drives me crazy!

MAH: What are your two favorite videos that you have produced and why?
Karen: That is a super tough question. There are so many aspects to what I do, that almost every project is enjoyable at least in some way — whether it be in interviewing someone amazing, using creativity in the graphics or design, playing with special effects and editing, nailing a script, or the sheer joy of collaborating with one of my many fabulous clients!

Of the hundreds of videos I’ve done, there is one in particular that was very special. The “Hearts and Horses: Riding in the Moment” video I did featured therapeutic horseback riding for people with Alzheimer’s. On the day I filmed, I was following different riders around and filming here and there, and this whole story unfolded before me with this one rider, Ray. He was telling the volunteers all about his experiences in the war and about his life as a farmer/cowboy. When he got on the horse, he said: “I wish I could see.” That was so powerful. Hearing him declare “Hi, ho, Silver” when he started riding made me realize that I was capturing a moment of magic. His interaction with the horse afterward truly showed how the memories come alive for these elderly riders. To top it off, he reminded me so much of my father in his looks, demeanor, and gratefulness. That touched me deeply, as well. It was one of those times where I was at the right place at the right time, and my intuition told me to follow him and capture his story. This particular video received one of four Telly Awards that I have won thus far and that was special to be recognized for this powerful video.

Another special video (or a series of them) was working as the videographer and editor on the children’s program called The Boo Show at Harrington Arts Academy with amazingly talented owner Brandon Harrington, who played 17-plus characters in the show (a little boy, grandpa, sister, scarecrow, Latino neighbor, etc.). We had different groups of 4 to 8 year-olds star in the show with him; both on location about town and in green-screen scenes. It was a complete blast to film that! We did about a dozen webisodes total (although it is currently on hiatus). It was a super creative, amazing experience, and a part of my career I will never forget. You can see these at www.thebooshow.com

MAH: What did you do prior to starting your business in 2007?
Karen: Before I started my business, I was home raising my three daughters for 12 years. Prior to that, I was a gifted/talented teacher for 12 years in Maine, Texas, and then here in Colorado, teaching high-level critical and creative thinking skills to children through grade five.

ScrapbookingScrapbooking

 

 

 

 

MAH: Do you have any hobbies that you enjoy when you aren’t shooting videos?
Karen: I have created several scrapbooks, and doing that givScapbookinges me practice for videos in design, balance/layout, and coordinating color schemes. I created a scrapbook for my mother’s 10 year anniversary of her passing away. I love spending time with my daughters who are 10, 13 and 15. I love to read (when I can!) and to take walks and enjoy our amazing community and beautiful mountains.

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Financial Woes

Susan PaintingMost of my teenage years revolved around living with financial disasters in my family that would have been very hard to prepare for. My mother contracted breast cancer at age 32. It eventually metastasized and spread throughout her body. On top of the cancer, she also had a massive stroke that left her right side paralyzed. Very sad, since she was a right-handed artist. She primarily painted with oil paint; I loved her watercolor paintings. The medical bills were monumental to begin with and a lengthy stay at a rehab center made them insurmountable. Ironically, my father was an insurance agent and knew the importance of having adequate insurance. Unfortunately, he went through a mid-life crisis and quit his job. Hence, he had no health insurance when all the medical bills hit. These events were terribly difficult to deal with as a young girl. People would come to our front door and take away pieces of our furniture. I didn’t realize at the time that they were repossessing the furniture. We had to move in my junior year of high school because my father couldn’t pay the mortgage and we lost our home. We ended up moving into a shabby apartment. My bedroom was a room that was not supposed to be occupied, per building code. There was an upside to having this type of dilapidated bedroom, I could do almost anything with it. I painted large murals on the walls. The situation instilled in me a few random thoughts:

  • Save for a rainy day – and that could end up being a flood.
  • Tomorrow will be a better day – not always, it can get much worse before it starts to get better. Be realistic and eat the elephant, one day at a time.
  • Happiness is quitting the job you hate – but you really should consider having a better situation to go to before quitting that job.
  • The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sailsWilliam Arthur Ward – life events are going to happen and there are times it will strain you to your limits; your attitude will be your guiding light.

Yes, unfortunate circumstances can happen to derail our lives. The possibility of that happening should not stop us from trying to be prepared for the unknown. I have read that 50% of American adults do not maintain a budget. Without a budget, the waters get much more difficult to navigate when financial strains enter your life. It is daunting to begin the budgeting process. You have to delve into credit card statements and categorize and really look at where you spend your money. You will need to take hours to input your financial information into a spreadsheet.

If this isn’t too difficult of a process for you to develop your budget, you are ready for the next task, evaluating your spending habits and making decisions about those habits. Are you spending too much at the grocery store? I imagine most people will say yes to that question. Are you floored about how much you spend dining out? Do you have an addiction to shopping? Are you using your house as if it were an ATM machine; taking out loans against it?

There are many experts out there to answer questions as you work on your budget. I personally started listening to Suze Orman on cassette tapes when I got the bug to become more financially secure. The first budget issue I dealt with was credit card debt. Once I whittled that down, I never carried a balance forward from my credit card statements again. I enjoy dinning out and it is important for me to support local small business and this is one of the ways I accomplish that. I have created numerous personal budget forms over the years but fell out of the habit in the past five years. I recently started a new budget form. Although I knew I was spending a great deal at restaurants, I was shocked when I entered the totals from my credit card statement. I will continue to support local restaurants, breweries and food trucks, but this is a line item that can easily be cut, with a little effort. Most of the line items in a budget are hard and fast; you have to cut where it makes sense.

I don’t assume that creating and following a budget will be an easy task for everyone. I have heard a large number of folks talk about the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace course. There is even a kid’s version. These people have talked about putting cash in envelopes for their monthly spending. If they set aside $300 per month for dining out, once that cash is gone they are cut off from spending any more in this category. They stop using their credit cards and get rid of all credit card debt. If you are struggling to get out of debt or to get your spending habits in line, I would recommend a course such as this. If you don’t want to spend any money on a course, you could try the cash in an envelope method and limit the use of your credit cards to get your debt in line and begin a savings program.

If you have an entrepreneurial nature and you have poor spending and saving habits, it will cost you dearly if you need financing for a business. The number of business loans for $1 million or less held by banks is down about 14% since 2008. Getting your loan application approved is much more arduous these days. You need to develop good financial management skills, long before you have the need to borrow money from a bank. If your credit score is low and/or you have a bankruptcy in your past, you can expect to pay a higher interest rate or may not qualify at all for business financing.

Developing a budget for your personal life is a good first step to making your small business successful. The Loveland Center for Business Development has a wonderful tool on their website. You can find it under the tab, Become a Client. It is listed as Budget Template. Download the file and start entering your data.

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Asking for LinkedIn Recommendations Too Soon

LinkedIn Recommendations

I am suspicious when I receive a request for a LinkedIn recommendation shortly after meeting a person. When asked early on, my gut feeling has been that this person will most likely not be a valuable connection over the long haul. Plus, I don’t know enough about them to respond in any way but a vague fashion.  This has only happened to me a few times and my initial reaction has been quite accurate.

I recently found an article about writing LinkedIn recommendations: http://mashable.com/2012/05/16/linkedin-recommendations/. I wish I had read this article at an earlier date.  I would have politely declined writing about a person that I really didn’t know well enough and was not confident about their integrity. The third item on the list in this article gives a great response for people who ask for a recommendation way too early, which is to simply say “I don’t feel I know your work well enough to recommend you, but please contact me for one at a later date as we get to know each other better”.

I do place value on recommendations and when I ask for one, it is from the people that I respect and hold in high esteem. You don’t have to wait for a person to ask you for a recommendation. If you feel that one of your connections is exceptional, go ahead and write an endorsement and they can add it to their profile.

When I worked for a large senior housing community in Virginia, I developed a “Random Acts of Kindness Week” for the employees. The response was heart-warming to watch. This was developed to help departments work in a more harmonious manner. Nursing departments tend to stick together, as do dietary and administration. Friction can build up easily and very soon it isn’t much fun to come to work if someone is holding a grudge. This kindness week broke down barriers and inspired people to interact in a much more compassionate manner. Create your own act of kindness week by sending some awesome recommendations to help build people up and give encouragement.

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LCBD Rising Star – Fresh Plate Catering

 

Tracie Reeves HartmanThe Loveland Center for Business Development (LCBD) was delighted to begin working with Tracie Reeves Hartman in July 2013. Tracie was full of marvelous ideas. Her original idea was for a breakfast and lunch restaurant that would revolve around building community that would include a room for children, and, of course, offer excellent food. After analyzing all the costs associated with developing such a business, Tracie decided to go a different route – catering. Tracie started Fresh Plate Catering on September 18, 2013. Fresh Plate Catering, a Loveland, Colorado business, provides farm fresh food with a healthy slant.

Fresh Plate CateringA highlight in 2014 for Fresh Plate Catering was an invitation from Verboten Brewing to create a special menu for July 1, 2014. The Travel Channel was coming to Verboten to film their brewing process and discuss food and beer pairings. Tracie set up a large grill outside Verboten and went to town with a menu of garlic pork sliders, Angry Boots and agave BBQ, mango jicama slaw, and sirloin shish kabobs marinated in Five Second Frencher with smoked Gouda and ale pimento cheese. To complete the meal, Tracie made a coffee ice cream float made with Killer Boots caramel porter for dessert. I was at this event and ended up getting a second helping – the food was that good.

MAH: Tracie, what do you see in the future for Fresh Plate Catering?
Tracie:
In addition to growing as a catering business we will expand into additional food avenues. Those that are being researched and considered are managing a green commercial/incubator kitchen, retail areas for those working out of the commercial kitchen, deli, ready-made-dinners, and/or a food hub that brings several Northern Colorado entities together.
Fresh Plate CateringMAH: You were the only person doing all the jobs when you first started. Have you added employees?
Tracie:
I have added part-time employees: two chefs who assist in the cooking and food prep, and 5-6 servers.

MAH: What were your biggest obstacles in the first year of business?
Tracie:

  1. Fresh PlateStaying ahead of the game and time management. A question I often ponder, “Is this the best investment of my time at the moment?” If the answer to that question is probably no….I need to turn that answer into a resounding “YES”!
  2. Being smart in terms of time management and eliminating food waste, and scheduling and menu creation to avoid this.
  3. Taking recipes and multiplying them by large quantities and still preserving the quality and taste can be challenging and timing of multiple events on the same day.
  4. Finding the products I desire and at a reasonable price. Knowing what is available since I can design menus around unique foods that are available.

Fresh Plate CateringMAH: What are your top selling menu items?
Tracie:
Bacon wrapped dates! Seasonal items that include fresh fruits and vegetables that are unique and healthier than what many caterers provide.
Fresh Plate CateringMAH: You offered pies at Thanksgiving the first year you were open. How did that go and how many pies did you end up baking?
Tracie
: That went well and is a service we do hope to again provide. Because our 2014 October and December were very busy, I did not feel we could provide the quality and service I wanted; we only made pumpkin pies. We baked and sold about 125 in 2013 and 80 in 2014.
Fresh Plate CateringMAH: How would you describe the assistance that you received from the LCBD to develop your business?
Tracie:
This service has been a huge part of Fresh Plate being successful:

  1. The one-on-one consultations and direction has been extremely helpful. I have implemented many of the ideas and those that I have not implemented have been because of a lack of time.
  2. All meetings with volunteer advisers have been extremely beneficial. I have met with at least six volunteers.Fresh Plate Catering
  3. Many of my best partnerships have been based on my relationship with the LCBD.
  4. I have taken 2-3 of the classes and they have been extremely informative and helpful. I would really like to attend more but, again, I don’t because of lack of time.
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LCBD Rising Star – DAWGMA, LLC

 

DAWGMA, LLC Mobile Dog GroomingGiselle Mayhew came to the LCBD in February, 2014. She was a corporate employee (dog groomer) for a major franchise, working for minimal pay that included Saturdays. Giselle had a dream to open her own mobile dog grooming business. There was much work to be done on Giselle’s part. She needed to complete a cash flow form to show that this would be a viable business and work with the Loveland Library on market research. A logo design needed to be created to submit for the van signage and promotional printed pieces. Giselle worked with a local attorney and CPA to set up the business properly. She jumped into Facebook to announce her new business and Dawgma, LLC opened on May 1, 2014.

DAWGMA, LLC Mobile Dog Grooming - Loveland, COWithin two months Dawgma was booked out 10 days and was doing business in Berthoud, Fort Collins, Loveland and Windsor. Needing some additional financing, Giselle headed back to the LCBD and worked with Robin Shukle, LCBD Executive Director, on her loan packet development. She received her financing and continues to thrive. If you think you might like to try mobile dog grooming, you better call now because it will take you three weeks to get an appointment with Dawgma. People love the convenience and the quality of this service.

MAH: What were your biggest challenges in starting your business?
Giselle: The biggest challenge by far was quitting my job and jumping into the void; taking the risk, with no income.

MAH: Is there any advice you would give to a person just starting their business?
Giselle: Do your research.  I read every book ever written on mobile grooming, every blog or web post.  It helped tremendously with marketing and especially pricing correctly.

MAH: What do you like best about your job?
Giselle: I LOVE DOGS.  They seem to pick up on my deep obsession and, usually take to me very easily.  I look forward to work.  There is nothing like transforming a dog into a cute groom.  I see all dogs and think…Oh, what I could do with that canvas.

MAH: How did the Loveland Center for Business Development (LCBD) help you in developing your business?
Giselle: The LCBD showed me how to start, how to progress, how to get funding, and website tips. They showed me where to aim for pricing to make a living.  Every time I had a question Robin and Mary Ann had the answers.  They supported me and gave me confidence.  THEY BELIEVED IN ME. I could have never done it without their guidance.

MAH: Did you think about owning your own business when you were younger?
Giselle: No, this is a dream that I never could have even imagined.  I am so happy.  I feel so proud.  I never miss my kid’s games anymore.  I am around for ALL the holidays and weekends.  I am making a living doing something I would do for free.  I am humbled by the people that helped me.  I know I will pay it forward for the rest of my life.

DAWGMA, LLCOn a side note, Giselle just rescued her fourth dog on March 10th.  Work isn’t the only place that she is inundated.

DAWGMA, LLCDAWGMA, LLCDAWGMA 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Behind the Scenes with Chef David

David McClelland

I am thrilled when I get an opportunity to talk to staff members who work behind the scenes. This is the lifeblood of a business and can give great insight into why a business is successful. I am a huge fan of Chef David McClelland of The Laureate Publick House. This began when I started to order desserts at The Laureate. The unique ingredients and fabulous taste got me hooked and I rarely pass up a dessert when I go there. The entrées are equally delectable and my assumption about Chef David was that he attended a culinary school. I was surprised to find out that he gained his skills on the job.

If the first impression you get when you meet Chef David is that he looks clean cut and collegiate, you would be quite right. David attended Fort Lewis College to pursue a degree in music performance, studying the trombone.

When I had a chance to talk with Chef David, I was curious how he got started in cooking and wanted to know some details about his background. David’s very first kitchen job was at the Budweiser Events Center for Ovations Food Services. His job duties were serving and set-up, but he did get to do a fair share of cooking on the line. The chef at the time was Chef Marco. David saw the chef as being intensely scary and because he was so young he stayed away from Chef Marco as much as possible.

David considers that his first real kitchen job was at The Stone Ridge Grill at Mariana Butte Golf Course. He started working there when he was 19, the summer before he moved to Durango to attend Fort Lewis College. David worked a couple different jobs during his first year and a half at school. He managed a laundromat for a short time, and also worked part time at the front desk of the college to make ends meet.

At the end of David’s second summer in Durango, his roommate’s buddy was quitting his job at a local restaurant. He was able to get David an interview at a wonderful Mediterranean restaurant called the Cyprus Café. The Cyprus is one of the more “high-end” dining establishments in Durango and is very well known and liked by all in the surrounding area. It has been written up in Bon Appetite, Sunset Magazine, and The New York Times. David was employed at this establishment just shy of 4 years. He gives all the credit for his skill in the kitchen to the knowledge he gained while working there with Chef Vera Hansen. She was hired as the chef in 1996 and still holds the position, with gusto! David worked with Chef Vera 5-6 days a week for 3 years. From David’s perspective, “Every day was like the best day at school and essentially everything I know about the kitchen came from the Cyprus.”

After eating a meal at The Laureate, I try and get a few minutes with David to tell him what an excellent job he is doing. I recently received this note from David and it sums up what his driving force is. “Thanks so much for all of your support and kind words, I love my job because of people like you, it make me excited to wake up in the morning and get into the kitchen and create something that people really enjoy! The best part of my day is after the dinner rush; walking into the dining room and seeing all the happy faces and listening to the laughter. That means we all did our job well that day and makes me so stoked to get back in and do it all again!” I only wish more people were this excited to go to work each day, focusing on making other people happy.

MAH: What are the biggest challenges you face in your day to day cooking at The Laureate?
David: The most challenging part of this job would be the hoodless kitchen as a whole! I have never worked in a kitchen without the whole open flame thing. As far as the cooking apparatuses go, we have an Alto Shaam which goes only to 325 degrees, a couple of induction burners, and a Panini press. Learning what we can and cannot do as far as cooking has been and will continue to be a huge challenge. Because of our limited cooking abilities, I feel it forces us to be more creative on a daily basis which sometimes works smashingly, and other times we have to pursue a different route. It’s been a fun challenge. Another challenge is our space issue. We don’t have much space for storage etc, what space we do have is shared with the bar, so in that sense it forces us to be super fresh which I love and think people can see and taste it in their food!

MAH: You do focus on creating interesting dessert. Are you a dessert lover, or is there another reason for this?
David: I have never been a really big sweets guy and definitely don’t have a “sweet tooth,” as you will. But I do appreciate a good dessert and will always have at least a bite! Cooking is such a big world and there are so many flavor combinations. It’s fun to play around and try something unique each time. We don’t have a set dessert menu so we get to switch it up a couple times a week and people have really been catching onto our sundries! I have to give a lot of the dessert credit to my Sous Chef, Ashley Smith, who is absolutely amazing at what she does. She works hard, day in and day out, always thinking of the next best thing. She is truly a genius in the kitchen and together we make a pretty all right team!!!

PianoMAH: Are you currently doing anything with your music background or do you plan on doing anything in the future?
David: I don’t currently practice music much. I play the piano everyday but just as a great form of meditation and relaxation for me to just zone out and think. I quit pursuing music because I decided I would rather keep it as a hobby versus a profession. I was scared I would burn out if I kept playing as much as I was and I love music far too much to ever let that happen.

MAH: What are a few key lessons that you learned from Chef Vera that you continue to use today in your work?
David: The biggest lessons I learned from Vera is just cook! Also listen to your heart, and develop good relations with customers, staff, and purveyors. A happy work place is a successful workplace. Laugh a lot and be passionate in everything you do. Some days are better than others, but just cook good food and people will come! Don’t be scared to push the envelope and try new things. It is called creativity for a reason!

MAH: Do you have a favorite recipe?
David: This is a hard question for me. I really don’t have a favorite recipe. If I had to choose something, it would probably have to be my Cranberry Spinach Alfredo with pappardelle noodles and some grilled chicken! Or, Braised Lamb Shank with a bacon lentil ragù, topped with crispy pancetta and a bacon-shallot marmalade.

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Businesses ownership is a lifestyle, not a job

80 hours-artwork by Ellen Bryan Deisgn

Three years ago I wrote a blog post for Ryan Schlaefer Fine Furniture, a company I co-own with my husband. It was entitled, “Owning a business isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle,” and it resonated with many of our small business owner friends.

My husband and I have been small business owners since 2004, and I officially quit being an employee in 2008 in order to grow HeidiTown.com and my freelance writing career. It may sound glamorous to someone who works an eight-to-five job, but the fact is that business owners never actually clock out.

Small business owners know all too well that leaving the office doesn’t mean leaving the business. We take our business with us everywhere we go – we eat with it, sleep with it and even vacation with it.

If you are a business owner, think about the last dinner conversation you had with your spouse. I’m willing to bet a lot that it was about your business. When was the last time you took a vacation that wasn’t interrupted by business calls or emails? In our case, never.  When was the last time you took a sick day? I can hear your laughter from here. There are no sick days for the self-employed.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t perks to being self-employed. If Ryan and I want to kick off early on a Friday to head to the mountains, no problem. We don’t have to ask the boss for time off for a doctor’s appointment.

Berry Hard At Work

The fact is that we each choose the sort of stress we want to deal with in our lives and for small business owners, the stress of fulfilling our own dream by working 80 hours a week is preferable to the stress of having to work 40 hours a week to fulfill someone else’s dream.

The key is finding balance. The lifestyle of business ownership must include some fun. I’m putting together an event over Memorial Day Weekend called HeidiTown Fest. It’s a celebration of Colorado (and gals named Heidi are VVIPs). This festival is an opportunity for anyone, including small business owners, to enjoy the beautiful village of Ouray for a weekend of hot springs soaking, four-wheel drive tours, rafting adventures and more.

And the good news? Ouray has excellent wi-fi for those important emails that just have to be answered.

Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer is the co-owner of Ryan Schlaefer Fine Furniture, a Loveland-based furniture design and manufacturing company. She is also a freelance writer and founder of HeidiTown.com, a blog about Colorado festivals and travel. She was recently called a “one-woman tourism-promotion” machine by Biz West.

(Photo credit: 80 hours-artwork by Ellen Bryan DeisgnBerry Hard At Work)

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Vision for Your Business in 2015

Business Vision for 2015

We are in the beginning of the second business quarter for 2015. Did you set any goals for 2015? Are you on track or have you been too busy to review? You may need to take a day to see if you have the proper systems in place to keep you on track and make sure you are implementing those stated goals. Developing systems may not be your thing. There is a local company that can help you develop written systems – Implement for Impact.

If your current strategies aren’t working, go back to the drawing board and start again. But this time don’t wait for the end of the quarter to review.

The Loveland Center for Business Development has a volunteer counselor, Jim McWilliams, who had successful Goodyear Tire stores. Jim suggests that you re-visit your business plan on a regular basis and make adjustments to ensure you are on track. Most people write their business plan for the sole purpose of getting financing for their business and never look at it again. It is hard to know where you want your business to go if you don’t have a plan in place to guide you in the direction you want to go. It’s like taking a trip without looking at a map.

Why not make this year the year that you develop good habits to improve your business practices.

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LCBD Rising Star – DS Constructors

 

Melinda Denney, DS Constructors

Melinda Denney

DS Constructors, LLC, started their business in 2008. They came to the Loveland Center for Business Development (LCBD) in March, 2013 wanting to grow their business. DS Constructors is a Loveland, CO women-owned general contracting company. It is refreshing to find a women-owned and operated business in a male dominated industry.

DS Constructors is made up of: Melinda Denney (President), Guy Engell (Superintendent), Robert Rigg (Superintendent), Diane Godin (Project Manager), Eric Horton (Project Manager), Gene Leach (Project Manager), Drew Gelroth (Project Engineer), Jennifer Payton (Project Coordinator / Marketing Director), Diahan Ehasz (CFO), Mariela Teather-Posadas(Office Manager), Catherine Rust (Estimator), and John Sinnett (Estimator).

MAH: What are some of the local projects that DS Constructors have worked on?
Jennifer Payton:
Some of the local projects that DS Constructors have worked on include Loveland Food Bank, Carter Lake Campgrounds, Liquor Max, CSU Health and Exercise Science, CSU B-Barn, and Greeley Right Coast Pizza.

DS Constructors building projectMAH: Why would someone choose DS Constructors over another construction company?
Jennifer Payton:
DS Constructors is more than just a General Contractor; our process simply begins with a trusted relationship between the owners, and architects, and expand it to include the rest of the team. We are here to give answers to questions, options and solutions to problems, and provide our assistance and knowledge to keep our projects within budget and on time. DS has made special effort to hire a team that is able to provide a large company experience with small company structure that takes personal care of each project.

DS Constructors Loveland Food Bank projectMAH: Where do you see your company in 5 years?
Jennifer Payton:
DS Constructor’s goal is to build to approximately 20 million and maintain about 15 employees. These employees range from project managers to coordinators.

MAH: What services does your company offer?
Jennifer Payton:
Our professional services range from estimating, design build, construction management, value engineering, CMGC, and general contracting, depending on the needs and requirements of our owners/clients.

DS ConstructorsMAH: What benefits did you see from your counseling appointments at the Loveland Center for Business Development (LCBD)?
Jennifer Payton:
LCBD offered a great deal of education. We first started working with LCBD to learn more about Social Media Marketing. We quickly started to learn that LCBD has more to offer than just Lunch and Learns. We gradually got involved by attending the marketing events (monthly networking) at other businesses and became more connected with other business owners in Loveland. These new connections have proven to be successful and we look forward to more success ventures with the LCBD.
DS Constructors, Loveland, CO

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Hatch a Brainstorming Group

Brainstorming Group

In the world of business, coming up with unique ideas to promote your business can be daunting. If your budget allows, I would suggest working with a marketing company. Their key function is to work in the creative realm of developing ideas to grow your business. In your company, this is one of many tasks that you face each week. Unfortunately, most small businesses do not have a budget to work with outside resources, or at least they think they can’t afford it and feel like they can do an adequate job themselves. You may need to take steps to work towards having the funds to hire a marketing professional.

Until you are able to achieve the goal of working with a marketing team, you still need to promote your product/service. I see many businesses relying on Facebook as their only marketing tool. Yes, Facebook can be an important platform to spread the word about events happening in your business. Please take the time to develop other means of promoting your business.

A very easy step you can take would be to create a working group for the main purpose of brainstorming ideas. You won’t need a large group. You want to choose the obvious, the people you enjoy spending time with and respect their opinions. Make this a time that will refresh the group. Meet at an interesting coffee shop or a local pub during off hours. If schedules don’t allow, create an on-line working group for the times you can’t meet face to face. The key to all of this is GET STARTEDdo something.

Here are a few brainstorming ideas to get started:

  • Create marketing events.
  • Do focus groups.
  • Develop blogging subjects related to your business.
  • Write PR articles and place those articles in publications.
  • Review your website—unless you have a professional editor in your group, I would hire a content writer to review and update your site.
  • Approach your existing customer base with offers to reward them for bringing in their friends as new customers.

Before meeting with your brainstorming group, it may make sense for you to carve out some quiet time to have ideas to share, goals to achieve or problems to solve. This is quite challenging for me and when I am able to appropriate some time that is strictly for working on new ideas, it always pays off.

Once you get started throwing around thoughts in your group, you will have more ideas than you will know what to do with. Then you have to be selective and also prioritize how you want to schedule each action item.

The two people that I routinely brainstorm with are Robin Shukle and Nick Armstrong. With limited time, we typically bounce ideas around for about 10 minutes; coming up with fairly concrete ideas that are implemented within a day. Robin loves to use the whiteboard and that is a great tool to work through processes. I have to mentally move things around in my brain, go back to my office and consider whether the project can be accomplished within our budget and with staff and time constraints. I can be a real idea squelcher. Every once in awhile, the stars align and we see eye to eye, on most of the aspects of a proposed idea, and the outcome is fantastic. Having a team with different skills, different approaches to problem solving and looking at the world in a different way ensures that the very best ideas percolate to the top.

As you build your brainstorming group, it is good to have a “big picture” and a “detail oriented person,” as well as a creative and a financial type – and sometimes you can get all that in just two people.

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