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Success Stories

Creative FINANCING for Our Rural Colorado Communities

At First Southwest Bank, creative financing for small, local businesses runs through our veins. Read some of the stories below about rural Colorado's small business innovators and how we were able to help their business flourish.

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Desert Sun Coffee Roasters

First Southwest Bank and the First Southwest Community Fund have helped thousands of small businesses thrive. Zachary Ray is one small business owner who connected with us at a Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center workshop where he met Sherry Waner, FSWB & FSWCF Chief Development Officer. Ellen Stein, FSWB Marketing Director, conducted the interview. 

  • QI: Sherry, you've trained thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners in how to buy and sell, start, and grow their own business in your 28-year career. What type of assistance do you offer small business owners? 

  • Al: I listen to them and ask a lot of questions - What type of research have they done? Have they test-marketed their product? Why do they believe that their business will be successful? 

  • Q2: What is some of your best advice? 

  • A2: Whether you are starting, growing, or acquiring an existing business there are some fundamentals - create a business plan with financial projections, surround yourself with experts, secure the capital you need to execute your strategy. Acumen and industry knowledge are also really important 

  • Q3: What is a unifying quality that most entrepreneurs and small business owners possess? 

  • A3: Passion. You can tell right away that people with passion are going to work hard to be successful. I recognized this quality in Zach right away. 

  • QI: Zachary, Congratulations! You are the new owner of Desert Sun Coffee Roasters, a successful small business in Durango. Please tell us about your path to becoming a small business owner. 

  • Al: I have always wanted to have a positive effect on the world. I have had several opportunities present themselves at different times in my life that have not been in any of my plans but were values-aligned. When the opportunity presented itself to put my vision and values into action through free enterprise, I jumped. I had been General Manager for several years and knew what was involved. Though as owner, I'm now thinking about how to make it do better for the community, for staff, the earth. I'm contemplating how I can push the industry to be more environmentally and socially responsible. 

  • Q2: What has been most impactful for you? 

  • A2: Sherry mentioned the big hurdle - capital. One of the most helpful things was the SWCO SBDC's free "Buying and Selling a Business" workshop. I got a big reality check on what's involved in running a business. The workshop helped frame what it takes to get there. I am a first-generation PLC college graduate. There was no one in my fanilly to help me. My mentor said, "I don't always know the answer, but I'm good at finding people who do." That's the wisdom I've taken to heart. SBDC and FSWB mentoring were critical. I didn't feel like I was working with a bank, rather a mentor with who I was collaborating to solve a problem. I have also taken Lao Tzu to heart: "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

Side by Side Pet Nutrition

Having been in the pet nutrition industry for over 10 years, Marney Prince started Side by Side, a pet nutrition company based in Telluride, Colorado, in her home kitchen. The pet snakcs quickly gained a respected reputation for using fresh, whole foods such as meat, bones, organs, fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, fats, oils, and herbs, sourced from local Colorado producers. FSWCF recently received a Rural Business Development Grant which allowed them to expand the brand’s marketing and community growth. According to Carol Bramson, Side by Side’s CEO, the funding provided through that effort allowed them to establish a foundation for a completely new aesthetic look and brand. It was a very important source of capital at a crucial time in the company’s development.

Phoenix Recycling

When Phoenix Recycling entrepreneur, Mark Thompson realized that Durango's growth would need to be sustainable, he aimed to launch a mission driven business providing world class recycling and hometown service. What started out as a pick up truck operation with a few plastic bins and a leased piece of property, now has expanded to include over 15 employees providing recycling services all over La Plata County - a change-making leader in the county’s efforts to be more sustainable. We are proud to serve Phoenix Recycling's business innovation.

Alpacka Rafts

When, Alpacka Rafts', Thor Tingey returned from yet another epic packrafting trip (a combination of backpacking and rafting) with his raft weighted down by patches (again), him and his seamstress mother set out to solve the problem once and for all. With the help of First Southwest Bank, these long-lasting, high-quality rafts have redefined the curious sport. From navigating technical slot canyons to floating in the solace of an alpine lake with fishing pole in hand, every Alpacka Raft is pieced together to be the most effective packraft in the world for whatever adventure calls. The impact of the company extends beyond stem and stern to their surrounding community including their launching and sponsorship of the Mancos Valley River Film Festival, and participating in conservation motivated letters to Colorado senators.

Monte Vista Potato Growers

Monte Vista Potato Growers provides the majority of packing and distributing in the San Luis Valley, an area in Southwest Colorado known for its abundant crops. Because they are in such a niche specialized industry, the Monte Vista Potato Growers had the demand, but not the capital, and the risky nature of a co-op run “business” made securing financing seem virtually impossible. The USDA B&I financing secured through FSWB allowed them to outfit a new facility with efficient production lines and quality storage capacity.

Riff Raff Brewing

Starting Riff Raff Brewing Company in Pagosa Springs was always a good concept, but Jason and Shelly Cox had limited sources of capital. Not only did FSWB play a vital funding role, but also provided a high degree of technical assistance in helping them thoughtfully strategize how to personally source funds, how to make a pitch, developing a good brand story, providing proof of concept, navigating lease terms, and more. Riff Raff Brewing quickly developed from a dream to the development stage, next acquiring the actual funding and soon after, opening its doors to a large and eager client base. Only two years after opening, they couldn’t meet demand so an additional loan was secured to buy additional equipment and expand the existing storefront footprint. Riff Raff specializes in a wide array of craft beer combined with classic takes on burgers, nachos and other grill food – a place to relax, let go of worries and spend time with friends and family.

EME Rental - Papa Murphy’s

Financing a start up franchise can be difficult, but FSWB made the dream a reality for one Papa Murphy’s franchise in Alamosa, CO. The nature of the SBA 7 (a) loan allowed the business owners to use the capital for a variety of uses including purchasing a high visibility building, improving it to meet franchise requirements, and still having free working capital remaining to get things off the ground. Now in just a few short months residents and visitors of Alamosa will be able to enjoy fresh, simple and delicious take and bake pizza!

Eleventh Street Station

With the help of a First Southwest Bank small business loan, Eleventh Street Station's Marcos and Jaime are proud to present this one-of-a-kind watering hole and gourmet journey for the senses. With five food trucks, two food carts and the eclectic 1950’s gas-station throwback bar, Ernie’s, Eleventh Street Station is Durango’s latest outdoor food hub. Ernie’s and Eleventh Street Station are primed for meeting community needs whether it’s a location for fun night out with friends, or a gathering space for a quick, tasty business lunch. Prepare for a raging good time with live music on the outdoor stage, and a pup friendly patio!

Chinook Medical Gear

Chinook is a veteran-and-Native American minority-owned small business that provides custom medical solutions for the harshest environments. They exist to deliver custom medical solutions for pre-hospital care, enabling medical providers to save lives and aid the injured. When the Chinook Medical Gear founder decided to retire and sell in 2016, three of the executive employees dedicated to the company's mission and spirit, longed to keep the business local. Although, Chinook was an existing company, the lack of tangible assets or a sizable downpayment made this a difficult buyout to finance. FSWB ended up mismatching several different financing options to make their dream a reality, retain the Durango business, and save over 8 employee jobs.

Animas Chocolate Company

Animas Chocolate Company was inspired by the beauty and nature of the Animas River in Durango, CO and they bring that splendor and history into simple, yet elegant handcrafted chocolate. The financing provided by FSWB allowed the owners to expand to a new, larger, and more central main street location complete with hot chocolate and coffee bar menu. The timeliness and expedited nature of the SBA Express Loan also allowed for the hiring of four new employees, and has made all the difference for being up front and center for seasonal walk-by tourist traffic.

White Rock Specialities

White Rock Specialties (WRS) was founded as a joint potato packaging warehouse endeavor between Rockey Farms and White Mountain Farms in the San Luis Valley, Colorado. Both farms had been conducting business in the valley for years and noticed a need for a packaging company specializing in organic products. FSWB walked the founders through the startup process - acquiring and repurposing an old school building, retrofitting the space with equipment, expanding the utility capacity, and more. Although the farms had to shut down existing production to allow for the new warehouse, after just a year, the facility had excessive waiting lists, and WRS is in the process of obtaining a secondary loan for an even bigger expansion.  Today, the state-of-the-art, organic-certified packing and shipping operation processes about 1,500 sacks of potatoes a day, shipping conventional and organic products coast to coast.

Lolly's Sweet Shoppe

Up until recently, Alamosa, CO came up short in the family and children activities department. The solution? Lolly's Sweet Shoppe. Jamie Greeman’s experience working for the Alamosa tourism board for over 12 years, combined with living and observing the family oriented community, led her to believe that a candy shop would be the perfect fit for the small tourist-driven town. However, with no proof of concept in the market, no experience as a business owner, and limited resources for a down payment, funding was proving hard to come by. FSWB helped make Greeman’s dream come true, and today, Lolly's Sweet Shoppe hosts parties and events, in addition to satisfying the sweet tooths of rural Colorado.



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