Grand Enterprise Initiative celebrates 10 years

When I first took this job offering business management coaching in Grand County I was told by a business associate that I was on a fool’s errand.

He looked at me with a conspiratorial twist on his lips and a sardonic twitch of his eyebrow. ‘Good luck,’ he said. ‘That’ll be like trying to push a wet noodle up a mountain with your nose.’
That was 10 years ago. And despite the pang of doubt his comment gave me, I am happy to report that the Grand Enterprise Initiative is still going strong in 2022. I’m glad because I know we do good work and because I like the good work we do.

But first, the basics. The Grand Enterprise Initiative is a non-profit, grassroots economic development organization that strives to build strong communities by nurturing entrepreneurs, one business at a time. We do this by offering free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County.
We work with anyone in Grand County who calls us up and asks for help.

It’s free because many people who are contemplating that little start-up don’t have the money to engage a full-blown business consultant.

It’s confidential because some people might be embarrassed about sharing with the world their tightly held secret aspiration for a business. Some people worry that people might “steal” their idea.

The key to our success with this initiative is that we take a client-driven, non-paternalistic approach to our work. By that I mean we only work with people who call us up and ask for assistance. We do not knock on doors and tell people what they are doing wrong or how we can make them better. We let the people drive our work.

How do we know this works? Well, our numbers after 10 years say much about what works. In 10 years we’ve worked 480 people who have called and asked for assistance and with whom we’ve had a meaningful conversation. Of those clients, we have helped 134 start new businesses. We didn’t start it for them. They started their businesses. We just stood on the sidelines and helped.

We estimate that those new businesses have helped to create 245 new jobs and have generated, annually, about $11 million in new sales. In these numbers include our work with 10 non-profits that include preschools and specific trade groups. We’ve also helped with many minor tune-ups for businesses, diversifications, acquisitions and business expansions.

Have all these new and expanded businesses succeeded and stuck around? No, not all of them have. New small businesses nationally have a rough track record, with estimates stating that naitonally about 50% of such new ventures fail or close in the first two years. Our record is better than that, with 25 of our new ventures either closing or relocating.

These are dicey numbers because we’ve had several clients who, although successful, decided to sell or close their ventures simply because people have come along and offered to buy their real estate for other functions, such as employee housing. Is that a failure or closure? You can decide. Or then there are the several businesses who have decided to close or scale back because they can’t keep up with their success, mainly due to lack of employees. Failure? I think not.

We couldn’t have succeeded in our efforts without the help of generous donors over the last 10 years. Thanks to them. They include: The towns of Granby, Winter Park, Fraser, Grand Lake and Kremmling; The Milanovich Trust; Grand County; Marise Cipriani; the Grand Foundation itself and its role administering a variety of donor-advised funds; the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments; the USDA Rural Business Development Block Grant program; the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and its REDI (Rural Economic Development Initiative) program; the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade and its Economic Development Organization Recovery Grant effort; and others.

We have worked closely with DiAnn Butler, Grand County’s Economic Developer, in our collective effort to create a thriving entrepreneurial culture in Grand County. It’s working.
We couldn’t have moved forward without a strong board of directors: Merrit Linke, board president; and board members Peggy Smith, Mike Periolat and Wally Baird. Thanks.

But ultimately, we should say thanks to the ambitious, creative and talented entrepreneurs and business owners in Grand County. They can succeed in a uniquely challenging business environment.

Many of them have succeeded in pushing that wet noodle up the mountain.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He provides free and confidential business management coaching for anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He is also the author of “KILLDOZER: The True Story of the Colorado Bulldozer Rampage.” He can be reached at 970-531-0632 or at

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