The LoCo Experience provides learning through crazy stories of small business owners, successful business veterans, and thought leaders. Created by LoCo Think Tank teammates, Curt Bear and Rory Schaar, explore in-depth Experience episodes & bite-sized LoCo Shorts.
LoCo Think Tank creates collaborative small business owner chapters for all stages of the business journey, built around high-achieving business veterans, LoCo Facilitators. We exist to uplift business owners and share stories to help one another grow and prosper, so we hope you enjoy! www.locothinktank.com
Darren Murphy is the Founder and President of PUSH Industries, the manufacturer of the best mountain bike suspension in the world! PUSH suspension systems are 100% American made, manufactured at their Loveland, Colorado headquarters, and sold through distribution outlets throughout the US, Asia, Australia, and Europe.
In this episode, Curt gets deep with Darren on his life story, digging back to his early years in Maine for the roots of his passion for bikes. Darren shares how the loss of his father at a young age impacted his journey, his struggles through high school years and how he found community in the local BMX circuit. Darren took a 3-week bike mechanic course right after high school, and worked as the lead mechanic for a startup retail bike enterprise.
That first job launched a career of impact for Darren, and as his passion for racing and suspension systems grew, so did his skills and reputation. A move to California was instrumental to expanding his network, which propelled him through a pair of challenging partnerships to found his own business in an 800 sq. ft. warehouse space in 2003. Originally a suspension-tuning business, PUSH eventually developed it's own patented technology - an easily switchable two-stage suspension tunable for uphill and downhill segments of a trail. Darren and his wife moved themselves and PUSH to Northern Colorado in 2005 in search of closer trails and a better quality of life, and now provide over 25 high-quality jobs to members of our community - and are still growing fast!
This episode is full of vulnerable moments and business learnings, and we're thankful to Darren for sharing his time to be a part of the LoCo Experience!
Did you set ants on fire with a magnifying glass when you were little? In this Shorts episode with Candyce Edelen, President/CEO at Propel Growth, she shares many elements of business growth through sales and marketing, including the time she realized that finding a niche and walking away from potential clients & industries was the only way to grow her business. She says you should think of your offerings as a magnifying glass focusing on one area small enough that the magnifying glass can start a fire.
Candyce knew early on she wanted to have her own business. Her journey involved owning multiple businesses, working in corporations, having mentors, a business exit, and founding–all to lead her to her current enterprise, PropelGrowth14 years ago. With her innate ability to identify the gaps and improve processes, Candyce translated her success in growing businesses to help others understand what it takes to increase revenue through marketing and sales.
Listen in to be inspired, to get focused on your business journey, and get some tips on how to stay focused on goals, sales and pricing!
You'll learn more about her very handy LinkedIn outreach tool, LinkedIn Sales Masterclass, where she did tons of research, testing, and developed a process to keep her pipeline full. Then she turned what she learned into a course. This is a good reminder when you see an opportunity, to go get it and make it your own!
In this special Experience episode, guest host and LoCo teammate, Rory Schaar interviews Curt Bear, LoCo Think Tank Founder. This month marks the 7th year of LoCo being in business! Curt looks back on his business journey, from working in banking to starting a food trailer, a season in financial services, and the development of LoCo Think Tank - a peer advisory group model built to help business owners learn from each other. During his banking years, he'd noticed that his most successful clients had something like this, so he founded LoCo so that he and other small businesses could have the same experience.
One of the key moments that shaped the trajectory of LoCo was when Curt's peer group asked deep & probing questions that led him to make a sobering yet relieving decision to put down his food trailer and identify a path to go full time LoCo.
Curt's journey has been well-supported by his family, including most epic wife, Jill Bear. Curt's father also holds a special place in this business story, as he demonstrated to Curt what was possible by starting what has become a large and successful farm from scratch as he and his siblings were growing up in North Dakota.
Listen in for this story of a business idea that changed shape over time, but always remained true to its' vision of a more-connected small business community.
Cheers to 7 years and here's to many, many more! Happy Birthday, LoCo!
Rina Jean Bindi is the Founder and CEO of Tipping Point Digital - a Digital Marketing Strategy firm based in Loveland, Colorado. Tipping point helps their clients be found (and trusted) on the internet by focusing on positive reviews and SEO optimization. She also serves as a marketing strategist for her sister's company, ZuGo Pet, and hosts the Point Taken Podcast - supporting positive business mindset and educating on alternative health practices.
Rina was the founder and operator of RJ's Amazing Entertainment, which she sold in 2020 after 7 years of business. RJ's continues to operate as an entertainment business focused on kids parties and community events - face painting, superheroes, princess parties - you name it. We explore her journey of skills building in the San Diego area, her escape from a decade-long lifestyle of partying and substance abuse, and her eventual move to Colorado and the launch of her entertainment business here. We explore her development of the business systems and digital presence that would allow her to find an eager buyer and to found and develop her current enterprises.
Rina Jean is an eccentric and very likeable character, and this episode is a bit of a squirrel-chase through her life and business journey. She gets real about her challenges with drugs and alcohol, her journey in finding her purpose and priorities, and her passion for continuous improvement in business and life. She shares abundantly when it comes to digital marketing trends and tactics, and her story will help listeners realize that no matter the hard places they find themselves there is a pathway to success as we serve the needs of others and work on ourselves.
Seth Silvers is the Founder and CEO of Story On Media & Marketing based in Fort Collins, Colorado, and also the creator of The Small Business Storytellers Podcast, and is preparing to launch a new podcast focused on Authentic Marketing. Seth and his team develop marketing campaigns and outreach built on storytelling - helping their client's customers see and hear and know the stories that reveal the value and values of the business in the community. They help business owners create and distribute their own content, and provide production and distribution support for podcasts and other media channels.
Seth shares abundantly of his insights into story marketing, how small businesses of different types can use stories to attract and retain customers, and the trends to be aware of. He also gets real about the business journey of Story On - starting as a short-lived partnership in 2015, evolving through periods of being a part-time business, and getting real with his staffing model and service offerings in 2020.
This episode is full of great marketing insights and get real business learnings, some from the school of hard knocks - and you're gonna love it.
How do you see new opportunities as an entrepreneur? Nick Armstrong, Geek in Chief at WTF Marketing (and lead organizer of Fort Collins Startup Week and Comic-Con) shares his journey of finding countless ways to create something unique to give back to the community. This includes his newest endeavor, running for City Council!
In this Shorts episode, get inspired to work beyond your business and find ways to identify needs in the community–and fill them! Nick’s strong aptitude for relationship building and community events helped him have a greater impact in addition to his 11+ year business, WTF Marketing.
You’ll leave this episode thinking of ways to invest in yourself and learning it’s ok to change big and small things that don’t serve you.
Abbie Stout is the owner/proprietor of the Edwards House Inn, a boutique hotel, conference, and special event center in Old Town Fort Collins, Luz en el Cielo, an Eco-B&B / Hostel in Montezuma, Costa Rica, and Cedar & Sage Mercantile, a sustainable hone products company operated by the Edwards House staff - and she is also a LoCo Think Tank member!
Abbie started her business journey as a school project the summer before her final year of college, when she wrote a business plan for an eco-lodge in Costa Rica. As her education wound down, her business professor and others encouraged her to pursue the project - and she did! - purchasing a broken-down property as a 23-year-old business novice with limited Spanish speaking ability. She bootstrapped the reinvigoration of the property and re-opened as Luz en el Cielo in the fall of 2010.
After growing and developing her Costa Rica business, Abbie was able to move back to Fort Collins in late 2017, when her family swapped properties with Curt Richardson of Otterbox fame - the historic Stout Ranch near the Colorado/Wyoming border for the Edwards House in Fort Collins. Abbie opened Cedar & Sage in 2020 to scratch a long-standing business itch in making it easier for consumers to select more sustainable products in their home product choices, and it has also helped to keep her staff employed after the reduction in revenues caused by the covid crisis.
Abbie is an inspirational leader at the ripe young age of 34, and her attitude and perspectives are contagious. "Go for it!" is her message to anyone who's interested in pursuing the lifestyle of the business owner - especially to women and moms! Give this episode a listen to be encouraged and empowered to make your own business dreams come true!
John Shaw is the Founder and the Conductor of the Orchestra at DaVinci Sign Systems located in Windsor, Colorado. DaVinci specializes in the creation of custom sign systems for businesses, communities, schools, churches and organizations of all kinds. John founded the company in 2004 in Fort Collins, and has over 30 employees on the "E-Team" - everything about them is positive, and they work hard and always together - to make their client's custom signage dreams a reality.
John's entrepreneurial journey started in 1985 when he founded Shaw Sign & Awning in Fort Collins, a business which grew over 13 years to over 50 employees. In a perhaps-impulsive move to make more room for his family, John sold Shaw Sign & Awning in 1998. From there, he wondered and wandered for a time through real estate, commercial insurance sales and custom home building. He found himself coming back to the industry he knows and loves the best with the founding of DaVinci.
John shares a look behind the curtain of the custom signage industry, with reflections on the changes and consistencies in the industry over a 30-year period. He also shares insights gained from his non-business pursuits, ranging from his love of surfing to his decision to pursue a self-supported Ride the Rockies effort this season when the official ride was canceled over Covid concerns. Enthusiasm, Endurance, and Excellence are abundant on the E-team, and John conducts the orchestra of their talents at the office and in his individual pursuits.
How do you feed a community during a pandemic? FOCO Cafe's Executive Director, Mallory Garneau, shares her bigs wins and key challenges 2020 brought for their non-profit. Learn about the creative adjustments Mallory and her team put in place to continue feeding the Fort Collins community, all while achieving record-breaking fundraising!
FoCo Cafe’s mission is to build community by providing nutritious and delicious meals to the people of Fort Collins regardless of their ability to pay while using mostly local, organic, and sustainably grown ingredients. They are a cafe & non-profit of shared responsibility that offers healthy and delicious meals to all people on a donation basis. They build community one plate at a time. If you can give more, please pay it forward. If you have a little less, pay what you can.
Becky Lauridsen is the Founder of IOME - Guilt Free Self Care. IOME is a membership organization that provides access to a supportive community in the areas of Mind, Body, and Soul, with plans that include access to discounts with community partners, monthly therapy/coaching session, and monthly small group engagements. IOME provides the therapy/coaching/small groups, and partners provide an array of discounted services to members, including but not limited to massage, chiropractic, nutrition, yoga, fitness, skin care, travel, and interior design.
Becky is a LoCo Think Tank member, and founded the business several years after burning out early in her career as a therapist and leaving the industry. She later realized her struggles were due to her failure to tend to her own mental health needs, and she founded IOME in 2018. Her basic premise is that the mental health industry would be more effective if they could engage people in their mental health maintenance before they're in a terrible place. Becky shares how it's not selfish to make space for self-care, and that you can serve others better if you keep yourself in good shape - Mind, Body, and Soul.
Historical fiction writer, award-winning author of eight books, and speaker + blogger, Teresa Funke, shares the business life of a creative. Through the trying times of the pandemic, she shares the importance (and how-to) of keeping creativity up while adapting to new business ideas.
Teresa talks about the challenges and big opportunities that come with being a solopreneur, including her guiding question: “Do I believe it’s true?”
In this LoCo Shorts episode, you’ll learn how to lean into your Bursts of Brilliance and find inner-guidance to make your dreams come true.
Learn more about Teresa and her work here.
Greg and Drew Yancey represent the 3rd and 4th generations of leadership of Yancey's Food Service - a family-owned Northern Colorado enterprise that began in 1940 and sold to FSA in 2012. Greg served as CEO and Drew as Director of Strategy at the time of exit, and Drew stayed on as President of a spin-off enterprise not included in the sale. Greg currently serves as full-time Grandfather/Husband and part-time Pastor at Mountain View Community Church. Drew is an Advisor at InCite Performance Group in Fort Collins and is also a LoCo Facilitator - you can learn more about Drew here on the LoCo Think Tank website.
Greg started working in the company while in Junior High, and never worked outside the family enterprise - leaving college to join the leadership team as General Manager at the age of 21 in 1980. Drew also joined the company at a young age, and was highly involved in journey toward finding a mutually beneficial exit partnership. This episode pulls back the curtain on the food distribution industry, revealing secrets of growth through building strong relationships and a focus on customer service. Greg and Drew share stories of business successes and failures, and the learnings found in both.
Turning your craft into a business isn’t always smooth sailing, but as Mitch Holmes, owner of MitchCraft Tiny Homes experienced, build it and they shall come!
In this LoCo Shorts episode, Mitch shares with us how he turned his love for minimalism and quality production into a somewhat unplanned, step-by-step successful business journey. Of course, this isn’t without learning some key lessons, so listen in to hear about scaling, growing a team, troubleshooting customers, and even being on Tiny House Hunters on HGTV!
Don't forget to scope out some of their work on Instagram.
Karen Fournier is the Founder and Owner of Starstream Productions in Loveland, Colorado. Her entrepreneurial journey began with a volunteer documentary short about a local non-profit, and she has served the non-profit and educational communities for over 13 years, winning several national awards. She has interviewed over 600 individuals to help draw out stories of impact and learning, from which she develops everything from non-profit benevolence videos to educational training courses.
In 2020, Karen began pursuing a new passion project, driven by a very personal journey with her three teen daughters through suicide attempts and depression. She has been writing a supportive book for parents and has an active Indigogo campaign for that effort, and will soon be launching a podcast series featuring interviews with experts to help parents navigate an environment where their children are struggling with mental health. Karen has a big heart and an even bigger vision for how the world can be different for teens and parents, with lives of resiliency built on connection and understanding.
Learn how working for a visionary, like Elon Musk, can prep you for business entrepreneurship! On this LoCo Shorts episode, we dig in deep with Jeremy Lasman, Co-Founder of Star Systems, Conscious Leadership Network, Creator or Mania Comic, and Technologist with SpaceX, to explore his business journey.
Jeremy candidly shares the steps from his self-discovery, business creation, technology experience, and understanding of high-efficiency performance in business which led him to help business owners remove their own roadblocks.
Learn what it takes to unlock visionary tendencies and step out of your comfort zone by going within your mind to find the answers to your life and business.
Camron Lente founded NG Companies in 2009 at the age of 20, leaving a six-figure oilfield industry job to sort through dumpsters at rig sites looking for recyclable materials to help his clients reduce waste and save money. After a few years of finding its footing, the company moved into construction and infrastructure focused on the same industry and has now evolved into a service and infrastructure business that serves a broad market of clients with many services. Ben Gates is a career small business banker with an entrepreneurial mindset and a thoughtful outlook, who left behind a successful banking career to join Camron in helping to grow and evolve this nimble enterprise in the years ahead.
This is a long-running episode with a little too much scotch, and more business twists and turns and learnings than the Poudre River has through the Canyon! Today, Camron is a 31-year-old CEO with a high-school education, strong competitive instincts, and an appetite for risk, and NG has about 100 employees and operations in 7 states. There's a lot of philosophy in this one too, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness especially.
How does being a philanthropist relate to being a business owner? In Mel Ulle’s case, owner of Philanthropy Expert, it’s all about having a plan, passion& impact, leaving a legacy, and having the right team (and heart) behind all you do.
From politics to the Denver Art Museum, to even a show on the Travel Channel, Mel unpacks her career in entrepreneurship.
Listen in as Mel describes more about the business side of giving back to communities through philanthropy and how she created her rockstar team and solid company culture to support that journey.
Learn more about Mel and Philanthropy Expert here.
Mike Gugliotto was a gifted writer since his youth, and attended Colorado State University as a Journalism major. Constant curiosity and an intrinsic love for people and business carried him to greater and greater responsibilities, culminating as the President and CEO of Pioneer News Group in Seattle, WA - a group with at one point more than 1,000 employees and operations in 24 communities! Mike shares stories of navigating the intrinsic challenges of business while facing declining revenues and the urgent need for innovation faced by the newspaper industry in that period, and gives interesting clarity to leading a company through a sale. Mike's journey led him back to Northern Colorado, where he lives with his wife Janet and now serves as LoCo Facilitator for two Thinkers chapters, while also serving as a mentor and encourager for the LoCo HQ team.
Think back to March 2020. How did your organization react to the COVID outbreak and shutdown? Nathan Morimitsu, Director Of Operations at H2 Manufacturing Solutions, shares H2’s fast and innovative response to helping businesses and individuals in Colorado remain safe during the pandemic. Through late night ideas, 3D printing, and community collaboration, H2 was able to ship over 1500+ face respirators and develop a program to keep essential and non-essential businesses protected and open.
This story highlights a business living out their mission by acting fast to serve their clients and greater community in a critical time of need, even when such actions weren’t their primary service offerings.
Learn more about H2 Manufacturing Solutions and their COVID Safety System for businesses take the right precautions to stay open.
Mike Labate and his twin brother Greg started Rocky Mountain Westy in their garage in Fort Collins in 2002, and purchased their first commercial property just before the Great Recession. A "top-3 most likely headed for bankruptcy" business acquaintance at that time has grown into a cherished friendship, and it was Mike who said something along the lines of "Bear - you should start a think tank" in 2014. An original member of LoCo Think Tank, Mike and his brother have grown their business into a market dominant and vertically integrated service, manufacturing, and distribution enterprise focused on the iconic Volkswagon camper van - especially the Westfalia (aka Westy).
Rocky Mountain Westy got it's start by creating a kit to put Subaru engines into the V W camper vans, and they now manufacture over 250 different parts and accessories. Mr. Mechanic is a service enterprise, and the brothers acquired a competitor in the niche industry, and moved Van Cafe (vancafe.com) from Santa Cruz, CA to Fort Collins, CO in 2018.
This episode with Mike tells a tale of constant opportunity-finding, and adapting the business to best deliver value to their clients and create a great place to work for their employees. In this episode, you'll learn a lot about van life, chasing a dream, and enjoying the journey along the way!
Listen in as Ali Abouzalam shares the details of his founding story behind Bee-Nails. This LoCo Shorts episode uncovers the small steps and connections that truly shape a business from the beginning. Ali also shares not only about his business story, but also how the pandemic, industry changes, MMA, and daily gratitude influence him and his business.
Bee-Nails is a Colorado-based lifestyle company transforming the way we consume with affordable, medical-grade, vaporizer products that are better for consumers.
Learn more about DATGrat, the daily gratitude practice on Instagram here.
Check out Ali’s Bee-On Purpose Podcast here!
Aaron Everitt has traveled a distinctive business journey. From growing up in a locally-famous real estate family to finding his love for business as part of a traveling music group, through stints in the family business in land development and home building, and then starting, building, and eventually abandoning his own entrepreneurial venture - he’s written some interesting chapters. Aaron shares his business and life journey in introspective detail and shares his forecast for the future of Northern Colorado business, water, and real estate.
Learn more about Aaron at TheGroup.Com.
Ever considered taking one of your favorite things and making it a business? That’s what Lauren Storeby and her husband, Shawn, did to share their love of good, healthy food with the community through Snack Attack! Learn about Lauren’s transition from extreme sports clothing production to feeding Fort Collins, CO with specialty sandwiches and brews.
This LoCo Shorts episode looks back on Lauren’s key transferrable skills throughout her life that pointed her right where she needed to be to successfully launch a unique restaurant in Fort Collins - a city known for saturated restaurant choices.
Snack Attack is a local gathering joint where all ages are welcome to come to hang for a GREAT handcrafted meal, amazing local craft beer, and great conversations. They believe food should be good for your body, which is why they carefully craft quality menu items with added flavor & nutrition. They are also Veteran owned and operated!
Scope out their menu and drool here.
Lance Cayko (pronounced psycho!) is a founder and partner of F9 Productions, a residential and commercial architecture firm in Longmont, Colorado, founded in 2009. Lance and his business partner Alex Gore (Al Gore, hah!) have founded and operate multiple enterprises including a development company, construction company, and a popular business podcast called Inside the Firm Since connecting with Curt, Lance invited Curt to be on his podcast, has become a LoCo believer, and is preparing to launch a LoCo Builders chapter in the Longmont region! Growth-minded business owners of 5 or fewer employees in the Longmont area should listen well, and apply today if you feel his journey and principals may support your journey ahead.
Lance was born and raised in relative poverty in rural North Dakota, and his is a story of uncovering strengths, pursuing opportunities, and taking responsibility to change the things he could change - and letting the rest go. Listen close as Lance unfolds a deeply personal life story that holds lessons for anyone hiding a dark secret.
Has a key moment in your life led you to a passion? Madeline Kent, owner of Sante Health and Wellness shares her health and business journey in this LoCo Shorts episode. Madeline unfolds her story of nutritional "ah-ha's" along with her drive to help people naturally (and effectively), all while committing to her path of entrepreneurship.
SANTE stands for Scientific Approach to Nutrition Therapy and Empowerment. Each journey to wellness is unique, so your individual story will carve the path. They educate and empower clients through one-on-one sessions, individualized goal plans, and consistent support so you can gain the knowledge and confidence to listen to your body. Learn more about Madeline's services here.
Erik & Kim Whitin are the founders and owners of Tri-State Concrete in Fort Collins, Colorado. Kim is a member of LoCo Think Tank! The Whitins moved to and restarted their business in Colorado after the Great Recession, and found themselves living off Stove Prairie Road in the mountains west of Fort Collins when the 2012 fires broke. Their property was one of the first to be destroyed, and they had only a few hours from witnessing the first wisp of smoke to gather what they could and leave with what they could carry in their Jeep!
The Whitins have an amazing story of resilience and perseverance, and besides the fire story both of these individuals have incredible life and family stories that will help listeners to understand that the journey to success often is full of Stop Signs, U-Turns, and Detours, but community, hard work, and love can pull us through to find good times again.
Learn more about Kim and Eric's business, Tri-State Concrete here.
And a special thanks to A Brother's Fountain for the use of their music!
Welcome to the LoCo Experience Podcast! We have many business stories to tell - some long, some short - so we're giving you the audio rundown of what to expect when listening to the LoCo Experience and LoCo Shorts episodes.
This trailer provides a brief background of LoCo's mission to uplift business owners through collaboration, now through storytelling!
Subscribe now to get the latest episodes in all the places you listen to podcasts.
PS - We LOVE our musical friends with A Brother's Fountain who provided their music for our podcasts. Learn to love them too here.