André Smith, a Colorado resident and recent graduate of the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Operation Boots to Business (B2B) program recently won $10,000 in a national Business Plan writing competition. This was part of the Realizing Your Dream Business Competition, a year-long opportunity for veterans who are established or aspiring entrepreneurs to submit formal small business plans in hopes of receiving a share of $130,000 in available seed funding. The Citi Foundation provided funding for the Realizing Your Dream Business Competition. The 17 semi-finalist contestants had to pitch their products and services as part of the final competition. André won $10,000 and third place in the national Business Plan competition. His plan won an additional $5,000 for being chosen as the Best Tech Venture.
André Smith is a recently discharged 26 year veteran of the US Navy. While going through the military honorable discharge process at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado, he was afforded the opportunity to go through the SBA’s two day Operation Boots to Business program. This was during the summer of 2013.
The Operation Boots to Business program uses a multi-phased approach to introduce transitioning service members to the fundamentals of small business ownership and to the SBA tools and resources available to them. Transitioning veterans are natural entrepreneurs, possessing the training, experience, and leadership skills to start businesses and create jobs. According to the most recent U.S. Census Data, veteran-owned firms represent 9 percent of all U.S. firms. André later enrolled in the more extensive online Operation Boots to Business program. In this program, the SBA teams up with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families and Syracuse University to deliver an intensive, 8-week online business planning curriculum to those service members who choose such training.
Along the way, André Smith was also mentored by Paul Gregory, the Co-Founder of the Veterans Incubator of Colorado (VIC). The Veterans Incubator is a non-profit organization focused on assisting Veterans getting started in business. Mr. Gregory is also a former counselor with the Colorado Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network, an SBA partner organization.
Over the last several months, André has started and is now operating his business, Celestial Lighting Services (CLS). CLS monitors, reports and repairs streetlights. Community members become their “eyes on the ground” to report inoperable lights by simply using their smartphones and mobile devices to scan CLS’ patented grid-tag markers on the light pole and send in a report. This technology saves technicians’ valuable time in locating these streetlights. This is the first of many possible applications using this technology.
André Smith says: “Let me first acknowledge that my company would not be where it is today if it weren't for the assistance and services of B2B, SBA, SBDC and VIC. All of these programs have equally poured time and resources into me to help this company become a success and I'm truly thankful for it.”
SBA’s Colorado District Office is grateful for André’s service to his country and extends heartfelt congratulations on his prize winning Business Plan and Best Tech Venture.
Similar to a child losing their precious toy, Katrina Boldry's loss of a 17 year old dog leash was a new beginning for her and surprisingly many others around the world.
It all started because as a child Katrina owned every animal imaginable. She even had the perseverance to raise a guide dog, Poco. The sturdy, multipurpose leash for Poco broke after 17 years and there was no such quality product to replace it. Katrina's willpower kicked in, she decided to buy the tools needed to make a leash of her own. It was a success!
Katrina knew her skill could help others. In fact her market consisted of 20,000 service dogs nationwide. She pursued her talent and combined her affection for animals and passion for helping people to establish Bold Lead Designs in 2006. In the beginning, she sold to family and friends, then moved up to craft and pet shows, and eventually moved her business online where she now sells internationally to several countries including: Canada, UK, France, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Croatia.
When she first started her business, Katrina knew she had unique skills to make the product but wanted to improve her knowledge. She completed a 13 week business success course through Colorado's Women's Business Center known as Mi Casa Resource Center. Katrina states,
“Mi Casa has been an invaluable resource. As a solo entrepreneur, I would never have gotten the business off the ground so successfully without the guidance of the wonderful counselors at Mi Casa. They are compassionate and understand how complex starting a business can be, and helped me focus on the important details necessary to get started. They have been there for me every time I have a technical question about business licenses, taxes, even how to start a email campaign. They have a rich network of other professionals and services to recommend as well.”
Katrina’s business took flight with her strong dedication and the help of Mi Casa’s success course. Within her first year, Bold Lead Designs marked growth and brand recognition and earned first year profits. Since then sales have essentially doubled each year and are on track to double sales again in 2012.
Katrina’s next challenge was taking her business to the next level and doing it right. She focused her efforts to make exactly what service dog owners want and need. Along with her business efforts she volunteered with service dog groups and gained feedback from owners of service dogs and incorporated what they needed into her products.
Katrina was then asked to design a harness for balance and mobility. At first the project seemed impossible but with her love and support for guide dogs she had the confidence to give it a shot. Katrina asked skilled animal surgeons and therapists to come up with the best design for stability and movement. The harnesses are now one of her bestselling products.
Katrina’s unknown craftiness led to a rewarding career. Bold Lead Designs continues to succeed, grow, and fill the need for service dog equipment all while being a local, handcrafted, women-owned small business.
What began as a home-brew hobby has turned into a thriving brewery business for Kevin DeLange and his wife Michelle. Kevin is the President of Dry Dock Brewing Co, an Aurora base craft brewery that began in 2005. Dry Dock Brewing began winning awards for its beer as early as 2006, winning the World Beer Cup Gold H.M.S Victory ESB in the Special or Best Bitter category. Since then, Dry Dock has won 3 additional World Beer Cup awards and 11 Great American Beer Festival medals including Small Brewing Company of the Year in 2009.
Kevin and Michelle began their relationship with the U.S. Small Business Administration by utilizing SBA’s 7(a) loan program. In 2009 and again in 2011 they used the 7(a) loan program to finance tenant improvements and to purchase an additional bottling machine, fermenters and kegs. They recently were approved for an SBA 504 loan to finance a 30,000 square foot building in Aurora Colorado. The new facility will house a 4-vessel, 40 barrel brew-house that will eventually be capable of producing more than 60,000 barrels of beer per year (one barrel is 31 U.S. gallons). Their goal is to brew 12,000 barrels in the first year. In addition to utilizing SBA’s loan guaranty programs, Kevin is a participant in the 2012 SBA Emerging 200 Initiative – a 7-month curriculum that enables participants to engage in focused development and expansion strategies for their business.
Since opening, Dry Dock Brewing has never been able to keep up with the demand for their award-winning beer. Kevin and Michelle’s approach to growth has been incremental and slow – all part of their plan to grow from a small brewery to a medium-sized brewery. Their production has grown from 300 barrels in 2006 to 3,200 barrels projected for 2012. On a typical Friday night, the brewery will pour 15 barrels or 4,200 glasses of beer. Pretty impressive for a guy from Iowa whose business started as a hobby!