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Success Stories

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, and question the fillers in the chocolate. This led me to do some research and experimenting, and eventually I figured out how to make chocolate using the whole cacao bean,” said Sunni. “Now, we make our own bean to bar chocolate. We roast the beans at home, we crack them, winnow them to get the nibs, grind the nibs, add the coconut sugar, temper it, mold it, and hand wrap every one of our bars.”

A couple of years ago, when Plains to Peak was just an idea sprouting into action, Sunni decided to reach out to Boulder SBDC. Sunni, a registered nurse who still works full time, and Jeff, a designer working for the Saint Vrain School District in Longmont, did not have much of a business background when starting Plains to Peak. According to Sunni, “I didn’t understand how to set up an LLC, how to pay taxes, or any of that stuff, so I reached out to the SBDC. In our first meeting, [an SBDC staff member] listened to our story and aspirations, and later that same evening sent me steps on how to establish an LLC, and how to register with the state and the city. These clear steps were exactly what I needed.”

The Boulder SBDC places a large emphasis on maintaining relationships with its clients, and encourages attending our workshops, which is what Sunni and Jeff did. They took both Startup Roadmap and Startup Essentials workshops through SBDC, which Sunni described as “invaluable.” Sunni further explained “Since the workshops, we have reached out to one of your presenters several times, just asking for assistance with setting up the legal parts of the business. She has been very responsive, very supportive, and very helpful for us.”

As Plains to Peak Chocolate continued to develop, they began to think about the expansion process. Expanding a business can be extremely difficult if you do not have an explicit plan, and a strong grasp on finances. The SBDC set Sunni up with a consultant to talk over any expansionary plans. Sunni reflects, “The consultant talked to us about scaling, getting investors, taking out loans, our different options, and what we had to be ready for if and when we wanted to expand. It gave us reassurance that we were on the right path and that being cautious and using income right now to save up for our business down the road was a good idea.”

A further step the SBDC took to help Plains to Peak was connect Sunni and Jeff with other people who were in the process of setting up their business, and who are in different stages of growth. According to Sunni, “This helped us talk about scaling, and potentially getting a commercial space. Hearing how other people expanded their businesses was huge for us.” Sunni continued, “Someday we could see ourselves teaming up with other small food producers and maybe share a space. We’re always having those conversations and keeping our eyes open for opportunities.”

Right now Sunni and Jeff sell their chocolate every Saturday at the Longmont farmers market. They have come a long way since their initial decision to start selling chocolate. They have invested in new equipment to make production easier and truly feel that they are experiencing success. The two understand that while working under cottage foods law they can only sell direct to consumers, but they are looking to add more markets to their repertoire this year. They are constantly reevaluating their goals, and remaining cautious, but are very excited to grow their business and maintain their values.

Black Swift Technologies

Boulder-based company Black Swift Technologies was founded by three PhD students from the University of Colorado. The three men were inspired to start the company from their work in the field during their studies. At CU, they learned how to chase storms and collect data using old military equipment, which is relatively complicated to use. They set out to simplify the process with unmanned aircraft systems and Black Swift Technologies was born. Although they are

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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

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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

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Boulder Acupuncture and Herbs

Boulder Acupuncture and Herbs is a small business that is founded, run and owned by Norah Charles, an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. What makes Boulder Acupuncture and Herbs unique is that Norah works primarily with patients over 70 years old. Norah treats senior clients with a host of difficulties, including chronic pain, depression, and isolation. In addition to her acupuncture, Norah uses over 300 Chinese herbs for distinct wellness purposes. Starting a business is not

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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

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Icebox Knitting

Icebox Knitting is an outdoor lifestyle manufacturing company based out of Longmont. Icebox emerged from its parent company, Alpine knitting in 1993. Initially located on Seventh and Walnut street in Boulder, Icebox has been around for over two decades. Icebox Knitting has two core brand lines, Dohm and Xob. Dohm is a traditional yet vibrant textile brand, made from yarn imported from Italy. Xob’s line is sustainably created from upcycled materials. Initially, to create Xob’s

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