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2016 North Metro Denver Annual Report

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Glenn Plagens

North Metro Denver SBDC Director      
2016 was a great year for the North Metro Denver SBDC. Together our team continued to set new records for client impact and launch new programs targeted to the growing population of Adams and Broomfield counties. It was a super busy year and has set the stage for us to continue to grow and serve our small business community. 

The North Metro Denver SBDC teamed up with the Adams County Commissioners, Adams County Economic Development (ACED) and Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) to launch the Adams County Microloan Fund. The Fund was launched with $1 million, the largest fund launched in the state so far. We also worked with Manufacturer's Edge to launch the Small Manufacturer's AdvantEdge (SMA) program. This took our "test" manufacturing program to a statewide initiative and created a formal partnership between the Colorado SBDC Network and Manufacturer's Edge, the first formal program in the states. In the fall the North Metro Denver SBDC produced the first annual Adams County Small Business Conference at Front Range Community College (FRCC). The conference was a day of training, workshops and resources for the small business community. More details for all these programs can be found in this report. 

I would like to give a special thanks to the overwhelming community support our program receives. Our host FRCC, Adams County, Broomfield City & County, Arvada, Brighton, Commerce City, Federal Heights, Northglenn, Thornton, Westminster, the Minority Business Office, the Governor's Office of Economic Development and International trade and of course the Small Business Administration; all working in partnership to make this program a reality. 

I have the pleasure of serving a great team of consultants, trainers and staff. I cannot say enough about their dedication and ability and would like to thank them for their service. And saving the best for last, I would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to the small business owners we serve. As you know you are the backbone of our economy and it is our pleasure to serve you. I know what it is like to walk a million miles in your shoes, thank you for all you do and know you are appreciated - Great Job! 

2017 here we come ... 

Glenn Plagens 
North Metro Denver SBDC Senior Director 

Read the Full North Metro Denver SBDC 2016 Annual Report

Denver Escape Room

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Setting the Pace to Scale

Story: Kat Rico
Photography: Alicja Mazurek

For many businesses, being first to market is essential to their success. When owner Brian Lacertosa of the Denver Escape Room began planning his venture, there was nothing like it in the state of Colorado, but by the time he launched he was third to market in Denver. That didn’t stop his momentum though; just a year after opening his first location he has already opened a second location in Phoenix, Arizona, and by the end of 13 months he is slated to have an additional four locations open.

“The challenge with escape rooms is defining what we are,” said Brian, “there’s a disconnect between explaining it and actually doing it.” Denver Escape Room has four rooms, each with unique stories. You enter a room, receive a debriefing of the story, and use that information to gather the clues to unlock the storyline further. In one room, you’re part of a tactical response unit, in another you’re part of a team trying to shut down a rogue supercomputer. When your time is up, if you haven’t solved the room, staff will give you the complete solution. This is done so there’s no incentive to re-do the room, which could ruin the experience for another guest.

Brian has been a business owner for over 10 years, previously doing internet sales. He brought the idea home with him after participating in an escape room in New York, and in the year he’s been in operation, the market in Colorado has grown from 3 rooms to more than 17 across the state. About six months after opening, Brian hired Cody Borst as a game designer. “What we really want is for people to have fun. If they don’t, then they’ll have a bad impression of escape rooms and never try another.” With over 900 hours of work going in to their latest room, Crimson Storm, the rigorous testing process helps ensure a great guest experience. “I came in the other night and my staff handed me a puzzle, and I was immediately frustrated, in a good way,” said Brian.

What makes the Denver Escape Room unique is their ability to hold corporate training and teambuilding events. They have a large conference room and a certified corporate trainer that helps them create an engaging experience for businesses. “It’s much more than getting people together to play games,” explained Brian. Teams play through a room with a trainer watching via CCTV, then receive feedback on their team dynamics, and try a second room to see if they took the feedback. The process is interactive and can jumpstart a new program or worked into an existing program.

While he was planning the business, Brian began working with the North Metro Denver SBDC. “My consultant was such a valuable resource. It was great having someone I could call up and say, ‘Hey, I need some help with this. Got anyone in mind?’” Brian’s consultant even connected him to a group of angel investors, and although the pitch fell short, he learned some valuable lessons. “Trying and failing actually made me better prepared for the pitches that were successful.”

When asked about how they’ve been able to expand so rapidly, Brian said, “I’m very fortunate because I’ve got the right people. My staff has allowed me to expand. We were hitting 3 year goals within 6 months.” Game designer Cody explained further, “It’s important that we scale with the industry. We’ve paid attention to the international popularity of escape rooms, and it seems single shops die out. Larger businesses with standardized models last longer.” Right now, the Denver Escape Room employs 10 people, and Brian is excited to see the growth of the business. “It’s great to bring something totally new and very cool to Northglenn, and it’s helped other businesses in the area as well. We’ve won several awards, but recently winning the Northglenn People’s Choice was the best.”

Keep up with the Denver Escape Room or book a time at:

Chopsticks Vietnamese Restaurant

Thursday, July 23, 2015

What makes a new restaurant unique? A flashy space, an artisan menu? At Chopsticks Vietnamese Restaurant in Brighton, Colorado, it takes a careful balance of fresh food, community and family, brought together by owner Hieu Nguyen. The menu is straight from the streets of Saigon, created by her aunt, Khue Tran, who spent 18 years in Vietnamese restaurants before coming to the United States. At Chopsticks, you won’t find a recipe book or canned sauces; they pride themselves on making everything on the menu from scratch, right down to the fish sauce. 

As of July 2015, Chopsticks has been open for about two months. Several times each week, Hieu heads to market to buy fresh vegetables for the restaurant, which are all cut to order for each dish. They also use a fresh wok for each dish, making it easy to accommodate food allergies and dietary restrictions. “It is a lot of work, but definitely worth it,” says Hieu. This commitment to freshness and cleanliness comes from a deep desire to provide excellent customer service to their community. “We strive to provide a cozy environment where everyone and his or her family will feel at home enjoying authentic and flavorful Vietnamese food.”

Hieu was born in Vietnam and came to the United States at 9 years old, eventually graduating from CU Denver with degrees in International Business and Accounting. She noticed while working in the banking industry she had increasingly little time to spend with her family, which is what inspired her to open the restaurant. “It gives the whole family a chance to work together. With five family members here, work-life balance becomes easier and we get to spend more time together.” 

Getting to opening day posed several challenges. They needed assistance with paperwork, marketing ideas and a network of support, which Hieu says the SBDC was crucial in providing. Simply put, “Without the SBDC, we wouldn’t be open.” An unforeseen challenge of the restaurant was that other than Hieu’s aunt and mom, none of the family had worked food service before. “We had to learn the rhythm of the family,” says Hieu, “and it nearly drove us crazy!” After a rocky two weeks, the family smoothed out the bumps in the road much to the enjoyment of their developing regular customer base. Beyond getting to know their customers, Hieu’s favorite part of the process has been building their menu. “My aunt creates all of the dishes from scratch, so we had to give a lot of feedback. We have over 100 dishes on the menu!” Her favorite item is the taro boba tea: a fruity, Vietnamese smoothie with chewy tapioca balls at the bottom.

Although the process has been challenging, Hieu encourages other entrepreneurs to take a chance. “Just do it! Don’t be afraid or you’ll regret it. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help, there are always people willing to help.”

Deltech, Inc.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Deltech, Inc.
Owner: Mary Stevenson

Story written by: Chris McCloskey
Photography: Chris McCloskey and courtesy of Deltech, Inc.

Deltech Inc. designs and builds furnaces for the production of scientific products, from laboratory implements to semi-conductor components.

Deltech is a small, family-run company with a large impact. It began in 1968 as an engineering services company for the mining industry. The co-founders, Calvin L. Stevenson and Donald J. Drinkwater, were mining engineers. Deltech built its first furnace for Coors Tek, then known as Coors Porcelain. Their second customer was Los Alamos National Laboratories. 

Mary Stevenson, Calvin Stevenson’s wife, is the current president of Deltech and their son, a master’s-level mechanical engineer, is Deltech’s engineering manager.  Stevenson explains the company’s focus, “We listened to what the ceramist wanted to accomplish and what his processes involved, and then set out to design and build the furnace to help him do the job.” 

In the 1990’s, Deltech supplied lab furnaces for use in processing semiconductors and fuel-cell, biomedical, and fiber-optics components. In 2000, the company built its largest furnace for use in the manufacture of a composite mirror for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s F.I.R.S.T. project. Stevenson describes the most interesting product Deltech designed and built as a positive-pressure furnace for the National High Magnetics Lab at Florida State University.  Stevenson adds, “Deltech was the only bidder for this job, which is not uncommon.” Today, Deltech furnaces can be found at universities and laboratories worldwide.  Stevenson said, “The company’s best advertisement has always been the referrals received from its customers.”

As Deltech celebrates its 47th anniversary, Stevenson looks back on an exciting track record for leading industrial scientific manufacturing and learning how to translate their expertise into business success.

In 2007, the company’s accountant pointed out that Deltech’s high-end production and position in the competitive market were not reflected in the company’s profits. At that point, Stevenson attended a meeting of the Adams County Economic Development Council where she heard about the services of the Small Business Development Center.  

The North Metro Denver SBDC matched Stevenson with a manufacturing consultant who began working with her from the first meeting, providing specific ideas for a business plan to align the sides of engineering and accounting. The consultant was able to translate his years of experience working in manufacturing into innovative solutions for Deltech’s financial stability.  After fully utilizing this consultant’s production expertise, Stevenson was referred to a consultant who specializes in marketing. This consultant joined the effort to provide Deltech with insight on effective advertising, competition research, and market analysis.

Today, Stevenson describes the high point of the company’s progress as providing the next generation the ability to take over the business in terms of engineering education and experience, combined with a solid grasp of business finances and marketing. 

Deltech’s trademark, “We Build the Furnace to Fit Your Need” is stronger than ever.