Steamboat Springs Chamber CEO: Business success isn’t one size fits all |

Steamboat Springs Chamber CEO: Business success isn’t one size fits all

Kara Stoller

What does it look like to have a thriving business? And once you build a thriving business, how do you keep it that way, even when the world around you is rapidly changing? That's a question we asked last week at the 23rd Economic Summit. The theme was "Thriving in Times of Change," and we learned what that looked like for numerous presenters who took attendees through their experiences overcoming challenges in times of change.

Steamboat Springs is a unique business environment. The motivation to succeed to live in a beautiful place with endless activities and excellent quality of life is strong.  As one speaker at the summit noted, thrive is a powerful word. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, thrive means to prosper, be fortunate or successful.  To thrive in Steamboat might look differently than in other cities, or even on the Front Range.

Here in the Yampa Valley, thriving often looks more like a unique work/life balance. Success might mean running a business where you offer a powder clause. Or it might mean running a location neutral business where your clients can't tell that you're working from a coffee shop. What we learned from the Economic Summit is that success isn't one size fits all.

The summit featured six speakers plus Q & A from local entrepreneurs and business leaders. Many business fields were represented, from real estate and construction to infrastructure and outdoor industry experts.  Todd Conklin, Chief Inspiration Officer for Coldwell Banker Distinctive & CB Commercial Prime Properties, shared his story of growing the real estate firm out of a basement to selling more than 4,000 properties last year. Keynote speaker Bill Butler described what it was like to lead a business through not just one economic downturn but several.

In addition to business leaders, a representative from the Kansas City Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank shared the nation's economic outlook and how that relates to and influences our local economy. Director of Workforce Development for Northwest Colorado with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, Jessica Valand highlighted an evolving workforce and the challenges employers and employees face in today's economy.

From a Steamboat vantage point, we heard from local entrepreneurs on their challenges and success tips for start-ups who are in a constant state of change as well as leaders of businesses who are working to advance.

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Passion seems to be the differentiating factor for thriving businesses in Steamboat. Kim Keith, Executive Director of the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, discussed how passion has elevated the awareness of the breadth of arts and culture in the area. Jimmy Capra, founder of Click Medical, affirmed that we have a passionate, well-educated and driven workforce here in Routt County, while Andrew Beckler of Grass Sticks reinforced the need to be the strongest ambassador of your story. Ohana's Luke Dudley expressed their desire to create a unique culture and twist on everyday products. Identifying this unique business story, the Chamber team worked with Ohana last fall to share why they live and do business in Steamboat. To watch the video, visit

At the Chamber, we strive to support business growth through events such as the Economic Summit, networking opportunities, marketing resources and educational forums. With the changing business landscape, we are undergoing an organizational evaluation and strategical shift so that we are focused on the top priorities and greatest needs of our members and the community.   

Many business are thriving in our community. We all need to support each other's growth to find success. Just as Jim DeFrancia took us back in time at the Economic Summit to provide insights from history in infrastructure creation, we can all learn from past experiences.  What lessons have you learned in your business or work?  Share with your colleagues and listen to their stories. We all have something to give and to learn.

Kara Stoller is the CEO of Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.