ARCHIVED  December 1, 1996

Programs abound for local startups

The northern Front Range is a great place to start a business.

Pro-business attitudes in local government and plentiful resources have made it that way, according to Frank Pryor of the Small Business and International Development Center in Fort Collins.
From software companies to brew pubs, the ferment is being fed by a variety of small programs throughout the region that help people convert good ideas into good business.
Several programs aim at teaching entrepreneurial skills to young people.
The Women’s Development Council, a statewide organization, co-sponsors with The Colorado Women’s Business Office a program called Young Women of the West “Seeking the Entrepreneurial Spirit.” Now in its second year, the program consists of a three-month training program for about 40 young women ages 16 to 18. They learn from successful women entrepreneurs about self-esteem, leadership, risk-taking, economics and communication.
Eight young women are then selected and matched with eight business owners for internships. The internships are a unique part of the program and have been extremely well-received by business owners and interns alike.
“(The internship) was the greatest thing,” enthused Berthoud high-school senior Ginger Garrison. Garrison had already started a catering business when “Seeking the Entrepreneurial Spirit” assigned her to an internship with Dorothy’s Catering of Loveland. Garrison said Dorothy Skroch taught her to be more efficient in the kitchen and “to have patience with customers who didn’t necessarily have patience themselves.”
“Seeking the Entrepreneurial Spirit” has two centers, one in Fort Collins-Loveland and one in Colorado Springs.
For students who have struggled with high school, Colorado State University administers the Student’s Entrepreneurial Education Research Project. It is a
federally funded effort to give at-risk teens real-world business and employment skills. The three-year project is now in its second year of involving teachers, business owners, banks and high-school students in a startup business course.
Students talk to community entrepreneurs, do market-needs surveys and try out a small business short term. Profitable enterprises have included an automobile-detailing business and a company that built storage sheds and dog houses. This year, some students are planning to paint curb addresses, and others are marketing gifts in time for Christmas, said Julie Kothe, assistant director of CSU’s Center for Community Participation.
The oldest of the three programs for young people is the First Generation Scholarship Program administered by the Colorado State University Center for Educational Access and Outreach.
Since 1984, 965 students, who were the first in their families to attend college, have received tuition and fees courtesy of First Generation Awards.
Although in the past, the program has been mainly a scholarship, this year, FirstBank of Northern Colorado, the major contributor to the scholarship program, plans to extend its involvement with scholarship students to include mentoring, leadership development and team-building activities.
To help good ideas make the transition from CSU’s academic environment to the world of business, Fort Collins will soon have two new programs. The “Virtual Incubator,” which may be in operation as early as three months from now, will offer – for a fee – a microloan program and professional assistance to get new businesses up and running.
The City of Fort Collins has joined with local banks, the Small Business and International Development Center, the Fort Collins Economic Development Corp. and the Women’s Development Council to lend assistance with writing a business or marketing plan, or financing production of a prototype.
The microloan program that will be part of the incubator package is also a joint project of Fort Collins city government, local banks and community organizations. The program hopes to have a fund of $25,000 to $50,000 to guarantee bank loans to businesses that might not normally qualify for a bank loan. It will offer qualified entrepreneurs “relatively small” business startup loans of from $2,000 to $8,000.
“We don’t have a great need, but we have an opportunity to stimulate new businesses in this town,” Fort Collins assistant city manager Frank Bruno said.
Working along similar lines, the Loveland Center for Business Development guarantees three- to five-year loans to businesses that cannot otherwise get bank loans because they lack collateral or an earnings history. The largest loan is $25,000.
In two and a half years, the center has guaranteed six loans and suffered no defaults, said executive director Kathy Kregel.
The center demands that startup business owners write a business plan. The help the center offers in writing such plans sometimes results in a business getting a bank loan without further assistance from the center, Kregel said.
A rather different loan program helps Greeley business owners get started. The Greeley/Weld Economic Development Action Partnership administers the federally funded Weld-Larimer Revolving Loan Fund. EDAP vice president Jodie Hartmann explained that the program unfortunately applies only to businesses located in rural areas of Greeley and Larimer counties.
Like guaranteed loans in Fort Collins and Loveland, the loans go to relatively high-risk businesses. But unlike those programs, which do not directly lend money, the revolving fund puts up about half the money for its loans, while banks in the area finance most of the rest. The business owner is expected to kick in 10 percent equity.
Department of Housing and Urban Development rules provide that for each new job a new business creates under the loan program, the qualified business becomes eligible for $20,000 in loan money. Loans are short term, usually five years, and interest rates are at the prime rate or below.
The Weld-Larimer Revolving Loan program has lent $1.3 million and created 440 jobs with no defaults. EDAP, besides helping new businesses develop a marketing plan, handle accounting and maintain books, acts as a liaison and advocate for small businesses with other government agencies and departments.
In Laramie, the Laramie Economic Development Corp. is an important resource. There, beginning business people can learn about state-sponsored programs, including financial and technical assistance for startup technology companies through the Wyoming Science Technology and Energy Authority, Small Business Development Centers, and Fast Track, a program that provides training and individual consulting to entrepreneurs.
The Laramie EDC also sponsors revolving loans up to $250,000 and provides marketing and business-planning help.
The Laramie Downtown Development Authority can help with almost any small-business problem, although no money is directly available through the DDA. According to director Tim Rubald, the DDA in its eight years of operation has helped business owners find locations for their businesses, made them aware what licenses and permits they needed, smoothed relations with a variety of government agencies and has even written enabling legislation allowing brew pubs in downtown Laramie.
The authority also acts as a resource and referral center for small-business needs.
Increasing assistance for starting businesses, reasonable interest rates and communities that are open to new businesses promise a near future that looks “very bright,” Pryor said.
“For those that are still having a hard time of it, we have to look at why and what can we do about it,” he said.
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The northern Front Range is a great place to start a business.

Pro-business attitudes in local government and plentiful resources have made it that way, according to Frank Pryor of the Small Business and International Development Center in Fort Collins.
From software companies to brew pubs, the ferment is being fed by a variety of small programs throughout the region that help people convert good ideas into good business.
Several programs aim at teaching entrepreneurial skills to young people.
The Women’s Development Council, a statewide organization, co-sponsors with The Colorado Women’s Business Office a program called Young Women of the West…

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