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Local businesses get a leg up from county-sponsored program

Hank Shell
hshell@skyhidailynews.com

Operating a business can seem like a Herculean feat for both the novice and the veteran, so it’s always nice to have a little guidance.

Of course, not all advice is created equal.

While owning a business can awaken the latent financial advisor or business consultant inside each of your friends and family, whether their confident admonitions will guide you to success is anything but certain.

Rather, it’s best to seek out an authority with pedigree.

For eighteen local businesses, the Grand County Office of Economic Development did just that.

The office paid for the businesses to participate in an ongoing program with business consultant John Schallert.

A former executive with Hallmark Cards, Schallert now provides business-consulting services to organizations nationwide.

Schallert’s Community Reinvention Program includes a three-day “boot camp” for business owners, an on-site business consultation with Schallert and monthly trainings.

His program revolves around showing participants how to turn their organizations into destination businesses, locales that attract patrons from the beaten path, said Economic Development Executive Director DiAnn Butler.

“It involves some public relations, it involves really indentifying what makes their business unique and then telling their story well so that the audience comes to them,” Butler said.

Ken Wilkinson started Kremmling restaurant Jilly’s in October 2013.

Wilkinson says he didn’t have much business experience. After hearing Schallert speak at an event in 2014, Wilkinson jumped at the chance to attend Schallert’s program.

“I found the John Schallert program especially helpful because there were some things that I’d learned, but it reinforced and gave me the direction to make things better,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson found Schallert’s marketing expertise especially helpful and took to heart his message about becoming a destination business, he said.

“I never really thought of my restaurant as being a place that anybody would go out of their way to go to,” Wilkinson said. “My original thought was we’re on the route from Steamboat to Denver so we’ll get travelers who will come by and decide to try us out.”

With Schallert’s guidance, Wilkinson said he’s begun to develop a robust menu with unique items like the Naked Smoothie, made with Naked Juice, and specialty burgers to make his restaurant stand out.

Butler said the office of economic development hopes to do the program again in 2016, though county budget cuts have put it in jeopardy.

The office has applied for a Rural Business Enterprise Grant from the United States Department of Agriculture for $18,000, two thirds of the program cost.

Butler hopes that, in the future, the program could draw participants from outside the county and become self-sustainable.

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-557-6010.


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