The sister and brother team of Susan and David Jessup gather around their mother, Mayme Jessup, under a stained glass created for the ranch by a former employee. Susan Jessup said her mother is “the J in the heart of our brand.”

Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch – Loveland’s ‘little jewel’ 2006 Bravo! Entrepreneur — Loveland

Susan Jessup assumed the role of general manager for Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch in Loveland sometime between 20 and 25 years ago.

“It was never discussed; it just kind of evolved,” she explained.

Jessup returned to help her parents at Sylvan Dale after the Big Thompson flood in 1976. After a few years her father, Maurice Jessup, developed rheumatoid arthritis. As his health gradually declined, Susan Jessup picked up more roles at the ranch. Evolution, she said, was a term her father used a lot. Maurice Jessup passed away in 1993.

Today, Susan and her brother, David Jessup, carry on the family tradition at Sylvan Dale, having ushered the business through many changes and challenges. The ranch celebrated its 60th anniversary this year, and it will also be able to celebrate Susan Jessup as Loveland’s 2006 Bravo! Entrepreneur.

Susan Jessup’s day usually starts with a visit to her mother, Mayme, who still lives on the ranch. After that she pops by the horse stables, the cattle pens and the dining room to check in with the staff.

“The rest of the day pretty much takes care of itself,” she said, explaining that she does what needs doing, depending on the season.

There is a sense of bustle at Sylvan Dale, even on a snowy day in October. Sylvan Dale hosts various events – weddings, corporate retreats and meetings, reunions and other gatherings.

Over the years, the ranch had undergone many changes. In 1985, the process of updating all of the facilities began, and wasn’t complete until the late 1990s with the remodel of the ranch’s main office. The updates – the first for the ranch – made the facility more attractive for company functions and weddings.

When it started, the ranch was little more than some rustic cabins used for guests looking for a dude ranch experience. The new facilities included large conference and meeting rooms with modern amenities. Many of the buildings have been outfitted with wireless Internet access – a modification made under the guidance of David Jessup.

Susan Jessup recalls, her eyes a bit misty, the day that the construction company brought in the heavy equipment to demolish the old office and recreation building. She and her mother stood on the deck as the equipment rolled in, but both had to look away.  It was too sad to watch the old building – home to so many family and company memories – be destroyed. But it was a sacrifice that needed to be made in order to move the ranch into the present.

The success of this year is uplifting for Susan Jessup. She said that the last six years have been difficult for the ranch, dealing with a market that had changed, and an economy bruised.

Throughout her career at the ranch, Susan Jessup has had to be very open to change. When the ranch began to struggle financially around 2000, she took a look at what needed to be done.

“When it’s your home, it’s your life,” she said. “I became aware that we had to really become proactive.”

To that end, Sylvan Dale has implemented an active marketing program and recently hired a sales manager to focus on bringing in the clients.

Such changes have been easy, Susan Jessup said, because they were all made in order to maintain the ranch, which is the biggest goal for the Jessup family.

“My dad used to say this place is like a little jewel,” she said.

Something of a visionary, Maurice Jessup predicted that development would spring up all over Loveland. He told his family that Sylvan Dale would remain a getaway from all of that growth.

In that spirit, David Jessup and David Armstrong – Susan’s husband – have worked to make sure that the ranch would not be developed. About two-thirds of Sylvan Dale’s 3,200 acres are now under conservation easement.