I think one of the most common responses most of us locals get on any chairlift or gondola ride (after stating we live here year-round) is, “Really? You LIVE here? What do you do for a living?”
Although many of us may have started out as ski bums in our early 20’s, those of us who stuck around to raise families, graduated from waiting tables to either taking on managerial or executive business positions, some moved into entrepreneurship and others to business ownership, in our 30’s and beyond. And now, due to our world’s connectivity and the ability for many people to truly work “from anywhere”, we’re experiencing huge growth in those who want to settle in and be a part of the business community fabric.
If you’re one of those people who has hit the glass ceiling and is ready to move into starting a business here, I applaud you. It takes guts, creativity, and patience to make all of the variables work, but the rewards are endless. There are several ways to go about starting your Steamboat business (more options than there’s room in one blog post), but here are a few pointers to get you moving in the right direction.
First, there are tremendous resources here in Steamboat. If you aren’t aware of the nationally recognized SCORE program, go check it out. Because Steamboat is an incredibly desirable spot to retire or own a second home in; many retired successful business executives volunteer their time and expertise to mentor new business owners. The Yampa Valley Entrepreneurship Center located at Colorado Mountain College and the Northwest Small Business Development Office can assess your mentorship needs and set you up with a professional who best matches what you’re looking for to increase your odds of success.
In addition to one-on-one mentorship, there are a few groups in town run by passionate business people that you can join to maximize your knowledge of business, connect you to the community, and help you succeed through networking.
Ignite Steamboat is a hub for location-neutral and entrepreneurial-minded business people. Go to one of the many meetups and sparks of collaboration for start-ups are everywhere. Events vary and spin-offs include the monthly KinnectTek group for web/app coding and programming start-ups and the Ignite Marketing group hosts monthly speakers who give free presentations to educate solo business owners on all things marketing.
For Young Professionals, the Young Professionals Network run through the Steamboat Chamber is dedicated to helping younger Steamboat career-minded individuals find opportunities for growing their careers. It’s a great spot for hand-picking motivated employees or for networking, growing your business, and getting support from like-minded peers.
WIN Steamboat (Women In Networking) also meets monthly and as the adage goes, if you don’t need a meeting that month, perhaps someone at the meeting needs your expertise. Women business owners help each other succeed with opportunities to present their business each month, exchange ideas and give education and support.
If you’re starting a retail or restaurant business in town, I highly recommend finding a commercial broker for assessing your needs. Retail shops and restaurants are bought and sold in not-public transactions all the time. Most are “pocket listings” so you won’t find them advertised in the MLS or on the internet, but a well-connected commercial broker is well aware of what is for sale and what isn’t.
Often times, buying an existing business and improving upon it, is a really cost-effective way to get momentum that might usually take much longer to build from scratch. Systems are already in place, preferential vendor pricing might already have been negotiated, name recognition is established and you get to jump in feet first and make changes that suit your goals for growth rather than starting from scratch.
If you are starting from scratch, a commercial broker can help you suss out the perfect location for your business and negotiate terms with your landlord. First-floor retail space in downtown Steamboat is going to be more expensive but has the added advantage of more foot traffic than a west of Steamboat location. Assess what kind of traffic you need, what kind of parking and space you need, and what level of price per square foot your business plan can tolerate. Real estate attorneys can also be of great assistance in navigating the commercial lease negotiations, suggesting options for the purchase of real estate should the landlord sell or pass on first rights of refusals, plus giving you guidance and protecting you in other key components of a successful lease.
If location is a non-issue, second-floor office space is available above many retail shops downtown. Executive suites are available in office parks located in the Highway 40 corridor. Affordable start-up office space is also available within the Yampa Valley Entrepreneurship Center at Colorado Mountain College. Shared amenities, easy access to mentors and education resources, plus jaw-dropping views of the valley from the front window make this one a key choice of many new business owners.
And, of course, there’s always the ultimate bootstrap start-up headquarters: your favorite coffee shop or the Bud Werner Memorial Library. You’d be surprised at how many mini-empires are run out of the library. It has a coffee shop on the ground floor, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the river on the second floor, and private professional conference spaces that can be reserved for free through the main desk.
Let us Help
Whatever your idea is, Steamboat can be strategically used for your success. Quality of life here is unsurpassed and key staff members who are happy and healthy are more profitable than those who aren’t. The Chamber is here to assist you in your entrepreneurial pursuits. Contact Economic Development Director John Bristol to learn more.