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Thanks for a successful Entrepreneurship Conference

The thank-you column — and it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet!

Entrepreneurship conference

After nine months of planning, the fourth annual Entrepreneurship Conference ended last weekend on an extreme high note — at least based on the comments of attendees and speakers.

While the attendance numbers were not what the Colorado Rural Development Council, the Town, CDC and Chamber would have liked to have seen, there was still a solid group of Pagosa and regional business owners and other attendees who took advantage of this unique business opportunity.

There were so many people who played a huge part in putting this conference on. There were many facets involved in executing this event and all parts were important in order that this event could come off as smoothly as it did.

A planning committee came together early to determine topics, speakers, theme and many other logistic details. Many thanks go to the core committee of Shari Pierce, Kathy Keyes, Linda Reed, Bart Mitchell, Karin Kohake, Muriel Eason, Laura Lewis and Anne Kautzky, who worked so diligently on the youth part of the program. More than 70 speakers and topics were arranged. Although we intended to break the sessions into initial and more developed business modules, we found out there were so many great topics that people had a hard time choosing what they wanted to attend.

As the event drew nearer and last-minute details had to be nailed down, other volunteers kicked into gear. Many thanks again to Anne Kautzky and Shari Pierce, Joe Keck with the SBDC and Rich Lindblad with the CDC for working so hard to promote this event.

In order to get ready for the conference, there was a tremendous amount of logistics to be executed. To complicate matters, an early winter snowfall in the Rockies threw a few challenges into the pot. Speakers and attendees were unsure if they were going to be able to get to Pagosa.

Thursday evening’s VIP reception was special, thanks to the generous donation of meats from Grass Roots Meats and the preparation of appetizers using this meat by Alley House Grille, Nello’s Bistro, The Pines Restaurant, Plaza Grille and Squirrel’s Pub.

Friday night’s event at the last minute needed to be moved to an indoor venue and transferring equipment in the bad weather posed a few challenges. Many thanks to Karin Kohake for holding down the fort at the high school and organizing all the necessary spaces while other committee members were performing other jobs. Kenny Daniels made a run to Durango at the last minute to pick up Durango food and beverage donations. Pagosa Brewing Co. went over and above the call of duty on the shortest of notice, assuring that the new venue selected would be set up appropriately and that the guests would have the highest quality food and service. They did an amazing job!

Friday night’s event would also not have been possible had it not been for the generosity of The Springs Resort offering the EcoLuxe atrium as a venue for the reception at the 11th hour. Carla Shaw worked tirelessly on the last-minute planning, was at the reception until the final guests left, and helped accommodate everyone involved with her usual aplomb. The room setup, flow, food and the desire to continue the excellence of the material and concepts learned throughout the day made Friday night’s reception as intense as the courses offered throughout the day. For people who do not believe that networking is important, you should have been in attendance at the reception. It was such an inspiration to watch attendees connect with speakers and fellow business entrepreneurs. The energy level was “off the charts.”

The energy continued into Saturday’s events at the high school and that evening’s reception as the conference came to a close. SHY RABBIT Contemporary Arts was an amazing venue and really showcased a unique sector of our community. Enchanted Valley also did a scrumptious job catering.

The business tours to Parelli Natural Horsemanship Headquarters wowed over 50 people, and the Saturday tour to Growing Spaces garnered over 40 people, when we thought people would “bolt” out of town. Attendees were surprised to find out that Parelli does more than horses and Growing Spaces does more than build geodesic growing domes. Attendees were impressed by the principles of the companies, their passion, and their expertise and willingness to share that expertise. Many thanks to both of these businesses.

Many thanks also go to Parelli Natural Horsemanship for donating the iPads on Friday and Saturday and Devansoy for donating the iPad for the Youth Entrepreneurs. The Pagosa Springs SUN gave us wonderful event coverage, publicity and support, and KWUF also helped us give away scholarships all week long.

Of course, this event would not have been possible without the use of the facilities at the high school. The attendees and speakers thought the venue was one of the best yet. At the closing reception, I was honored to be told by one speaker that, although the numbers were not what the conference has had in the past, this conference had a higher level of energy and enthusiasm from the attendees and speakers than any he has attended in the past — and he has spoken at all four conferences.

Attendees were wowed by Mikal Belicove, author and speaker with Entrepreneurial Magazine. Although he covered some business basics, he hit a home run with the attendees, challenging them and our community to really look at how we do business, how we need to take responsibility for our businesses, and the need to move the community forward by not thinking of excuses, but rather of ways to make things happen.

Greg Lopez, director of the Colorado SBA, also was an inspirational and motivating speaker on Friday, setting an elevated tone for the entire conference.

Those business owners who could not get away or chose not to attend this inspirational conference missed a fantastic opportunity to find ways to help their enterprises. In the near future, the Chamber will reconvene those Pagosa business owners who attended the conference to continue to exchange ideas entertained at the MarketPlace.

One other huge thank you goes to the Colorado Rural Development Council, which chose to come to Pagosa Springs and have the conference in the southwest part of the state. Event director Michelle Alcott had to take this conference to a new level planning for two days of classes, speakers and events for the first time in the MarketPlace’s history. She worked tirelessly and braved the numerous times that she was unable to get to Pagosa due to inclement weather, facing airplane or rental car problems. We appreciate all her work, and we hope the CRDC board will consider Pagosa Springs again, should a regional conference be designed.

There were so many pieces to this conference puzzle that had to come together to make it successful. From the volunteers planning the event to the volunteers working all facets of the event, all the pieces of the puzzle came together flawlessly because of everyone’s hard work. Even the smallest effort played a part in the conference’s success and many people were so giving. Many thanks to Pagosa Springs and the businesses for putting our best foot forward. Now, we hope to see some of the Pagosa attendees start a business or grow their existing business. The Chamber looks forward to assisting them. Thanks to the CDC for getting the conference to Pagosa and all of Pagosa for making the fourth annual Entrepreneurship MarketPlace a success. I was so proud to be affiliated with the event.

Reminder

Don’t forget to purchase your Pagosa Perks raffle tickets at the Chamber of Commerce. Tickets are $5 each, or five for $20.

You could win $1,000, $500 or $250 in Pagosa Perks, which you spend locally, like dollars.

Just think of what you could use these dollars when it’s time to get some winter items. Use them for holiday shopping in Pagosa Springs, or treat the family.

The drawing will take place on Nov. 16, at the SunDowner at Plaza Grille.

Membership

We welcome Lana Grey with Team Pagosa Realty Group as a new member. Lana is located in the Country Center with Team Pagosa and Quantum Travel near City Market. She provides excellent service for the residential or commercial buyer, or can help you find that piece of property on which to build your dream home. For more information, visit Lana at Team Pagosa or give her a call at 731-2908.

Our renewals this week include Happy Trails Lady’s Boutique; the Alley House Grille; and DIG Enterprises 80, with David Grad also renew. We also welcome back Paige and Doug Wiersma as Friends of the Chamber.

We also want to thank our wonderful businesses for their generosity with our diplomats this year.

The Visitor Center will be switching to winter hours beginning Oct. 15, which means we will be closing at 5 p.m. on weekdays and will have abbreviated hours on Saturday and Sunday.

This year, in July and August, the Visitor Center recorded a 10 -year record number of visitors to the center. Not only did we note that the numbers were up, but the volunteers were diligent in asking people to sign in. The volunteers work hard to promote our businesses and encourage people passing through or staying in a nearby community to stay over in Pagosa. These diplomats are economic drivers in our community and take great pride in what they do. We thank our volunteers and all our businesses for their graciousness and generosity with time and gifts.

Thank you Pagosa, we have much to be proud of!

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