At first glance, Duck Duck Goose and Lightnin appear to be worlds apart. Duck Duck Goose is a small children's clothing store that opened this year at 117 Eighth St. in Steamboat Springs. Lightnin is a $250 million global company based in Rochester, N.Y., that manufactures specialized industrial mixers for the chemical, plastics and waste treatment industries.
Chandler "Chan" Coyle insists the business fundamentals at both companies are essentially the same. He ought to know.
"The only difference is the number of zeros," behind gross sales figures, Coyle said.
Coyle is a retired vice president of sales at Lightnin who has been living in Steamboat for a half-dozen years. He is providing business counseling services to Duck Duck Goose owner Leah Arnone through the Yampa Valley chapter of SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives).
"I wouldn't have been able to get all the information I need to get a loan had I not gone through Chan," Arnone said. "And he didn't talk down to me. He made me feel very comfortable."
Coyle said managing and mentoring employees is what he has done all of his career. Sharing his business experience is a way to give back to the community.
Coyle is emblematic of a trend that several local agencies are attempting to tap into through the SCORE chapter, Noreen Moore said. Retired executives such as Coyle represent a reservoir of intellectual capital that can be used to broaden the local economy, with a goal of increasing employment in the valley.
Moore is the business resource director for the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association. Her organization is teaming with Colorado Mountain College's Small Business Development Center, and the Steamboat Springs Economic Development Council. They hope to attract more-experienced businesspeople to undergo SCORE training.
"Our goal is to foster a culture of entrepreneurship in the Yampa Valley," Moore said. "We believe in economic gardening, or growing our local entrepreneurs to their full potential. We are all about helping people to get their businesses started as well as helping existing businesses achieve the next level of success."
SCORE chapter founder Georgia Taylor said the organization is happy to work with new entrepreneurs, but it also wants to help successful businesses grow. And business owners don't need to be in a jam to seek the help of a SCORE counselor.
"Business owners could come to SCORE to find out how to take advantage of a success," said Taylor, a retired insurance executive.
Often, she said, business owners get so wrapped up in the daily operation of their companies that they forget to step back and plan for future growth. A SCORE counselor can help them refocus on growth opportunities and the financial planning necessary to grow successfully.
Moore drew an analogy between entrepreneurship and rafting a Western river.
"You need to ask yourself, 'When will you take the time to eddy-out and reflect on how the river is moving?'" Moore said.
Arnone had been running her own housekeeping business for five years when she became pregnant with her daughter. She discovered the selection of maternity clothes locally available was limited. And after Tess was born, she struggled to find a selection of good quality infant and toddler clothes at prices she could afford. Scott Ford of the CMC Small Business Development Center referred her to the community shopping preferences survey, which showed 68 percent of young children's clothing purchases are made outside of the community.
She resolved to plug that leak by opening her new store and offering toddler and children's clothing at 25 percent below manufacturer's suggested retail.
Moore estimates that each SCORE client receives thousands of dollars in free business counseling.
If the investment of time and energy pays off and the program flourishes, so will Steamboat's economic garden.
Entrepreneurs interested in business counseling can call Yampa Valley SCORE at 870-4549.
-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205
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