ICELab begins new program

Focus on established companies looking to grow

By Kendra Walker

ICELab, Western Colorado University’s entrepreneur hub, has implemented a new accelerator program this fall designed to help companies already established in the Gunnison Valley take their business to the next level. The program is the first accelerator cohort under the Tourism and Prosperity Partnership (TAPP) and the inaugural class includes Blister, Camp 4 Coffee, Internet Colorado and Third Bowl Homemade Ice Cream.

ICELab will work with each company over the next eight weeks to identify strategies and solutions for growth and improvement. According to ICELab director David Assad, the companies were chosen based on the following criteria: they have five or more employees; they already have established revenue; they have five or more years of experience running the business; they have a desire to grow the business on a higher level; and they are poised to bring revenue in from outside of Gunnison County.

“Most everyone in the region already knows these names and it’s about getting the operations and strategic details right,” said Assad.

The companies are paying a fee to be in the program, which is a first for ICELab. “Making that transition was really exciting,” said Assad. “When we sold this program to the companies we let them know that we’re serious about helping them, and we know that we can help them based on their goals for expansion. I think that’s a testament to their faith in the ICELab that they are willing to put money into the process.” The cost of the program is $600 through the end of the year.

The eight-week program steers away from ICELab’s other accelerator programs, which typically focus on helping new businesses get started.

“We are creating a customized program for each of the four companies,” Assad explained. “If one needs help with finance, for example, we’ll focus on that rather than a cookie-cutter format we have for new businesses needing to learn everything.”

He also explained that because the companies are already established and running full-time operations, the program is designed to have a more time-sensitive structure around their schedules.

Over the next week, ICELab will meet with each company to identify their greatest needs and goals and then customize a program to help them reach the goals they’ve set. Then throughout October and November, CEOs from each company will meet together once a week for a CEO roundtable, and then individually meet with ICELab. And once a week they’ll meet with a team of consultants to target the biggest risks in reaching their goals and conduct experiments to improve those risks. ICELab is working with Denver-based Fluent Consulting to provide some of the curriculum.

The program will not end in a pitch event, another difference from other ICELab accelerators. Rather, each company will have the option to extend working with the ICELab for $200 per month if they find the results useful.

Assad explained this accelerator ties into ICELab’s greater mission for economic development in the region. “We’ll be tracking the companies that we work with this year over the next five years,” he said. “These things will take time to come to fruition.” But ultimately, he said, “This new program will help us reach our goal to create more high-paying jobs in Gunnison County.”

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