Success Stories

Gracie's Coffee Exterior Shot

Gracie’s Coffee

Gracie’s Coffee is a prime example of how Small Business Development Center services help entrepreneurs over the life of a business: from startup to exit. 

In 2022, at only 19 years old, Gracie Rounds reached out to the Northwest SBDC for assistance with legally establishing a 72 square foot walk-up and drive-through coffee hut on a busy corner in the rural town of Gypsum. 

After seven months of consulting and preparation, Gracie’s Coffee opened for business. Due to local demand it was soon time to scale and the SBDC offered further support in the growth stage with hiring, funding, and tax planning. Over the course of 2023 the coffee hut created eight jobs and received major funding through the Colorado Enterprise Fund.

With the initial success, Gracie developed an innovative canned cold brew product that was picked up by local retailers and continues to gain traction with retailers statewide. She further expanded through partnerships with local schools, the Chamber of Commerce, law enforcement, and TedX Youth. In 2023, Gracie’s Coffee served more than 21,000 cups of coffee. Now in 2024, Gracie’s Coffee received recognition as Emerging Business of the Year in the Annual Success Awards presented by Vail Valley Partnership. Gracie has also written a guide about her entrepreneurial journey for other aspiring business owners.

She says, “Owning this business as a young person has given me so much confidence, knowledge, and experience unlike anything I’ve ever done in my life.”

As a young person, Gracie already shows signs of a serial entrepreneur. She is now in the process of selling the successful business in order to pursue the next dream. Here again, the Northwest SBDC is helping with exit planning and business sales expertise.

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Brandon Duarte

StealthHunter Gear

Like that of many others, Brandon Duarte’s energy career in the coal-transitioning rural community of Craig will be coming to an end within the next few years. For Brandon, developing StealthHunter Gear seemed the best way to begin a new phase without leaving the rural Colorado home he loves.

With 17 years of experience as a hunting guide in Northwest Colorado, he developed two innovative hunting products and initially sought Northwest SBDC assistance in 2022 to bring them to market. He was first referred to the SBDC Business Foundations Technical Assistance Program to establish his business and received a small grant for startup expenses. Later, SBDC events, classes, and several consulting sessions throughout 2023 helped him strategize about how best to operate and grow his business in alignment with his goals. 

Growth over the past 12 months has been incredible, and includes expansion through the purchase of a business and patented product which expanded StealthHunter’s offerings. Now, the business includes online retail selling unique 3D elk hunting decoys as well as hunting blinds, stands, and other accessories. The decoys are also available in stores in the Yampa Valley and along I70 from Frisco to Rifle. Further, Brandon is in discussions with a manufacturer interested in licensing one of the products he designed. His company is currently the only dealer of Redneck Hunting Blinds in not only Colorado, but also the Western United States.

“I’ve told several others considering opening a business that I highly recommend the SBDC. They really cover whatever needs you have,” Brandon said. “There are so many facets that go into creating a business that it can be overwhelming, but the consultants, videos, and resources helped me understand what I needed to be successful.”

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Anna Sladek

From Lakes to Mountains

Lake and Company is a socially conscious magazine, carefully curated with a give-back message that supports adventure, innovation, conservation, and community built around lake culture. It has multiple complementary brick-and-mortar retail locations in Colorado and Minnesota selling outdoor clothing and gear. Northwest SBDC was able to help two clients through its work with the company. 

Early in 2023, founder Megan Kellin decided it was time to pare down the physical locations and devote more time to scaling the magazine. An exit strategy specialist with Northwest SBDC was there to offer support. Through a series of consulting sessions Megan learned how to understand the value of her business within each retail location. For the Steamboat Springs location, the end result was a successful sale to a new owner.

That new owner, Anna Sladek, had separately sought Northwest SBDC assistance with the goal of deciding if the purchase of an existing storefront was the right choice for her. 

SBDC consulting sessions provided guidance on establishing the business under her ownership, as well as strategic planning and expansion. Additionally, Anna attended Startup to Scaleup, an intensive two-day event presented by the Northwest SBDC in partnership with CU Boulder and the Leeds School of Business. 

She says, “The consultant from SBDC was invaluable to helping me understand whether or not this was a good business decision and a viable business to invest in. They also helped me refine my business plan so that I can really hone in on the aspects that will drive the business to success.”

The “new” company has recently undergone a rebranding to shift focus from lake culture to mountain life with the name Mountain and Company. Anna is currently updating the store by bringing in Colorado brands as well as creating partnerships with local guides to offer additional resources to customers.

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EcoPoint staff working in the field


Founded in Rifle in 2017, EcoPoint is a technologically advanced environmental firm specializing in geographic mapping and analysis for large- and small-scale projects. The company employs GIS specialists, botanists, soil scientists, and biologists to complete projects on behalf of a client base consisting of public land users like Oil and Gas, hard rock mines, renewable energy, and right of way in addition to private landholders. All of whom need to meet reporting requirements and restoration compliance.

Owners Kirsten and Michael Clancy first approached Northwest SBDC hoping to improve the company’s financial processes and workforce strategies after experiencing 1200% growth over five years which had finally outpaced their current abilities. At the time, EcoPoint had 15 employees and exponential demand. They were also interested in how to better brand the company to help it advance its position and reputation in the overall marketplace and launch a new revenue stream.

Through working with multiple consultants, EcoPoint achieved three goals important to its operations. The company developed and implemented a budget and expense review process to effectively manage and control its expenses over several departments and project managers, ensured employees remained motivated and engaged throughout the implementation of the new processes, and created a new position within the company to execute new marketing and brand strategies.

Additionally, Kirsten and Michael became familiar with critical employment laws to support an active employment scenario. The company also attended an SBDC Network event connecting environmental companies and government agencies.

About her experience, Kirsten said, “As a quickly growing company, EcoPoint has benefited immensely from the tools and consulting offered through the SBDC. From scaling strategies to onboarding procedures to department budgeting, the SBDC provided time and consideration to our individual needs.”

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Amber Barbella

Diversion Designers

Diversion Designers, an environmental sustainability consultancy firm specializing in diverting solid waste from landfills, was founded in 2021 by Eagle County local Amber Barbella. The company implements sustainable waste systems for large public events as well as identifies and solves weaknesses within waste systems, saving businesses money while helping preserve the environment throughout the state of Colorado. 

In only two years, over 150,000 pounds of recyclable and compost waste has been diverted from landfills, contamination to the recycling stream has been minimized, and thousands of pounds of fresh food has been diverted for donation.

In 2023, Diversion Designers sought to submit a bid to a City of Denver project reimplementing reusable serviceware after the need for single use during the height of the pandemic. After COVID restrictions were eased, many restaurants and other food service businesses continued to utilize consumables and the program was being initiated to reduce and control unnecessary waste. 

This is when the company approached Northwest SBDC. A consultant discussed the company’s goals and two different experts reviewed the preliminary bid – the first government contract the company had ever pursued. After learning about government procurement and working with the consultant to refine the submission, Diversion Designers was successful in winning its largest contract to date.

“I probably wouldn’t have applied without the SBDC’s help, and they really boosted my confidence,” Amber said.

Recently Amber has reengaged the SBDC for direction in obtaining a women-owned certification in order to bid on more government contracts that will positively impact both the ecosystem and business communities of Colorado.

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