By Adam Broderick
Editor’s Note: It’s not easy making ends meet in mountain communities that rely heavily on cooperative weather and seasonal tourism. In this winter series, reporter Adam Broderick will explore different experiences of business owners who live and work in the Gunnison Valley, yet whose work is mostly seen and sold elsewhere.
Some obstacles seem consistent for business professionals who choose to live in such a remote location, like inconvenient transportation options in and out of the area or unreliable Internet speeds. But the benefits tend to far outweigh the compromises and make it worth the extra effort in the long run. Say, when a midweek powder day hits unexpectedly or when quality time with loved ones takes priority over work.
In discussing outbound business with local professionals, some ups and downs of operating a company locally have been revealed. This week we speak with two professionals who market web content and consult others in promoting business, especially online. As with anyone featured in this series, they live here because this is where their hearts are and they’ve chosen to deal with any issues that come as part of that package deal.
“We just call it Buttery,” says Mike Horn, editorial director at Buttery Agency, a multimedia agency that specializes in content development and experiential marketing.
Buttery, Horn says, is in a constant state of evolution. One second they’re working on print ads and custom publications, and the next they’re developing social media campaigns and producing video documentaries. Connecting all the projects is a common thread.
Horn knows it sounds like a cliché but explains that the company’s approach to marketing is all about living the client’s story. “Buttery’s style of advertising is unobtrusive; we do our best to tell a story, not just sling advertising in your face. We explore people’s stories and places’ stories and bring those experiences to others. Things are always changing but we’re always thinking ahead, asking ourselves and each other what we’re going to do next, which new perspectives we can explore, and how to keep things fresh.”
Horn lives in Crested Butte and he and his (equal) business partners—two in Vermont and one north of Boston—depend heavily on the Internet for communications.
All partners bring a different skillset to the table. Galin Foley is director of videography. Justin Cash is director of photography. Joe Polevy is art director and does all the design work, and Horn works more on the writing and editorial/communications side. Before Buttery, Horn worked in publishing for nearly a decade, primarily in outdoor and action sports. He says it has been interesting working on both sides of publications, from the editorial side and publishing to working with the companies that typically place ads in those publications.
In the past, he worked as managing editor at Backcountry Magazine and did a lot of freelance writing, and says that part of his transition into Buttery was aimed at making the virtual work existence work for himself. He didn’t want to go to Denver or Southern California or New York City to work as an editor for a magazine, or as a freelance writer chasing stories for Men’s Journal or other large market publications. He wanted to live in Crested Butte.
Although Crested Butte is where he wants to be, transportation can be a big hurdle for Horn and Buttery. He is the farthest of all his business partners from a major airport but says that’s part of what makes the Butte what it is. “You’re willing to work a little harder and travel further to be able to live here.”
Horn’s cell phone interrupts our conversation in his office, just two doors down from his home downtown. His wife called to ask when he would be back to give their 10-month-old daughter a bath.
“I’m a dad, too,” he says, laughing, as he ends the call. “The virtual agency allows me to be around my family a lot. My work is my time and I can be super-efficient, but I can also be home for lunch in zero time and chase the kid around, or whatever. I’m not commuting to work and adding time to my workday. I feel like I gain some time there and there’s a lot of value in that.”
Horn says Internet and frequency of flights in and out of Gunnison are the biggest challenges from an infrastructure standpoint. Although he thinks Internet speeds in Crested Butte are pretty good for such a remote location, the other Buttery teammates like to tease him about the hamster-wheel that’s powering the connection. “We use programs like Google+ to communicate and do a lot of video conferencing. We also transfer large files over the interwebs and mail hard drives back and forth. It works pretty well most of the time.”
Buttery travels often to meet with clients across the country, including Killington/Pico Ski Resort in Vermont, a.k.a. The Beast of the East, and also Stevens Pass Resort in Washington. The crew first came together while working on Killington’s print magazine but eventually took over its entire marketing program.
For Stevens Pass, Buttery does everything from print and banner ads to bus wraps, billboards and TV commercials.
Horn loves working with clients in different geographic areas but also takes pride in Buttery’s local projects. You may have seen one of the Never-Never Land videos the agency recently produced for the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association, one featuring snowboarder Mary Boddington and another with freeskier Tom Runcie. “We get to tell cool stories about people who live here in the valley and that’s really gratifying,” he says.
Regardless where work might take the Buttery guys, what they like doing the most is coming together in person to collaborate. That’s when Horn feels they really shine, and have the most fun.
“It’s all about perpetual motion. Being virtual works really well for us. It keeps us nimble, and we have contacts and collaborators around the country. The plan is to continually improve and evolve as a company, and to continue working with good people.”
Deborah Tutnauer, LLC
Deborah Tutnauer has been a self-employed coach and consultant for over 25 years. She began as a clinical social worker and psychotherapist but has spent the past seven years as a business coach. You may recognize her from the Social Media for Business events at Old Rock Library, but social media and online promotions only scrape the surface of Tutnauer’s work. She helps businesses in and out of the Gunnison Valley transform from the ground up, from determining core values to aligning business goals and strategies with those values and eventually creating (or recreating) products and promoting them to best represent the businesses’ overarching objectives.
Tutnauer transitioned from the mental health field to the business field after a stint of Internet marketing and online sales.
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She learned to be an Internet marketer and a direct response marketer (generating immediate responses from consumers) in addition to teaching herself how to build businesses.
“The learning curve was so steep, way harder than my two master’s degrees,” Tutnauer says. “After my daughter was born, I just couldn’t be a good mom and a good therapist, so the computer screen became super appealing. That was the forefront of Twitter days. I learned to write some html code, got involved with network marketing, made and lost a bunch of money, then made a lot—and I did it all through the Internet.”
Although she did well in that field, she wanted to get back into coaching people to be their best selves, as she did as a therapist. For 20 years she helped people and found that was what she liked best. She reflects on her career transition: “I made the decision to ramp back up into this helping profession, as I call it. I created a coaching business, and now here we are. I still collect income from the network marketing, just because the funnels are set up, but I don’t deal with it anymore.”
She lives in Crested Butte South when she’s not traveling for her consulting business or commercial events, as her career choice does not tie her down to a location or a time schedule. Before moving here in 1995 from Maine, every winter weekend she drove four hours each direction to ski at Sugarloaf Mountain. So she made a list of 10 things she wanted to find in a town and hit the road to explore ski towns across the West. Three requirements from her list included not having to drive to ski, a small town with a great sense of community, and a highly educated liberal population.
“Crested Butte was the first place I went and I knew I was coming back but I continued on my trip because I felt like I needed to finish what I had started. I’ve literally lived all over the world and since I got here it’s never crossed my mind to live anywhere else,” she said with a smile.
In addition to coaching people to think bigger and step outside their boxes, in 2014 Tutnauer began expanding into more public speaking roles where she trains and motivates large groups of people. One example: last spring she was the keynote speaker for a semester course called Lectures in Entrepreneurship at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. In her words, she helps frustrated entrepreneurs get real about money, marketing, and meaning. She’s also been consulting with corporations and larger businesses, helping them improve company performance and boost employee motivation and morale by bringing new ideas and even games into the workplace.
“Many who benefit from my services feel as if they are bumping up against an invisible bubble. They know that something is in their way but they are challenged to discern what it is or how to shift,” Tutnauer says. “Together we create their business foundation and framework with clarity and authenticity. Until you are clear about who you are, you will continue to operate a business that is financially unsustainable.”
Tutnauer says her diverse methods are based on a vast cornucopia of knowledge, both empirical and spiritual. She’s been called an “Architect of Magical Structure,” she says, “for indeed what I show you how to do is to take the essence of your deepest truth and align it with an organized structure for your business success.”
Her 12-session Foundation and Framework Intensive program helps determine clients’ passions, values, and areas of expertise in order to help reassess why they’re in the business and what their business does for the end user. Then she helps them determine how to better attract customers by improving marketing techniques and web presence. She also offers a three-session Micro-Coaching program in which she provides the same directional recommendations she would for the 12-session program, but instead she and the client focus on one goal from beginning to end over the course of three sessions.
In direct correlation with running a business that aligns with what one believes in, Tutnauer emphasizes that people should live a life that’s in alignment with who they are. She says a lot of people don’t do that because they’ve never really taken the time to say, “Who am I really?”
“If you take the time to do the work to understand yourself and what gifts you really bring to the world, there could be a lot of options. A lot of people won’t even step to the edge of the cliff and look down. It’s not a judgment, I just hear so many people complaining. One of my core values is freedom and independence. I worked a job for one year in 1982 that I didn’t like after the first nine months, and I quit. When I coach people, I coach them to live a life and develop a business based on their interests, values and expertise.”
Check back next week for the second installment of Locals Making Waves in an Entrepreneurial Age. We’ll speak with more businesses in the Gunnison Valley, specifically designers and engineers, about the ups and downs of exporting their expertise outside of the community they call home.