CITY SKYLINE

Colorado Springs city skyline May 19, 2005. Mark Reis photo

Starting a business is not for the faint of heart.

Colorado Springs used to be known as a city of chain restaurants and franchises. Today, businesses with less than 500 employees make up about 92 percent of the local economy, according to Aikta Marcoulier, director of the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center.

The SBDC is one of several El Paso County organizations focused on helping those entities. The development center provides resources for existing and starting businesses alike. While 60 percent of the SBDC's assistance goes to established organizations, the other 40 percent focuses on startups, Marcoulier said. Both encounter issues, but the latter tend to face a barrage of them early on.

"Some of the issues we see, no matter what, are financing your business - more so for startups," Marcoulier, 38, said. "If you don't have collateral, you don't have a lot of income, you don't have a story to tell yet, so it's harder to get financing."

When Sara Kinney founded innovation tech company Rim Technologies LLC in 2010, funding was not as worrisome as it could have been, which she attributed to the SBDC and the Procurement Technical Assistance Center. The latter provides government contracting assistance.

"Working with the SBDC and PTAC dramatically reduced our startup costs so that we could get going without investing a ton of money in a big financial firm, lawyers or marketing," the 36-year-old said.

Other problems Marcoulier listed include scalability, or when a business grows too large too quickly, making it difficult to meet customer demand. The Regional Business Alliance, the Better Business Bureau and other government organizations exist to assist with this issue and many others.

Kinney, an Air Force veteran, attested to the importance of these entities. Without the SBDC and PTAC, her challenges might have overcome her goals.

"There's certainly a lot to navigate whenever you start a small business. When you're looking to work in the (government defense contract) sector, regulatory compliance and security is a huge part of your job as a business owner," the Nebraska native said. "Without the resources of the SBDC and PTAC, there's no way that Rim Technologies could have afforded the infrastructure investment and the knowledge base that we needed to . fuel our growth."

Jumping into entrepreneurship brings with it a flood of legal jargon, which can also hinder a business's success, according to Steve Imke, entrepreneurship director at Pikes Peak Community College.

"The government calls the same thing three different ways and (entrepreneurs) don't understand which one it is," the 56-year-old said. "Some of them, quite frankly, have ideas, but they know nothing about execution and as a result of that, they fail."

About half of all small businesses permanently shut down within the first five years of their existence, according to the Small Business Association. After that rough period, their survival rate increases. Marcoulier said entrepreneurs who use all of their resources tend to see the most success.

"The people that use all of us at some point and keep asking, keep showing up to whatever events in town, network themselves, those are the ones that are successful," she said.

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Contact May Ortega: 636-0275

Twitter: MayVOrtega

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