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JT Crane Service: Taking Business to New Heights

Jeff Thornton, veteran, owner, and operator had 12 years of crane operating experience and another five years of heavy equipment operator experience. However, something Jeff had limited experience with was starting and growing a business.

“The classes and coaches [at the Grand Junction SBDC] have been essential because I have no experience in bookkeeping or web design,” said Jeff.

After learning about the Grand Junction SBDC through the SBA’s website, Jeff made his first coaching appointment in the spring of 2019. Shortly after his initial meeting, he launched his crane business.

JT Crane Service offers crane services to individuals and contractors for new construction projects, repairs, restorations, sign and glass installations, HVAC installs, and hot tub deliveries.

Throughout 2019, Jeff continued meeting with various SBDC business coaches on marketing strategies and bookkeeping enrolling in courses at the Grand Junction SBDC such as Bookkeeping Bootcamp and the intensive, 12-week LEADING EDGE Strategic Business Planning and Management Course.

Even with the uncertainty of 2020, Jeff continued taking his business to new heights. JT Crane Service continued to grow. He recently added his second crane and hired his first employee.

“My business almost tripled from my first year. Covid had little to no effect on my business,” said Jeff.

Thai Number 9

Running a restaurant has its challenges, but 2020 really took it to the next level. Thai Number 9 faced these challenges head-on all while keeping their customers fed and satisfied.

Thai Number 9 opened in 2018 and is a family-owned and operated authentic Thai restaurant in Grand Junction, Colorado. The dream of running a restaurant started years earlier when siblings and owners Jojo Barnes and Peter Unaboot enrolled in the GJ SBDC’s flagship-class “How to Start a Business in Western Colorado.” Since 2011, Thai Number 9 has met with multiple SBDC coaches on topics including marketing, cash flow projections, and general startup assistance.

When news broke about different state and local COVID-19 grant programs, Thai Number 9 was able to quickly apply and receive the funding they needed to keep their restaurant alive.

“The Incubator [and Grand Junction SBDC] helped us get through 2020 by guiding us with useful information and new ideas. With 2020 being so rough, they were able to provide us with [information about] forgiveness grants, whether local or through somewhere else,” said Barnes.

SBDC Consultants Jonathan Long and Laura Mercier met with the restaurant owners on multiple occasions discussing new ways to enhance the restaurant while balancing the changing and challenging health pandemic circumstances.

“They [Jonathan and Laura] have been nothing but kind, and their willingness to help is greatly appreciated,” said Barnes.

The restaurant offers this bit of advice for anyone interested in starting their own restaurant or business: “Follow your dreams and make sure you put your heart and soul into your business. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We have such helpful and great people in our community that are willing to guide you in the right direction!”

Alpine Autohaus

Louie is a six-foot-tall (and growing) house plant and the shop greeter at Alpine Autohaus. He was passed down from the original owner with the adage, “If Louie is doing well, the business is doing well.” According to Alpine Autohaus’ owner, Sean Cotter, Louie is doing very well.

Alpine Autohaus opened in 1995 as a one-man operation. Cotter was hired in 2013 when the original owner was ready to move on and with the understanding that Cotter would purchase the business in two years. Two years quickly changed to eight months and Cotter needed to complete a business plan to secure funding for the business purchase.

Cotter heard about the SBDC from the previous owner and began meeting with the Grand Junction SBDC Director, Julie Morey, on his business plan.

 “I had no idea where to start with the business plan. Without her help, I would have never been able to accomplish what I did. We had three or four meetings, and she helped me lay out what I needed for a loan and guided me in the right direction. Without her, I would have never gotten the business.”

With his completed business plan, Cotter was able to secure financing for a loan to purchase the business. Today, Alpine Autohaus, who specializes in European and Asian import automotive service and repair, has seven fulltime employees and is considering expansion. Cotter plans to continue investing in training and advanced equipment to meet the service requirements of newer, technology-focused vehicles.

“Six years later, we are six-times bigger than when I bought it,” says Cotter.

Cotter encourages those interested in purchasing or starting a business to not be afraid and to check out what resources are available.

“Don’t be afraid to try it. There are resources everywhere. I think the only thing that stops people is fear and lack of following all your resource trails. If one door closes, you’ve just got to pivot and find another one. It’s the same thing if you’re going to be a successful business owner; it’s the same thing you do every day for a living. Not everything is going to go smoothly all the time. The biggest thing that I would say is to be relentless.”

CrossFit Juke Joint

CrossFit Juke Joint (CFJJ) is a box, not a gym. Unlike gyms, CrossFit facilities (boxes) do not house treadmills or 20 weight machines. They resemble a box with four walls that contain weights, ropes, and bars. However, perhaps the most important piece of equipment a box can carry is a sense of community – something CFJJ owner Sung Hong cares deeply about.

An accomplished martial artist, Hong was first introduced to the CrossFit lifestyle while managing a fast-growing martial arts school in Virginia. Hong was immediately hooked by the challenging and rewarding fitness routine CrossFit offered, sometimes even working out twice a day.

In 2015, Hong decided to leave Virginia to pursue his dream of opening a CrossFit box. Armed with his list of 19 potential new cities to call home and a full tank of gas, Hong traveled across the country in search of a new location – preferably someplace warm and dry. After checking out 27 different CrossFit boxes in New Mexico, Arizona, and California, Hong met a couple who suggested he look at Grand Junction.

In 2016, Hong opened his first box in Grand Junction in a leased space next to a busy grocery store. While the space met his and his members’ needs, Hong wanted to own the building, which was not an option at this location.

In April 2019, a CFJJ member found the box’s new home, a former road sign company building just south of downtown. Seeking financial guidance to purchase and complete the building’s much-needed renovations, Hong was directed to the SBDC. Hong worked extensively with Grand Junction SBDC Director Julie Morey and SBDC Coach Helen Roe while developing and polishing his business plan.

“Julie Morey with the Grand Junction SBDC helped me as I planned for purchasing a new location to move my business, giving me her time and expertise to complete a business plan. Helen Roe patiently advised me on preparing my loan application,” said Hong.

Upon being approved for a $30,000 loan, Hong and his dedicated members quickly moved in and began renovations. Building renovations have not impacted membership numbers or classes. CFJJ’s membership has increased to 35 members since moving to its current location.

“Since we moved, we’ve added 10-15 more members,” said Hong.

The Story Behind the Name 

Hong thought of the name, CrossFit Juke Joint, while venturing south along the Blues Highway during his cross-country journey. He stayed at the historic Riverside Hotel, a popular resting place for well-known blues singers and, later, a juke joint. A juke joint is defined as a vernacular term for an informal establishment featuring music, dancing, gambling, and drinking, primarily operated by African Americans in the southeastern United States.

“It was pretty cool. It was a community. It was random people, but they loved playing blues together. So, it’s kind of like the same concept of CrossFit, too,” said Hong.

Hong credits his growth to the one piece of equipment many gyms or boxes lack – community. Hong hopes to grow the box to 60 members and plans to enhance the community-based atmosphere further by helping members prepare and enjoy healthy meals together.

LEADING EDGE FALL 2020

February 5 - April 22, 2020
Wednesday Evenings
6-9PM

Grand Junction SBDC
Business Incubator Center
2591 Legacy Way
Grand Junction, CO 81503

Standard Fee: $275
Each additional employee: $100

Grow and understand your business better with LEADING EDGE

Even if we’re experts regarding our product or service, most of us were never taught to be business owners; we were taught to be employees.

LEADING EDGE is a 12-week course designed to teach you how to start and/or grow a successful business based on an actionable business plan. The program is a combination of in-classroom sessions, interactive learning exercises, and conversations with subject experts. By the end of the course, you will understand the aspects of running a business, have a written business plan or strategy, and test your model for financial viability.

"The LEADING EDGE class is an comprehensive program for small businesses. All businesses, whether just getting started or have been in business for many years, can benefit from content presented from the class instructors. The value of the small group format cannot be measured. To this day, I collaborate with the people I met at the LEADING EDGE class.

— Dr. Andrea Marchese, PT, DPT, LMT, CTP Owner - Cactus Bloom Therapeutics
Fall 2018 LEADING EDGE Grad

You Will Gain

  • An understanding of the entrepreneurial experience and entry strategies
  • Training on where to find appropriate marketing research information needed to set business goals
  • Skills needed to set and meet short- and long-range goals
  • An overview of the legal aspects of owning a business and dealing with employees
  • How to determine target markets and reach these markets with the most effective marketing mix and to use this mix to meet financial goals
  • An understanding of financial information and how it can and should be used to steer a business toward its goals and determine how to most effectively reach these goals
  • How to determine exit and/or growth strategies
  • Knowledge to put all this information together in a planning document that can be used to guide a business
  • An opportunity to network with other small business owners and professionals

Investment

Standard Fee: $275

Each Additional Employee: $100

Please return the application below with your payment to the Business Incubator Center.