Dillon business owners deploy for BootCamp
Beginning Monday several of Dillon’s small-business owners and managers will be in Longmont to participate in a seminar on destination marketing techniques.
The two-and-a-half-day, 14-point strategy session, known as Destination BootCamp, is run by marketing consultant and business coach Jon Schallert, president of Schallert Group Inc. in Longmont.
The seminar focuses on business differentiation, Schallert said Thursday, or teaching business owners how to magnify their unique differences to pull in customers from greater distances.
“A lot of our bootcamp participants are business owners from small towns, usually in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of businesses increase sales by double digits right out of the box and others achieve international fame through TV and newspaper coverage.”
The Dillon group includes business owners and managers from Dillon Dam Brewery, A Furniture Find, Chimayo Mexican Grill, Café ProFusion, Adriano’s Bistro and the Dillon Marina. The participants are attending the program through a $1,500 scholarship offered by the Dillon Business Association and the town of Dillon, and will be joined by colleagues from small towns in Oregon and Kansas.
Although Schallert said the bulk of his clientele are small-town business owners, who face different challenges than those in Summit County who can depend on traffic during the winter and summer tourism seasons, he thinks there is an opportunity for local business owners to build on the business they already expect and to capitalize on new markets during the shoulder seasons.
“A lot of businesses in destination communities already are destinations simply because of their location, but the problem is a lot of business owners become passive, waiting for the tourists to arrive,” Schallert said. “The challenge is you can have these boom and bust cycles and what we teach these business owners is that they already have a lot going for them by being in these destination communities. Towns like Breckenridge are known internationally, so it’s about targeting outside markets to get the biggest bang for the buck during the offseason.”
But town of Dillon and Dillon Business Association officials didn’t pick Schallert or his program out of a hat. Instead, they conducted research by first sending Susan Fairweather, the town’s director of economic development, marketing and communications, to participate in the bootcamp in March and report on its potential value to local businesses. Dillon Mayor Ron Holland attended in June.
Although Fairweather is not a current business owner, she has aspirations of one day opening her own fly-fishing shop. In order to get a complete taste of the bootcamp experience, she invented a business and a collection of issues she worked through during her time with Schallert.
“I am so excited to see the ideas these businesses come back with because they all have their own unique attributes,” Fairweather said. “It’s a lot of fun, there’s a lot of energy and none of Jon’s techniques are abstract. They’re simple strategies everyone can do. I came away with a ton of ideas and I was working with a fictitious business.”
Fairweather is particularly excited to follow up with Maria Linzie, owner of A Furniture Find.
Linzie moved to Alma about a year ago and shortly after her arrival purchased the used furniture store in Dillon. Her background is in construction, making this her first venture as a retail business owner.
“She was feeling overwhelmed and little defeated on what she took on,” Fairweather said, citing a recent conversation she and Holland had with Linzie. “We decided she would be a good candidate for the bootcamp because even if there were 10 furniture businesses in town she could still be successful because we have that much need. She just needs a little help figuring out what sets her apart from everyone else.”
Linzie agreed with Fairweather’s assessment, saying Thursday that aside from a couple of logistical strategies that could be tweaked, the biggest hurdle has been her inability to network with other business owners because she is new to the area and stays busy trying to run A Furniture Find, while also raising two young children.
“The biggest problems are in my head and I need to work on being more positive about what I’m doing here,” Linzie said. “I think this opportunity is going to help and I’m really excited about the opportunity to network with local business owners.”
But it appears the opportunity has already lit a fire under Linzie, who recently took steps to improve her business, including hiring a delivery driver one day per week — she was conducting her own deliveries after business hours — and setting up a workshop to satisfy her need for a creative outlet.
But Schallert said anyone who is impressed by Linzie’s newfound enthusiasm won’t believe their eyes when the bootcamp participants return to Dillon.
“They’re going to spend almost 72 hours together in a private environment where all they do is focus on their businesses,” Schallert said. “It’s always fun when they come back to their communities full of ideas and to watch what they put into practice during that first 30 days.”
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