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Success Stories

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Grandma’s Rockin’ Rolls

It was Laura Neilson’s grandmother who spent hours teaching her children and grandchildren how to bake – while sharing life lessons and family stories. Grandma and her sister-in-law sold cinnamon rolls ‘in town’ to help supplement the farming income. Can you image the commute on horseback during the depression in a Minnesota winter?!

Laura had been making Grandma’s rolls and giving them as gifts and holiday treats for over 30 years. But as Laura’s career in commercial printing was winding down, the idea of baking and selling cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, monkey bread and other ‘sweet treats’ came to the forefront.

Laura recalls, “Attending the LEADING EDGETM program in 2015 was probably the smartest move we could have possibly made. The curriculum was interesting, detailed and informative.” They learned about a host of resources available to businesses. By the end of the series, Grandma’s Rockin’ Rolls was formed. Rolls are freshly made in small batches, from scratch, all natural with no preservatives.

The Neilsons began with one farmers market in 2016 and grew from there. The beauty of this humble beginning was the ‘face-to-face’ sales experience. Customer feedback, product testing and surveys allowed them to grow their product line, improve packaging, streamline labeling and create a true one-of-a-kind customer experience.

They quickly outgrew the Cottage Industry requirements – as well as their tiny kitchen. Rather than spend money on renting a commissary, Randy Neilson remodeled and installed a commercial kitchen. By the end of 2017, they placed Grandma’s Rockin’ Rolls in 90 markets, and they registered with the FDA, allowing them to ship product in the continental U.S. The business grew by 440% in the first year!

By 2018, they realized that their best fit is selling at special events. Randy did the build out on a concession trailer. Their business model is straight forward: “We bake and wrap items in our kitchen. We then pack, ship and sell rolls and beverages from the concession trailer.” Laura does the baking, purchasing, sourcing and scheduling, while Randy (who still works full time) takes care of taxes, web development, kitchen and trailer repairs, and setting the trailer up at events.

“The Aurora-South Metro SBDC has helped us every step of the way. Their team assists with surveys, financial analysis, and resources for business growth. Sometimes when we are ‘stuck’, we can call, email or stop by for brainstorming, and always leave with a solution or idea.” Their product has been tested at CSU Food labs for shelf life, packaging and product stability.

The Neilsons are currently doing research on automated production to grow business capacity beyond the current 24% growth rate (over 20,000 rolls). They plan to work with the SBDC’s Small Manufacturer’s AdvantEDGE program. This has been the experience of a lifetime for the Neilsons. “Our goal is to leave an indelible impression on the people who enjoy Grandma’s Rockin’ Rolls.” (GrandmasRockinRolls.com)

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

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Dry Dock Brewing Company

The award-winning Dry Dock Brewing Company is Aurora’s first microbrewery. Established in October 2005, Dry Dock is co-owned and operated by Kevin DeLange and Michelle Reding. The brewery began with just two employees in a 900 square-foot space with less than 20 seats in the back of Kevin and Michelle’s homebrew supply shop, The Brew Hut. They brewed less than 500 barrels of beer in 2006. How-ever, Dry Dock has enjoyed tremendous success and growth

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Cranelli’s Italian Restaurant

In the restaurant world a successful business often begins with family. When Cranelli’s Italian Restaurant, a new hotspot in Lone Tree, opened, the whole family pitched in to help owners Jim and Lasinda Crane make their dreams come true. Hours after the ink was dry on the restaurant lease, the couple began updating the décor and kitchen with the help of friends and family. Lasinda’s father David, a retired electrician, helped build a bar and

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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

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GradePower Learning

Robert and Olga Mead, the owners of GradePower Learning, started out with a vision to help build children’s confidence and self-esteem. They found an opportunity to do that not only through tutoring students, but also in teaching them how to learn. The LEADING EDGETM Strategic Planning Series was the perfect tool for Olga to test her business model. She graduated from LEADING EDGETM in 2015 and continued on as a client at the Aurora-South Metro

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Yumbana, LLC

To be declared a U.S.A. Taste Champion by the American Masters of Taste national judging panel, especially when the category is “Gluten Free” baked goods, is quite an accomplishment. Yumbana was selected as a winning product line in 2017 and, since its beginning in 2011, has been committed to making products that don’t require self-discipline to eat and enjoy. ‘Yum’ is in the name and comes from the owner Christopher Lehn’s first creation, a YUMmy

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