When Andrew Beckler created a bamboo ski pole in his garage in 2014, he knew it was a great idea, but the founder said it was the lessons he learned developing a business plan the next year that built the foundation for Grass Sticks success.
That’s where he developed a plan that not only found success when it won the Yampa Valley Entrepreneurship Center’s Community Business Plan Competition in 2015, but also formed the road map the company has followed to reach its goals in the years that followed.
“I firmly believe it played a huge role,” Beckler said of the competition. “The prize money was obviously a big help — at the time it was $10,000 — so that was a great jumpstart, but even more importantly, the competition forced me to sit down and actually write a business plan, a financial plan, and a forecast for everything.”
Randy Rudasics, manager of the Yampa Valley Entrepreneurship Center, said Routt County residents who would like to follow in Grass Stick’s footsteps have just over a month to prepare their business plans for the 10th annual Community Business Plan Competition.
The deadline for business plans is 5 p.m. Oct. 17. In November, the authors of the top entrees will present their plans to a panel of judges and the winners will be announced in December. The top placer will take home $6,600, and the runner up will earn $4,400. Rules, judging criteria and seminar registration information can be found at coloradomtn.edu/yvec.
Beckler said the competition also introduced him to the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), a national nonprofit organization with members who provide free consultation services and advice to business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.
He said the experience in the competition, and the people he was introduced to as a part of the event have helped his business grow into what it is today.
“We had to sit down and write a business plan and make a financial forecast, which was all something that I would have done a little bit, but probably wouldn’t have spent nearly as much time if it hadn’t been for the competition,” Beckler said. “Even more importantly is that the Entrepreneurship Center, and SCORE have provided expert support, expert advice and mentorship throughout the whole process.”
The 2022 competition is being sponsored by Startup Colorado. The City of Steamboat Springs, Routt County, Alpine Bank, THPK, Mountain Valley Bank, Yampa Valley Bank, Routt County Economic Development Partnership, and Vectra Bank will sponsor the prize money. Past winners include C4 Crypto Advisors, HearO Club, Chill Angel, Grass Sticks, Mountain Pine Manufacturing, Hive 180, Town Hall Outdoor.
Rudasics said the competition promotes effective planning for new business startups, which promotes greater funding opportunities and prepares new business for potential challenges. The Entrepreneurship Center has been offering a variety of seminars and workshops to prepare contestants for he event. Rudasics said that those events have concluded, but he is still available to answer questions, provide feedback and guidance through the center.
“There’s about a month left before plans are due,” Rudasics said. “I can still offer free business counseling that comes with it, and I can still give people advice on what they need to do, what a good plan looks like and show them some examples.”
John Bristol, executive director of the Routt County Economic Development Partnership, said that the competition is important for Steamboat and all of Routt County.
“It is such a great pipeline for those that have ideas, and it’s a great pipeline to develop new businesses,” Bristol said. “This competition, with 10 years under its belt, has shown successes of entrepreneurship and new business starts in the valley.”
He said the event promotes more diversity in local economies, which plays a key role in places like Steamboat, Oak Creek, Hayden and Craig where a diverse economy helps reduce economic shocks. He said the contest is a great way to improve the odds that more businesses will find success, and eventually contribute to local economies.
“This competition gives you that opportunity to bounce around your idea, and really formulate it a little bit better with some feedback from some folks that have done it before,” Bristol said. “The judges are going to have a diversity of thought and diversity of opinion that will make every plan stronger.”