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Success Stories

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.

Plains To Peaks Chocolate

Plains to Peak Chocolate Company is run by Sunni Sylvester and her husband Jeff. The two did not always have aspirations to make their own chocolate, but like many businesses today, a simple passion and idea can be all it takes to start something great. The direction of your business career can be random, and that is exactly what happened with Sunni and Jeff. “We started randomly. I would buy chocolate, look at the ingredients,

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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

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Altitude Spirits

In 2004, Matthew Baris and his father conceived of an idea: to start an organic distillery here in Colorado. Colorado is renowned for its variety of large and small local breweries, so they knew they would see some success with a unique idea like theirs. However, neither family member came from an extensive background in business, so they looked to the Boulder Small Business Development Center to help get their idea off the ground. Matt

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ERC Insulation

ERC Insulation is a local, majority woman-owned and operated business based in Boulder, Colorado, serving Boulder, Denver, Jefferson, Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin Counties. The story surrounding the formation of ERC Insulation began in 2006, when Elton and Christine Randall formed Elton Construction and Design. Elton had difficulty finding a spray foam contractor for his jobs, so he sought a solution to this problem. Elton purchased a trailer with a spray foam reactor, which he could

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Brewmented

We brew what we teach and we teach what we brew — and we’re gonna have fun. — Bill Campbell, Brewmented Oftentimes, a good business opportunity can be found by looking at an established industry in new and unique ways. For Bill Campbell and partner, Vlad Aleksiev, Brewmented was a solution to converting craft beer drinkers and wine/mead/cider affectionados to home brewers and winemakers. A home brewer since the 1970’s, Bill Campbell has watched the

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Sante Fe Coffee and Burrito Company

Arturo Maestas launched the Santa Fe Coffee and Burrito Company, in Longmont, CO, on April 11, 2011. Santa Fe Coffee and Burrito Company is a Spanish and Southwest restaurant with a diverse menu, featuring both Spanish and American style dishes. Arturo has relatives in Albuquerque, NM and sought to bring the ambiance of Santa Fe, NM, to Longmont, CO. Arturo remodeled the entire restaurant with the help of few family members and friends. The beautiful

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