Starting a business is no easy task, even in the absence of a global pandemic. Starting a business in the Roaring Fork Valley also presents unique challenges: the cost of living tops the list.
Yet it can be done, and entrepreneurship and small business will be vital for the valley in both its short-term economic recovery and long-term economic resilience, one of the central themes of a recent report and of a study by a group of locals who recently participated in the Roaring Fork leadership program.
“It was quite revealing about the impact of not only COVID on our economy, especially the fact that we are a resort (region) that relies on tourism,” said Andrew Treat, one of the members of the Four Score team. “Talking to the people who were affected by it was really shocking.”
As part of a civic project led by Roaring Fork Leadership, members of the Four Score team interviewed local small business owners “to explore sustainability and the need for entrepreneurship as a solution for economic resilience in the valley. of Roaring Fork, ”says the report, titled“ Entrepreneurship in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Treat noted that the members of Team Four Score were also surprised at the challenges faced by entrepreneurs in the Valley.
“It really takes a lot of resources, time and effort to really put a plan into action, to put an idea into action,” said Treat. “And for entrepreneurs, knowing that there are resources to use, it still takes a lot to get back on their feet, especially for small retail businesses.”
After completing their study, Team Four Score delivered their report of findings to Evan Zislis, a local business consultant who founded the Bonedale Business Academy and also manages community engagement for the Aspen Institute’s Aspen community programs. . He also launched and leads the Hurst Community Initiative, which aims to connect communities in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys through civic engagement.
The Four Score team was tasked, according to Zisilis, to conduct a “regional needs assessment… to be independent, to be an entrepreneur working in your kitchen or living room and is this a viable mechanism for economic recovery in come, to get out of this COVID recession. “
“The Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado has been particularly affected due to its dependence on tourism,” the report says. “The once bustling streets of Aspen and Snowmass were like those of a ghost town. Storefronts, stores and boutiques were closed. Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, the third busiest airport in the state of Colorado, was empty of planes and passengers. Aspen’s world-famous ski resorts were empty and bare, leaving a weird, post-apocalyptic feel. When the tourists stopped coming, the workers who relied on them were left with no jobs and no income. What were these workers to do? This is the question Team Four Score has decided to answer. “
They interviewed local entrepreneurs, including Brion After, owner of Independence Run & Hike, a running and hiking clothing and shoe store in Carbondale; Ami Maes, owner of Handmakery: A Children’s Art Studio in Carbondale; Charlie Chacos, co-owner of Bonfire Coffee and Village Smithy Restaurant, both in Carbondale; and Richard Rosenfeld, owner of Basalt Two Leaves & A Bud tea company.
The owners noted the long hours of running and owning a business, the importance of building up start-up capital before opening a business, of having a good location for a physical business, of establishing the good work team and the resulting stress. without having the cushion of working for another employer.
“Finally, everyone we interviewed warned us that while entrepreneurship can be an exciting endeavor, they also all experienced an anxiety that comes with quitting a job with benefits, health care and more. benefits, and say the trade-off of stability for the potential – but not guaranteed – economic independence can be daunting, ”the report says. “And furthermore, they all reiterated that starting a new business while continuing to work at a current job may be necessary, but will definitely be exhausting. Brion, Ami, Richard and Charlie all said that if they were happy to have started their own business, they would advise a potential entrepreneur to take the time to weigh the pros and cons of such a big change.
Rosenfeld also stressed that “entrepreneurship should not be about generating profits and / or tackling unemployment, but rather that the entrepreneur should seek to solve the problems in his sector and possibly make money. “, says the report.