Initiating and maintaining growth in a small business is a daunting task regardless of economic climate or location. However, according to survey results released by Thumbtack.com and the Kauffman Foundation, the Western Slope of Colorado is one of the most difficult places in the state to launch a business venture.
The survey identifies a number of components key to small business health, including regulations, employment, tax code, licensing, current economic health and growth rate in 2011. Over 6,000 small business owners nationwide were surveyed and the results indicate business owners on the Western Slope feel they have more than their fair share of hurdles to overcome.
The region is ranked worst in the state in ease of starting a business, hiring costs, licensing, attitude toward environmental concerns, optimism about the future and 2011 growth rate.
Local business owners, however, dont take such a negative view on the prospects of small business in Montezuma County, though they do acknowledge that changes over the past few decades have altered the way business is done and changed the process of starting a business.
Page Bane, 41, owner of Audio Box, a car audio retailer, started his business in Cortez nearly 20 years ago, and said much has changed in the business world in the past two decades. Startups are a more difficult proposition than they were when Bane entered the retail world, he said.
I didnt think it was that hard to start a business 20 years ago, but I think it would be a lot harder now, Bane said.
The economy, tax increases and the advent of the Internet have all contributed to a tougher climate for startups, Bane said. E-commerce is a particularly hard pill to swallow for small-town brick-and-mortar establishments.
The Internet is a hard combatant in retail, he said. Twenty years ago you didnt have that, but today you have to worry about getting people in the door rather than letting them order off the Internet.
Bane started his business without the benefit of specialized training. Over two decades on the job, he has learned much about small business growth and management, and said in todays business climate, education and training is a must.
I think some basic business classes are absolutely important, he said. I think it is a must, and some tax classes are also so important.
Young business owners in the community seem to be taking advantage of educational opportunities and support not available 20 years ago.
Tiffani Waters, 23, owner of Love on a Hanger clothing boutique, which opened in August of last year, relied heavily on the training and help she received from the Region 9 Small Business Development Center at Fort Lewis College before starting her business.
I actually took the Leading Edge class last winter and taking that class made everything so much easier, Waters said. I had a game plan of what I needed to do and who I needed to talk to, to get it done.
The training afforded Waters the opportunity to move forward with her business plan and move from concept to ribbon cutting in roughly seven months.
In this community, my biggest asset was the Small Business Development Center, Waters said. Community support is huge, so just talking to people was helpful and the center was always willing to give me some sort of advice.
Cortez Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dena Guttridge said providing training and support to entrepreneurs and small business owners is one of the primary focuses of the chamber this year.
We partner with the Small Business Development Center and they just have an abundance of information and resources, Guttridge said. We are actually starting a business resources center inside the chamber for people who are thinking of starting a business or expanding and improving an existing business.
The chamber hopes to have the resource center finished and staffed by the fourth quarter of this year.
Guttridge agreed with Bane that the issues involved in starting a business are much more complicated today than they were five, 10 or 20 years ago, and said community support and interaction is more important now than ever.
It is all about those relationships and partnerships, she said. No one organization or person can know the answers to all the questions, but if we pool our resources we can help everyone.
In terms of the future forecast for small businesses and startups, Bane, Waters and Guttridge said Montezuma County is a place where businesses can thrive, if careful planning and thoughtful deliberation are part of the process.
Sometimes we may be a little antiquated in our thinking, Guttridge said. We cant do business the way weve always done it. But if we utilize what we have here, like this state-of-the-art fiber-optics project and the scenery, we can be very successful and we can look at some factors as opportunities rather than hurdles.
Waters agreed, stating the reason she began her business during a recession was because she chose to look at the opportunities the economy presented, rather than the challenges.
I looked at (the economy) as being full of the most opportunity, Waters said. When all the other stores were closing, I saw the opportunity to grab a corner of the market and take advantage of the big market share that was available. You have to take advantage of the opportunities in front of you and just go for it.
Results of the Thumbtack.com and Kauffman Foundation survey are available at www.thumbtack.com/co/.
On the Net: Region 9 Economic Development Center, www.scan.org/index.html; Cortez Chamber of Commerce, www.cortezchamber.com.
Reach Kimberly Benedict at [email protected].