Entrepreneurial journey: Director wants center to offer help along the way

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Jeff Engell oversees programs and services offered at the Small Business Development Center in Grand Junction. Engell brings to his new position as director experience as a business coach and founder of a global consulting firm. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Jeff Engell has been on an entrepreneurial journey. He launched a consulting firm that served businesses and governments around the world. Now he works to help other entrepreneurs along their journeys. 

While Engell hopes their first stop will be at the Small Business Development Center in Grand Junction, he says the programs and services offered there also can help established and even mature enterprises.

The availability of additional resources from the Business Incubator Center located on the same campus helps, he says. “Being here is fantastic. We kind of have everything in one place.”

Engell says he’s equally excited about being at the Small Business Development Center at its new director. He started his latest position at the beginning of May, succeeding Julie Morey, who served as director nearly 30 years.

Engell previously worked as a small business coach at the East Colorado SBDC in Greeley. He says he was looking for an opportunity to move to Western Colorado while also leveraging his education and experience to continue helping businesses. “It seemed like a natural fit.”

In Colorado, a network of 14 full-time SBDCs and more than 50 part-time satellite offices are located across the state. The centers offer a range of services, including free and low-cost counseling and instruction on all aspects of starting and growing businesses. “We are truly dedicated to supporting the mission of small businesses,” Engell says.

It’s especially important, he says, because small businesses in rural areas of Colorado play a collectively big role in supporting the economy.

The SBDC in Grand Junction primarily serves the Grand Valley and Mesa County. But its geographical service area extends to Rio Blanco County as well as the western half of Garfield County, Engell says.

In addition to its main location at the Business Incubator Center, the Grand Junction SBDC operates a satellite office at the FWorks coworking space in Fruita. Engell says he hopes to open another satellite operation in Palisade. 

It’s part of what he plans as a more pronounced effort to engage area communities, businesses and businesses sectors. The includes minority-owned businesses and the agricultural industry.

While Engell says it’s his responsibility to oversee the programs and services offered at the center to create and retain jobs, he considers it his role to serve as a face of the center and look for ways to promote the operation. “I keep attuned to those opportunities.”

Prior to his work at the East Colorado SBDC, where he managed an average of 60 clients, Engell worked for more than 10 years as owner and operator of Blue Oceans Group, a global consulting firm. He says he worked with businesses and governments around the world on various economic development initiatives. He’s also worked in real estate and investment banking.

Engell grew up in Timnath southeast of Fort Collins and attended Colorado State University, where he received a bachelor’s of business administration degree.

He later earned a master’s of science degree in economics with a concentration in entrepreneurship and innovation from Lund University in Sweden.

Engell says he’s enjoyed helping entrepreneurs for most of his career.

At the SBDC in Grand Junction, that help includes free and low-cost counseling and classes as well as other services.

The center helps entrepreneurs start businesses with assistance with licensing, business planning and accessing finance. “We like to be the first stop in the journey,” he says.

The center also helps established businesses, though, with everything from marketing and increasing sales to managing employees. The owners of mature businesses can find assistance in succession planning and selling their operations, he says.

Coaches at the center, most of them business owners and executives, are available to provide free confidential counseling on a one-on-one basis, Engell says. Moreover, they’re eager to share their expertise, he says. “They want to give back.”

The Business Incubator Center offers additional resources. The incubator program and commercial kitchen offers low-cost space and shared services for businesses. A revolving loan fund offers access to capital to small businesses. The center also oversees a program offering tax credits for capital projects. “It’s very synergistic,” he says.

Entrepreneurs are usually experts in their fields and the products and services they want to sell. But they’re less familiar with the operational side of business, Engell says. That includes accounting, financing and marketing.

They might not be aware of the pitfalls to avoid — or how much work starting and operating a business can be — he says.

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions hurt businesses, the pandemic also prompted many people to reconsider their concepts of work and contemplate starting their own ventures and working for themselves, Engell says.

That’s promoted entrepreneurship generally and in the Grand Valley specifically, he says. “There’s a lot of things happening in the Grand Valley.”

Challenges persist, including rising interest rates and supply chain issues. But overall, Engell says he considers the state of entrepreneurship good. “I’m hopeful the trend towards entrepreneurship continues.”

It’s matter, he says, of helping entrepreneurs along their journeys.

As the new director of the Small Business Development Center in Grand Junction, he hopes their first stop will be the center. “We’ve got some great people here and resources to use.”

The Grand Junction Small Business Development Center is located at the Business Incubator Center, 2591 Legacy Way. For more information about programs and services offered there, call 243-5242 or log on to https://grandjunctionsbdc.org.