We are definitely seeing a trend to entrepreneurism in this economy here in the Grand Valley,” says Jon Maraschin, Executive Director of the Business Incubator Center. “Our classes are full with both new, exploratory entrepreneurs and existing businesses looking for a little help and guidance. We are working with people across a wide range of industries from health care to mining, with a little entertainment industry thrown in for good measure.”
And what those businesses and individuals are looking for assistance-wise is just as varied as the types of businesses seeking advice, and the Incubator is looking to continue to update and innovate in the services it provides. At the forefront, the Business Incubator Center is seeing a lot of activity centered on the basics. Maraschin says that once an entrepreneur makes the decision to start a business they turn to the Incubator for the “how to” part. The Incubator offers classes on how start a business, market a business, utilize social media, manage cash flows and create business plans just to name a few. Additionally, the center is also seeing activity from existing businesses which is centered on marketing and strategic planning. Recently, the Incubator created and ran a series of classes for unemployed workers called the Idea Workshop in cooperation with the Mesa County Workforce Center which has proven to be a successful way to reach out to those who may be trying to create their own job as an entrepreneur. Maraschin says that with livestock and crop prices are at record highs, the center is now working to bring a new class to market for its Leading Edge series called “Tilling the Soil” through the SBDC, which it believes will have a positive impact for agriculturally-based entrepreneurs. Finally, Maraschin states that the Incubator is also looking for effective ways to embrace the energy industry as western Colorado has a bright future based on abundant natural resources from natural gas to the sun.
While an increase in entrepreneurism tends to be seen in more difficult economic times, Maraschin confirms that activity in the grand valley at this time is matching that trend. “I believe that most people are born with a sense of entrepreneurship, but few seldom take the risk associated with starting and running a small business,” says Maraschin, “An economic downturn is a wakeup call for those who have always wanted to start their own business and potentially an opportunity for someone who is unemployed to create their own job. Even in the current economic times, there is opportunity; the trick is in finding it.”
Furthermore, Maraschin’s commercial banking background has him telling new and existing entrepreneurs that there is simply no replacement to practicing basic business fundamentals. “In this economy, you have to know what you are doing in regards to your accounting and cash flow, know what you are selling, and know how to price it and who you are going to sell it to. Basically, you have to have a strong business plan,” says Maraschin, “I know several very successful entrepreneurs who are obsessed with the fundamentals; they are constantly reinventing themselves which is why they have been successful over the years.”
Maraschin is optimistic and foresees a strong resurgence of small, smart companies which will define where the country’s and western Colorado’s economies go over the next five to ten years. In fact, Maraschin believes that this time around, the opportunity for entrepreneurs is even better. “The industrial revolution was started by consolidating a number of cottage industries and then mass producing their products,” he says, “And with the technology available today, it is possible to take a product to market without that consolidation.”
And for entrepreneurs in western Colorado, Maraschin has even more confidence and excitement. “We have a strong local university, a world renowned business incubator, good collaboration between the City, County, Grand Junction Economic Partnership and the Chamber of Commerce–all of the key ingredients for a bright future for the Grand Valley,” says Maraschin.