Skip to content

How to Tap into Region 10’s Resources for Your Small Business on The Kooler Lifestyle Podcast #39

  • by

00:00:00 Matthew Kuehlhorn
So for listeners that you know may be running small business, what do they potentially not know is available to them?

00:00:12 Callie Koch
I mean, I think for a lot of people, they don’t know any of the services that are available to them, whether it be on Sarah’s side with actual money that can be loaned out to them. Or whether it’s a little bit more on my side with like technical assistance in terms of trainings and classes and also one-on-one coaching that’s available. And so we really cover the gamut with a lot of things. Not only will we help you learn how to run a business, but we’ll also get you the money to actually start up and grow that business.

00:00:47 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Welcome to the Kooler Lifestyle Podcast. I’m your host, Matt Kuehlhorn, and I’m excited to have you join me as I interview community members and business leaders from the communities in which I live, work, and serve through my business Kooler Garage Doors. We’re going to bring you highlights on characters in our communities. Why? Because Community matters, and I want to know more about who is behind our business and leadership in order to understand and support the Community fabric that our relationships make up. And collectively, we can build stronger communities that support our lifestyles, our youth, and our health. Hello, ladies and gentlemen. This is the Kooler Lifestyle Podcast. I’m your host, Matt Kuhlhorn. Today I’m joined by Callie Cook, who’s the program coordinator for the small business development with Region 10 and Sarah Stefans, who’s the Gunnison Small Business Loan coordinator. We’re going to talk small business funding and resources with region 10. Sarah and Callie, thanks so much for joining us. Thank you. Happy to be here. Yeah, I’m excited to get into this conversation. I have certainly utilized region Ten’s resources in the past loans and just the educational information that is is plentiful. So I’m excited to extract some of this stuff out into our conversation so that other small businesses know about this. And as our Kooler Lifestyle runs, I’d love to get to know each one of you a little bit better and Callie ill. Point the first question that you tell us a little bit about where you grow grew up and and maybe a concise story of how you ended up in the in the Gunnison Valley.

00:02:32 Callie Koch
Yeah, definitely. So I am a Colorado native. I was born and raised in Fort Collins up on the Front Range, and I lived there really until about 7 years ago. I moved here to the Gunnison Valley in 2016. I went to Colorado State University in Fort Collins. And that’s also where I had my own small business in Fort Collins. I owned a small artisan bakery and I had that business for seven years there. And then I’m kind of towards the end of the life of that bakery, I met the man who is my now husband, and he was born and raised here in the Gunnison Valley. He’s a Crested Butte native. And so that was really how I ended up in the Gunnison Valley. I was sort of just in Fort Collins, minding my own business, didn’t know anything at all about Gunnison and had never been here before I got to know him and then we ended up staying together. We did a little bit of a long distance relationship and then eventually I moved here to Gunnison to be with him.

00:03:35 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Awesome. And how long have you been with your current role now in region 10?

00:03:39 Callie Koch
I’ve been with region 10 for a year now. And before that, I had been in the food industry for almost 15 years.

00:03:48 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Yeah, right on. That always seems like a challenging business industry to to be in. So probably have some good.

00:03:56 Callie Koch

00:03:57 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Resiliency, if nothing.

00:03:59 Callie Koch
I would argue that it’s one of the most challenging industries to be in, especially for a business owner. I think it’s it’s one of the most difficult ones.

00:04:08 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Yeah, yeah. That’s I’ve been touching on the last. 2-3 years and COVID locked down and oh man Sarah, how about for you? Where did where did you grow up?

00:04:18 Sarah Steffens
So I grew up in Alamosa, so a native as well, so not too far away. And I came here to Gunnison right after high school. I went to Adam State a little bit for a semester or two and then decided to come over to Gunnison for the skiing and snowboarding opportunities and then eventually started going to Western as well. I got a degree, a double major in accounting and business administration with an emphasis in entrepreneurship. So that’s definitely helps me to learn a lot of the skills that I use today for my job. And then after after college, I’ve just continued to work in the valley mostly for different various local banks. So that’s some of my background is. Mostly doing lending here for a couple of various different banks.

00:05:13 Luke Hylton
Hey everybody, this is Luke from Kooler Garage Doors. Just wanna take a quick second to talk about our sponsor Sommar Garage Door Openers. In our opinion, Sommars are the highest quality product on the market today. We recommend them for all of our residential garage door installs because of the variety of features they include, such as Wi-Fi connectivity and safety features such as a fixed chain which moves along a secure rail to ensure your garage door opens quietly and safely. Click on the link in the description to learn more about Sommar Garage Door Openers.

00:05:51 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Yeah, I love it. And how long have you been with your? With your role in region 10?

00:05:57 Sarah Steffens
similar to Calli, we both started at the same time, so we’ve been here for just over a year and we opened up the Gunnison Valley Office. So we serve Hensdale County and Gunnison County from our Gunnison office, which has been really amazing and great.

00:06:15 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Yeah, I love that. So I want to get to region 10, but before I get there, I’d like to get a little bit more uncovering of. The the drive and so my questions to both of you is you know the why and so when we get engaged with whatever organization, you know, usually there’s like a mission or a reason for it, you know, and I’m I’m sensing that there’s a little bit more to your interest in region 10 and small business in particular than just being a job. What fires you up? What gets you excited about by your current roles?

00:06:58 Callie Koch
Yeah, I mean, I think for me, like I mentioned, I have owned my own small business and knowing the challenges that I went through with that and I also, when I own that small business in Fort Collins, I utilize the SBDC services through the Larimer County Sbdc. So I was already familiar with that organization and what they had to offer and so I. And after I owned that business, I stayed in the food industry specifically with other very, very small food businesses. There is a manager or something you know kind of higher level but not an owner. And I just, I continue to see just how challenging it is to own and operate a small business and just really felt motivated to help other people through the experience that I myself had gained by doing that I.

00:07:49 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Love it. I love it. What’s the internal drive for you, Sarah?

00:07:54 Sarah Steffens
Well, definitely to see some of the businesses that we’re able to help thrive in our communities is really amazing. And to see all of the locals be able to utilize the services that these businesses are able to offer, it is just amazing. For sure.

00:08:12 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Yeah, I love that you know it. I look at business as just a critical factor for communities. And when they’re strong business that can oftentimes correlate to strong communities. And you know one of my drives to develop a business and a brand is really to strengthen the community in which we live, work and play. So I so I honor those perspectives. Who wants to take kind of the umbrella question and explain what region 10 is and maybe a little history of region 10 and and you know start poking into some of the resources that are available.

00:08:47 Callie Koch
Yeah, I can do that. So region 10, actually, we just had our 50th anniversary last year, so it was started in 1972. As I mentioned, it’s based out of Montrose, but it covers 6 counties, which is kind of where the name region 10 comes from. So Colorado is divided into different regional areas in terms of economic development, which is sort of the overall umbrella mission of Region 10. So our counties that we cover like we said are Gunnison and Hinsdale County, but then also mantras, Delta, Uray and San Miguel counties. And it’s, it’s kind of hard to encapsulate what region 10 does because it does so many different things. But economic development could kind of be that overarching thing that we do, so really supporting communities in those six counties to help them with. You know community development and infrastructure, things like transportation, but also we do a lot of work with senior services and healthcare. We do healthcare counseling for Medicaid and for the sort of government level Obamacare healthcare that is out there, senior services like meal help and assistance and then also the small, the small Business Development Center. And the small Business Development Center is its own entity because that’s a nationwide organization, but region 10 is the organization that hosts it for this area. And so the small business development Center for us as well covers those same 6 counties. So it can sort of be boiled down to businesses, senior and healthcare services and community services.

00:10:33 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Copy that. Is there a relationship or what is that relationship with the SBA? And the SBA is like the national right, like the Small Business Administration?

00:10:43 Callie Koch
Yes, the SBA is a national level organization and it is a part of the federal government. So that receives federal funding, but then to sort of administer those services, it gets broken down state by state and then also region by region so that their services can be administered locally. And tailored to the local needs of those areas.

00:11:09 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Copy that.

00:11:10 Sarah Steffens
So some of the loan funds are provided by the SBA and then we also do technical assistance as well through the SBA. So a lot of the technical assistance that we provide our businesses with are reported to the SBA.

00:11:28 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Yeah, awesome. So for listeners that. You know, maybe running small business, what do they potentially not know is available to them?

00:11:42 Callie Koch
I mean, I think for a lot of people they don’t know any of the services that are available to them, whether it be on Sarah’s side with actual money that can be loaned out to them or whether it’s a little bit more on my side with like technical assistance in terms of trainings. And classes and also one-on-one coaching that’s available. And so we really cover the gamut with a lot of things. Not only will we help you learn how to run a business, but we’ll also get you the money to actually start up and grow that business.

00:12:18 Matthew Kuehlhorn
I love that. And would this be for new business owners? Owners that have been in the game for a number of years? Small company? Big company? Is there a range?

00:12:30 Callie Koch
There is. So in terms of what stage your business is at, that does not matter. You can be in a position where you’re just in the idea phase of your business, but you haven’t actually started it yet. And maybe you’re just looking for help with refining that idea and deciding whether or not it’s really a good business idea to go through with. Maybe you’re in the startup phase. I would say the startup phase is what most of the clients that I work with are in. They’re really just learning. The nittygritty on how to legally get that business up and running and get some best practices under their belt to get it going. Or you can be well into your business. You could be a decade into your business or more, but still need assistance because maybe your business is going to be going through a growth spurt or maybe a major pandemic just happened and your business has completely changed and in order to stay afloat you need to pivot and you have to pivot right now. You know, that really doesn’t matter. We have the ability to help you at any stage in terms of the size of your business. That’s really where the only restrictions come in. We categorize a small business as having under 500 employees, which is still actually a pretty large business. So that still covers a lot of the businesses that are out there, especially in our area.

00:13:47 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Yeah, copy that. Sarah, what type of funding are we talking capital? Are we talking like cash flow, line of credits, what’s available. So right now, Region 10’s business loan fund offers loans for all types of all types of things really for startups. As we had mentioned before, maybe if people are looking to purchase additional equipment, you know, expansions types of situations, especially if the business is creating.

00:14:19 Sarah Steffens
And retaining jobs, that’s a big one for us some. So it definitely benefits our economy in that situation. And so we can offer all types of different loans. We don’t do currently lines of credits, but it’s something that we’re looking at offering in the future. So yeah, mostly any other type,

00:14:42 Matthew Kuehlhorn
beautiful question that’s coming up, so you know. As a business owner, I have definitely pushed myself to get out of my comfort zone and I think any business owner can appreciate that and and understand that that’s part of the game. And to go and say I need help whether it’s financial or education can sometimes be a little bit of that challenge of of going outside. What is it like for business owners. I think we could also say how, but we’ll we’ll certainly cover the how do we get in touch with region 10 and you, you too and we’ll include that in the show notes. But what’s the process look like? So if I’m a business owner like yeah, I could use a resource, maybe I don’t know exactly what it is, maybe it’s money, maybe it’s education, maybe it’s all the above. Like what are some of the steps, how does that, how does that play?

00:15:39 Callie Koch
Yeah. So typically I think that people come to me first if they don’t know exactly what they need, if they know they need money, they can go straight to Sarah. But you know, if they’re sort of just a little bit unsure of what help that they need, they can come to me and we can kind of talk through where they’re at with their business. Like I said, we do one-on-one consulting and so a lot of our clients come in starting with someone on one consulting and just setting up an appointment to talk through. Further out with their business and what we could possibly help with in that in that situation. And then if it is something like they really just need funding, we can send them to somebody like Sarah to help sort that out and dig a little bit deeper into what kind of funding they need, what they’re qualified for, if region 10 is the best loan for them or if it would be better off going to a bank or to another source. So that’s kind of how we get people in the door first. We also offer some classes and workshops and some people you know find out about us through those workshops, come to a class to learn about a specific topic and then realize that we actually have a lot more to offer as well and and maybe come into some consulting after that or connect with our business loan fund for funding.

00:16:59 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Love it. What do you think goes into making a good business?

00:17:07 Callie Koch
Oh gosh, that’s a tough question. I think that first of all people and I think this is true for most small business owners, but I think people find something that they’re really truly passionate about. And so I think that that’s a really core part of it is the reason that you got into the business in the 1st place, you know, if it’s something that you’re. You’re truly passionate about and that you love. I think it’s really easy for people to then make that the next step of actually turning it into a business. Yeah, I think that’s really the first step in most situations.

00:17:48 Sarah Steffens
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And then also from there creating a solid plan, you know, creating a business plan is so helpful for. People that are just in that idea phase to really get things out onto paper and to refine exactly what they want to do, who they want to serve those types of things. And so I’ve seen that creating a business plan can create a strong business as well,

00:18:18 Matthew Kuehlhorn
you know, I will admit. So I used to not love the idea of creating those plans. And I was more just wing it and see what happened and then, you know as I gained some experience and some great, great mentors, I mean the plan is critical even knowing that usually the plan’s going to get tossed out the window as soon as everything starts. But taking, you mentioned, you know, identifying the, you know, the core customer and that experience and how goods are going to be delivered like that. Is critical. So I just want to emphasize that because yeah, I was I was very anti business plan for a minute and then through experience I learned just how critical that can be important.

00:19:08 Callie Koch
Yeah. And I think that that’s one thing that people don’t realize is you know and business plans are something that we push on to our clients a lot because they are very, very valuable documents and statistically people with business plans. Have more successful businesses in the long run. But I know a lot of people who like you, Matt, are resistant to taking the time and the effort to put those together because they do take a lot of time. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that those are living, breathing, mutable documents that you change over time. And I think that a lot of people are resistant to them because they feel like the plan is locking them in. To a certain idea or to certain practices or certain ways of doing their business, when really all of those things can change over time. And it’s about updating that business plan and creating it around the situation that you’re in now or the steps forward that you would like to take. But then you can always go back and revise that when your situation changes or when your plan changes.

00:20:13 Matthew Kuehlhorn
I love that point in your your spot on it. Just wanted. Emphasize that for anybody listening because you know I know entrepreneurs and sometimes we just have this seizure and and think we can do it better than others and we go out and sometimes it’s it’s a drive because I don’t want somebody else to tell me what to do. And then the plan is almost becomes that until we recognize that it’s actually an evolving document. And so I can sit here you know in March and put together the best thought forward plan. And maybe that changes next month or six months or a year down the road. But now knowing how vital it is to map that out, knowing that stuff’s going to evolve and change and use that as a tool, going down that journey is something that I just definitely want to emphasize. So that’s an important resource. What I’m I’m curious and Callie, you mentioned stats super briefly. And I know we didn’t really prep for any of this, but do we have any offtop stats for our local area regarding business? And I know you know there’s there I I have like if you have a business that goes past five years like you’re in this tiny tiny minutia of businesses that start but don’t continue for so many different reasons. And I don’t know if there’s anything specific to this region or not. So it’s kind of an open-ended question.

00:21:46 Callie Koch
Yeah. You know, I don’t have any some very locally specific statistics about businesses. And I also think that we’re in such a a unique local region in terms of our economy with it being so seasonal and with it being very service based. It would be interesting to look at some of those statistics. But we’re also in a very, very challenging area to own and operate a small business. And so I actually wonder if maybe those statistics don’t look very favorable for our area because it’s so difficult to have a small business here, but I don’t actually know any numbers in terms of success rates.

00:22:23 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Yeah. So from your perspective, what are some of those challenges to business in our area?

00:22:28 Callie Koch
Well, definitely like I mentioned that seasonal economy and not having consistent revenues throughout the year. I think those revenues for a lot of businesses are very unpredictable. You have slow times. You have very busy times. How do you manage your workforce between those two? Do you have to lay people off seasonally or are you getting enough business to maintain your workforce throughout the year? And then obviously the thing that’s on everybody’s mind in this area is workforce housing. And how do you even find employees in the first place in this day and age and then retain them when so many people are being? Forced to leave the valley because, you know, they just can’t afford to live here.

00:23:13 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Truths, yeah, in labor, in part because of housing, because of potential generational shifts and simply numbers like the boomer generation was way larger than, yeah, the generations that are coming into the workforce today. Right. So it’s. It’s really interesting. What do you think for businesses that want to do better at recruiting, retaining that good labor force? What are some of the things that they might be able to do? What have you seen?

00:23:54 Callie Koch
Yeah. I think we’re moving into a really kind of unique shift in sort of workforce attitudes and how employees are treated. And I think that we’re really undergoing a sea change in terms of workforce being seen less as a commodity as they used to be in the past and now something that truly has to be nourished and valued in order to retain them. And the SBDC, actually one of our other Colorado SBDC regions is putting in putting on some workshops this month, 3 workshops kind of specifically in that regard to workforce retention and how to keep people around because I think it’s so much less about just a paycheck these days, although that paycheck is still very, very important especially. In an expensive region to live in, like where we are. And it’s also about adding on all these other sort of work life balance elements, elements that have to be brought into the workplace, things like health benefits, time off, you know, a better sort of mental health attitude towards work, where people aren’t, you know, dug into the ground in terms of their their work life balance. So I think that’s making it harder and harder to own a small business that employs people, but at the same time that’s really lifting up the employees who are keeping those small businesses afloat.

00:25:31 Matthew Kuehlhorn
I love that. Would you have any perspective to add in into that conversation, Sarah?

00:25:37 Sarah Steffens
Well, I agree that those workshops are very beneficial. I’ve attended a few of them and they give employers excellent tips on. How to retain employees and and how to attract them. And so I think that that those, those webinars have just excellent pointers for maybe HR people or business owners to just be able to attract those employees and then and then retain them once they have hired them for sure.

00:26:11 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Yeah, I love it. I think it’s one of the largest challenges and then with every challenge there’s that opportunity. So for the businesses that can figure out how to recruit and you know, energize humans into their workforce, I mean that’s the opportunity there and and education is needed. So for businesses listening, how do we engage region 10? Where do we find information what websites we go to?

00:26:39 Callie Koch
Yeah, so our main website is And as I mentioned earlier with sort of those different sections of what region 10 does, we have a section for businesses on our website and that’s where you can find both info about the small Business Development center, about my sort of technical assistance services. And then also there’s a section for Sarah’s area under our business loan fund. And so everything can be found there and also contact information as to how to reach out to us. And then under the Sbdc section you can also link to a list of all of our upcoming classes and and workshops

00:27:18 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Awesome, awesome. We have another visitor. Wonderful. We will definitely include those into show notes. Are there? Is there any social media action going on with region 10 or local?

00:27:36 Callie Koch
We do have a Facebook page for Region 10 and actually I think we have a couple pages. I think we have a Community services page and then a business page as well. And I think also just a general region 10 page, so you can connect to us on Facebook . Sarah and I are both on LinkedIn if you want to connect to us individually. I also do want to plug that since we’re in the Gunnison Valley, we are having a funding panel workshop coming up at the end of this month on March 30th. It’s going to be at the new library in Gunnison. And so that’s going to be a little bit more. And Sarah’s wrong. We’re going to be bringing in a few different people who can speak to the different types of funding that are available for small businesses. And kind of go through who those different options are best for, so that if you have a small business, you can find out a little bit more about what kind of funding is right for you and that’s going to be a free event.

00:28:38 Sarah Steffens
Yeah. A lot of the times what we do is work with banks, we collaborate with with banks or different institutions. And so that’s a part of this event is to explain how some of that might take place. And to have some banks there as well to provide education,

00:28:56 Matthew Kuehlhorn
yeah, beautiful, awesome, great information, such a cool resource for small business. I’ve disclosed that I’ve definitely used those resources and I will continue to do so as they’re just they’re for building business. So I really appreciate both of your time and and knowledge and resource and we’ll see what we can do to push. Business owners into reaching out and engaging and thank you so much for the conversation today.

00:29:23 Sarah Steffens
Thank you.

00:29:24 Callie Koch
Yeah. Thank you, Matt.

00:29:26 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to the Kooler Lifestyle Podcast. We count on your subscriptions, your likes, your shares and I encourage you to do that. Now if you’re watching on YouTube, go ahead and subscribe lower right hand button. If you’re on audio, download this, share it and we look forward to having you on the next one.