Success Stories

Prieto’s Catering

Prieto’s Catering is an Aurora-based food truck selling authentic and delicious Mexican food.  Prieto’s serves a variety of tacos, including the famous birria tacos that everyone is excited about!  They also serve other popular Mexican dishes made fresh, such as tamales, tortas and burritos.  Fully aware that the business needs to be responsive to customer needs during the pandemic, they offer home delivery and pick up from 9AM to 3PM daily.

As a family business start-up, Prieto’s provided catering services in 2017 with sales of just $3,000 in the first year.  In 2019, owner Erika Rojas bought a food truck and realized an immediate jump in sales.  Working with one full-time employee and two part-time employees, Erika was determined to work hard, find new customers, increase sales and hire at least two more employees.  She reflects on her experience with the SBDC:

“I have been taking SBDC classes and consulting with an Aurora-South Metro SBDC business consultant. From the beginning, I have felt supported with resources to resolve my doubts and learn how to manage the business, as well as how to promote my business.  The most valuable service of the SBDC, above all, is the support of not feeling alone.”  With a lot of effort and loyal customers, Erika realistically projects an increase in sales of 350% by the end of 2021.  She is going full steam ahead!

There’s nothing like having steady customers for consistent cash flow.  Prieto’s Catering serves breakfast burritos to a business.  School parent boards, teacher training events and student events is another regular source of sales.  Ten percent of Prieto’s clients are at “Movie at the Park” events.  They also do private parties.  “We want to expand again by finding a stable location in the city of Aurora in the coming year,” says the optimistic and hard-working owner.

Giving back to the community, Prieto’s Catering is a staple at school sporting events, purchasing the food with a special discount and serving young people in soccer between 12-17 years old—at no charge.  When there is food left over, they put together dishes for itinerant people on Colfax Avenue.  Some of their honors and certificates include:

• Best Food Truck 2021 from Lady Boss
• Certificates for finishing entrepreneurial classes

• Training for two years in business management at
El Comal Heritage Food Incubator
• Certified in Food Handling
• The Receta food business training program certificate

The business continues to grow. Prieto’s installed a larger stove in the food truck and purchased equipment to cook in an iron and steam food cart.  CEDS Finance provided Prieto’s Catering with a loan which allowed the business to purchase a vehicle to pull the food cart.  Check out their menu items here and enjoy authentic Mexican food:  https://prietos-catering.business.site

Also, read the story in Spanish (en español: lee esto).

Rustic Nomads

Starting a business in 2020—during the COVID-19 pandemic—has been a journey to say the least, but the owner of Rustic Nomads, Nathan Wiersum, will have bragging rights for life.   “The support received from the SBDC is why I continue to move .”

With a loan from DreamSpring to purchase a food truck, the rest of the business has been self-funded.  Originally, the plan was to grow into a restaurant as soon as possible.  With the pandemic, goals were reevaluated.  The debate was between two options, a restaurant or more food trucks.  

Either way, there was no stopping or slowing down.  Rustic Nomads actually grew exponentially in 2020.  While not be able to report huge profits, the focus during the first year was on building relationships.  Since COVID-19 spoiled the year for many, Wiersum thought it best to survive the year as opposed to pushing profits over people.  Many favorite locations have booked Rustic Nomads, solidifying the business and helping to build a following.  Profits from 2020 were invested in the business, helping the bottom line for 2021.

The Aurora-South Metro SBDC was pivotal in helping start the business and developing the idea of growth.  From helping with the business plan to getting the funding needed to start, the SBDC helped every step of the way.  Since it is a free service, Wiersum could not pass up on the tremendous return on investment and recommends the SBDC to anyone who wants to start their own business.

With one full-time and four to five part-time employees for larger events, Wiersum works with many of the breweries in the metropolitan area.  These partnerships provide Rustic Nomads with a location to sell food and a following to build clientele. Regulars will sometimes come from across town, and this helps the breweries because it puts more people in their seats as well.  Wiersum will plant roots when the time is right as he determines his target customer, traveling around the metropolitan area and narrowing the market.

Although not veteran-owned, Rustic Nomads stems from veterans.  “Growing up as military kids and moving every few years, we have had the fortune to  live on different continents and experience cuisine that we would not have  otherwise known.”  Rustic Nomads simply means ‘freedom to make unpretentious delicious food that everyone can enjoy anywhere.’  And they  do so with genuine hospitality.

While the food scene is relatively saturated, Wiersum believes that there is room in the industry IF supplying a good product.  And that’s the key.  Rustic Nomads sources their products locally and emphasizes using sustainable products.  Delicious food has become their trademark of excellence — from pastrami to mozzarella — and experiencing sandwiches from the Route 66 burger to the Wanderlust, with delectable sides.  Visit https://rusticnomads.us/menu (The first photo above:  Nathan Wiersum (rt) with Jen Findlow who helped Rustic Nomads make their first dollar.)

Havana Street Tattoo and Legacy Tattoo Collective

Havana Street Tattoo opened 15 years ago in Aurora.  The tattooing industry has shown its potential for significant growth in the past 10 years and continues to do so, because the customer base and artists offering the service have evolved past an old stereotype into a market of true professional artistry and serious collectors.

In mid-2019, business partners and co-owners, Larry Foussat and Gilbert Ledesma decided to open a new location in Aurora to expand the shop’s client base and create opportunity to contract additional artists.  Build-out commenced in January 2020 with an intentional opening date at the end of March.  Unfortunately, the COVID-19 shelter in place order was a major obstacle to opening a second business, but there were others as well.

Despite the experience of running a reputable business for over a decade, the process of applying for funding and opening a new business was unclear.  Contacting the Aurora-South Metro SBDC was the most beneficial first step possible.  The small business consultant offered direction on a plan of action, creating a comprehensive well-organized business plan and ultimately provided information about optional funding sources, including possible grants and loans offered by the city of Aurora.  The shop took out a commercial loan and line of credit to finance the expansion.

An additional hindrance included a local resident that submitted a complaint to the city of Aurora Planning Commission about a tattoo business opening in the neighborhood.   A zoning hearing was scheduled to rectify this issue, and an Aurora-South Metro SBDC representative provided supportive comments at the hearing.

The new location, Legacy Tattoo Collective, successfully opened in mid-September 2020.  The current growth is generating enough revenue to pay the bills and maintain a steady minimum operational balance, despite the financial impact of responsibly conducting business during the pandemic.  Failure for the new shop was not an option.

“The guidance and assistance that we’ve received from the Aurora-South Metro SBDC prior to opening our new shop, and throughout the process, has been amazing! It has been like having an expert, professional friend who is always available to help with whatever questions or issues that come up.”

The business brothers are looking past the pandemic.  The business has grown from four employees to seven, the commercial loan should be paid off within five years, and federal funding received during COVID-19 will be paid if the pandemic complications ease soon.  A third location in northeast Aurora is the new goal once the debt has been paid and the city builds out a little more in that direction.

Launch Pad Brewery

The end of an unexpectedly volatile 2020 is a great time to tell the success story about one of Aurora’s prized businesses.  David LeVesque spent about a decade perfecting his technique of home brewing with some help from The Brew Hut and visiting Colorado breweries.  The idea of opening a business location started ‘brewing’ about six years ago, and Launch Pad’s mission came together after working on the start-up’s financials over several meetings with an SBDC consultant.  A loan for working capital from Aurora’s Revolving Loan Fund also helped with the purchase of equipment, and Launch Pad Brewery was officially ‘launched’ in 2015.

The loan was quickly paid off thanks to success as a start-up.  The hard work and natural marketing prowess of Owner and Founder David Levesque, along with business partner,
Co-owner and Founder Henry Rusch, have made Launch Pad Brewery a favorite destination for locals, Buckley Air Force Base personnel and lovers of micro-brews.  Launch Pad has a unique military theme in both brews and décor.  Launch Pad is veteran-owned and operated.  Both business partners are Air Force veterans, and the staff is either active military or the spouse of a military veteran.

Expansion plans began with the help of SBA loans, through both Colorado Lending Source and Independent Bank, and a stepped-up marketing plan.  The brewery went from 2500 sq. ft. to 5800 sq. ft., increasing occupancy from 84 to 184.  They also expanded distribution to over 45 local bars and tap houses, necessarily pivoting during 2020 to reach more customers while social distancing, offering an online store for curbside and indoor pick up, as well as offering gift certificates.

The co-owners won the U.S. Small Business Administration Colorado Small Business Person of the Year Award at a soft presentation on March 27, 2020 and officially at a very small gathering on September 24, 2020 to receive the physical award at Launch Pad.  SBA’s Colorado District Director Frances Padilla, the District’s SBDC Coordinator David Benavides and Lead Lender Specialist Steve White were on hand to outline all the ways that Launch Pad has contributed to the business community with innovative outreach and consistent quality.  One of Launch Pad’s SBDC consultants, Chuck Hahn (retired), was there to not only speak highly of Launch Pad’s hard work, but to also receive the Small Business Advocate of the Year Award.

Henry Rusch has presented some of Launch Pad’s secrets of success as host to the SBA’s Veterans Small Business Week in 2018 and 2019, in conjunction with the Aurora-South Metro SBDC, the Aurora Chamber and the Veterans Outreach Center.  The educational panel has given a wealth of advice to veterans interested in growing their businesses.  The team at Launch Pad credits the SBDC, “We treasure the advice and working relationship with the SBDC.  The SBDC team, the City of Aurora and the SBA have been supportive of our business from the beginning, and we are truly grateful.”

ContractsRx

ContractsRx is on a mission to make legal contracting seamless, accessible and repeatable.  Shannon Leonard and Ramon Rhymes, co-founders, make it their aim to reduce the time, cost and risk associated with business contracting and business outcomes.

The abrupt uncertainty that COVID-19 brought to ContractsRx and other small businesses resulted in an overnight shift from the known to the unknown.  
While Shannon and Ramon are fortunate to be in a technology industry
with the tools in place to work at home, they quickly realized that they would
have to pivot their skill sets and adapt to their clients’ current needs.  Their sales pipeline dried up quickly as businesses were just trying to survive—something that, today, many small businesses have in common.

ContractsRx started out in 2015 as a legal consulting firm representing clients of all sizes in a host of business-related matters.  Their client base increased as
they began to realize their potential to improve contracting processes and help
small businesses achieve efficiency through expert business contracting. Besides deploying a contracts analysis tool, they also honed new skills:  online event
management, webinar creation and content development, as well as two new
contract SAAS tools to meet the demands of the rapidly changing COVID-19
business landscape.  Their new products reduce the time, cost and risk associated with business contracting.

“Running a small business requires focus, discipline and wearing many hats.  As entrepreneurs, we have the drive and, with the Aurora-South Metro SBDC as partners, the expert insight in developing and managing our internal corporate structure and processes.  The SBDC was also instrumental in helping hone and refine our messaging and business story.”

Uncertain times have a big impact on finances and cash flow.  To ease the
financial burden on their clients, they deferred and eliminated payments to
help ContractsRx clients continue business with their clients and
vendors.  ContractsRx received funding from the SBA’s PPP and EIDL loan programs, allowing the company to remain focused on its mission to help businesses drive better contracts.  The pandemic provided Shannon and Ramon with a unique opportunity to build on important aspects of business that were just too easy to put on the back burner.  They are also seeing smaller companies recognize the need to normalize their contracting activity.

With true entrepreneurial spirit, Shannon and Ramon are growing their business during difficult times.  They will come out stronger on the other side of this pandemic with even greater ability to help their clients grow their businesses and produce greater certainty in their contracts.  ContracsRx will help diagnose and fix your contracting issues.  To find out more, visit their Web site: https://contractsrx.com.