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Stratom

Stratom Inc., founded by Mark Gordon in 2001, is a Boulder-based unmanned robotics engineering and manufacturing firm. Stratom provides integrated solutions and products to government and commercial clients around the globe. Prior to founding Stratom, Mark worked in Sr. Management for various high tech companies. There he witnessed the volatility of the high tech industry and its move to outsource many of its products and services to foreign markets. Mark decided that he wanted to build a company for growth and stability. Early on, Stratom focused on consulting, new product development, product launches, and product transfer services for clients like Advanced Energy Corp, UC Denver, and the National Veterans Training Institute. Mark recalls that it is was through UCD that they were introduced to government contracting opportunities.

Seeing government markets as being less volatile, offering long term contract opportunities and having greater long run stability, Mark decided to take the company in a new strategic direction. In the 2007-08 timeframe, Stratom shifted it focus to robotics and R&D. Bootstrapping the business, winning research dollars and government contract awards as well as increasing product sales, the company grew. Today, Stratom has set itself apart with a strong mix of subject experts and engineers who understand their target customers’ needs. They develop products and design services that have an identified need and market. Stratom engineers have a strong background in commercial products and they know how to bring Stratom’s products to market.

When asked what factors have been critical to Stratom’s growth, Mark says that the SBDC, his strong Advisory Board and the Rocky Mountain AUVSI chapter (Association of Unmanned Vehicles Systems International where he now serves on the National Board) have been instrumental to his company’s growth and success.
“As an early stage company, before setting up my Advisory Board, the SBDC team of consultants was a great sounding board for me,” Mark recounts. As the company began to grow, Mark took advantage of SBDC classes around Sales and Marketing and HR topics like Workman’s Compensation. He sent his staff to SBDC classes for training. As an advanced technology company, Mark has taken advantage of the Colorado Emerging Ventures (CEV) programming and team of consultants. The CEV team has provided market research and analysis around commercial applications for Stratom’s products and services.

“Now that we’ve moved on to become a second stage company – just shy of 30 employees — we’ve become involved with the SBDC Advanced – Economic Gardening program with one-on-one consulting, looking at some new markets that we’re trying to engage in” says Mark. “These would be new national and international commercial markets where we are trying to use our robotics systems across new applications. With this new full year program we get a lot of strategic consulting advice, research and one-on-one services to help us focus on these new markets and grow the company.”

In describing his experience over the years with the SBDC, Mark says, “I have been so impressed with the professionalism and passion of everyone working with the SBDC. They are not only willing to help, but they know how to help. There is a vast level of experience that I can tap into to help my business succeed.” It was through networking at CEV workshops and Chamber events that he also found his invaluable extended team of professionals and mentors. As a result, Mark has been a tremendous supporter of and advocate for the SBDC. He has been a keynote lunch presenter at SBDC’s full-day Emerging Ventures Event and participated in SBDC workshops, sharing his vast business expertise and advice with other Boulder County businesses.

Whitehorse Heart

“Whitehorse Heart is a consulting company dedicated to reinvention and wellbeing from a business, career and physical standpoint. We help you put another oar in the water to make an effective Plan B or help you get a fresh perspective and new direction in your job or career search. If needed, we can guide you to shift your shape physically so that your outside image and your mind’s eye image merge”, says Teri Sanchez.

“Since relocating to Colorado from New Jersey five years ago and connecting with the Boulder SBDC, the Boulder SBDC has had a positive impact on my success by supporting my evolving new business” Teri recounts. “Through participating in the innovative and diverse programs the SBDC offers, I have connected with other success-oriented business owners and continue to be privileged to learn with and from them. The topics the SBDC offers are relevant and timely and all aimed at business building. I have participated in a wide range of classes from polishing up my writing skills for more effective marketing messages to thought-provoking classes providing a fresh, new and stimulating look at diagnosing, predicting and solving my company’s challenges”. One of her direct sales businesses, featuring the “It Works” natural body contouring products has grown from zero to 280 business partners and customers in eight months. This allowed Teri to help others financially improve while increasing her own bottom line.

“You don’t have to build your business alone. Call the SBDC and get connected to experts who want to go to work for you to help you map out your own steps to succeed!”

Leenie’s Southern Cafe

Conversations, laughter, biscuits and homemade jam melt together at Leenies Southern Café. Established in January 2006, Mel Flores and Eileen Gilmore’s restaurant in Longmont, CO has become a destination for those looking for a classic Southern breakfast and lunch restaurant in Longmont.

The dining area is blanketed in simple white tablecloths and is surrounded by shelves loaded with Leenies jams and dishes while local artisan artwork decorates the walls. The atmosphere is relaxed and the menu features great Southern comfort foods items like fried chicken, homemade biscuits, and grits. Leenies boasts dishes made of preservative-free, fresh food products. The other ingredients of success behind this southern café — Mel and Eileen’s long hours of planning, preparation, and their creative vision – topped off with a little faith.

Mel and Eileen, sought the assistance of the Boulder Small Business Development Center well before Leenies’ start-up to help with corporate set up, assessing their financing options, finding legal resources and consulting help around their business plan. They ended up bootstrapping the venture, raising start up capital through family and found a space that was already set up as a restaurant and had a supportive landlord. They then went to work, putting in sweat equity to remodel the space themselves. Today they are keeping up with growing demand with a full-time staff of four, plus three part-time workers for the busy weekends. They are finding themselves just where they projected they would be in phase II of their business plan.

Soon, customers will be able to eat and sip in the quiet outdoors on a patio they are working to build. They are also planning a home-delivery service to Longmont and the surrounding area residents. Leenies’ jams, seasonings, and syrups will soon be available for sale in their restaurant and will be branded as Sweet South Food Products™. Patrons will be able to bring home the Creole and blackening seasonings, and triple berry, peach and strawberry jams that keep customers coming back for more.

Another differentiator – Mel and Eileen are committed to engaging with their customers and the community. ”We treasure the opportunity we have had to make hundreds of local friends” says Eileen and Mel. “We are a friendly neighborhood restaurant that at the same time offers delicious food. People know we are invested in the community and we want them to know that our taxes, community engagement and energy is committed to Longmont.”

As Mel says this, Eileen catches up with a family of regulars whose toddler whisks away toys Leenies keeps in the corner for patron families. The toddler shouts, “thank you” to Mel and Elieen for the delicious biscuit and jam waiting on his plate.

Ku Cha House of Tea

Originally from China, husband and wife entrepreneurial team, Qin Liu and Rong Pan graduated from the Leeds School of Business at Colorado University with the dream of starting their own company. The original business idea was from Qin’s Business Plan Preparation class while enrolled in CU. In 2005, they launched their business, drawing upon the 5000-year-old tradition of drinking tea.

In 2007, Qin and Rong changed the company’s original name from “The Leaf – All Things Tea” to its now widely-recognized, “Ku Cha House of Tea,” which translates to “Bitter Tea” in Chinese. Since its inception, Ku Cha has grown tremendously, now with two brick and mortar locations, one in Fort Collins, and their flagship located on the iconic Pearl Street Mall. In just over a decade, with the help of a nominal SBA loan of $2,000, Ku Cha House of tea has grown from 3 employees and one location to 23 employees who support a large warehouse and two retail shops.

Ku Cha House of Tea has certainly seen steady growth, but as with most entrepreneurial endeavors, this success has not come without challenges. Shortly after the company formation, Qin and Rong discovered the myriad of business factors for which they were now responsible. Like most founders, they wanted to see their business succeed, and in order to do that, they needed to understand inventory management, sales analysis, marketing strategy and tactics, accounting and finance, real estate, and much more. Lead SBDC Consultant, Chuck Hunker once told them, “As a small business owner, we have to be good at so many things!” He was certainly right, but as Rong and Qin have discovered, there are people and organizations like Boulder SBDC who are there to help.

Boulder SBDC has continued to help Ku Cha House of tea refine their business and their brand. As Ku Cha now embarks on their next phase of growth, SBDC consultants are waiting in the wings to assist. Ku Cha’s three main goals for 2018 are: 1) Design and implement a franchise model 2) Promote tea education throughout the community and 3) Strengthen the Ku Cha House of tea brand.

When asked what has been the biggest takeaway from their work with the SBDC, Qin said, “Ms. Sharon King has been a tremendous source of help to Ku Cha’s growth. She has connected us with quite a few very good consultants who assisted with various aspects of business operations. She is an affectionate Ku Cha advocate.”

Rong went on to share, “As a business owner and influential leader, [Sharon King] has been very inspiring to me.”

Even in the midst of expansion, Qin and Rong remain connected to the mission of their business: to bring high quality, flavorful tea to their community. In doing so, they also impart to their customers a long-standing tradition of enjoying a beverage that is not only medicinal but also builds experiences among friends and family.

InDevR

InDevR is a small, privately held biotechnology company in Boulder, CO. Founded in 2003, by Dr. Kathy Rowlen, Dr. John Birks and Dr. Laura Kuck, InDevR employs a highly motivated team of individuals dedicated to the development and commercialization of innovative technologies that will help fill gaps in the current paradigm for virus-related diagnostics.

InDevR develops advanced life science instrumentation and assays for analysis of viruses and other microorganisms. Their goal is to revolutionize microbiological analysis with affordable, easy-to-use instrumentation and assays that deliver reliable results in less time than traditional methods. InDevR’s products empower scientists with new tools to aid in their quest to extend our knowledge of viruses. Designed for application in fields ranging from vaccine research and development to the surveillance of pathogens, InDevR’s products streamline microbiological analysis.

InDevR was first introduced to the Boulder SBDC when they attended the “scaling UP” programs. These are a series of panels and workshops that the Boulder SBDC specifically developed (by Specialist Michael Minard, with support from Director Sharon King) for bioscience, aerospace, IT and cleantech companies. The “scaling UP” programs were funded in 2009 by a WIRED grant (Workforce Innovation in Regional Development,) through the Denver Metro EDC. After attending the workshops, InDevR tapped into the Boulder SBDC’s Individual Business Training program, an accelerated consulting program for science & technology businesses, also funded by the WIRED grant.
“At the time InDevR first attended the SBDC programs, we had no plans for how to do sales and marketing. We are a science company, focused on making the technology sound and reliable, without any plans for commercialization,” said Kathy.

Boulder SBDC specialist consultants Michael Minard, Jill Kenney and Sue Leenerman led the InDevR team through intensive strategic planning sessions at the SBDC, with ongoing follow up. According to Kathy, “We now have in place an excellent direct sales marketing strategy and much of the foundation came from consulting assistance from the Boulder SBDC.”

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