Local shops click with small business grant
Two local businesses in Craig that both have tapped into unique markets are waiting to be approved for small business grants to keep growing their work.
The Economic Development Advisory Committee reviewed two new applications for the small business grant program at their July 25 meeting. The EDC had $85,000 budgeted this year, some of those funds coming from ARPA funding, to grant to local businesses.
The grant criteria, which has been updated since the grant process went under the EDC, considers how the applicant could use the funding to promote economic development in the community.
Applicants receive points based on the addition of jobs to the local economy, providing a unique amenity, providing a regional customer draw, adding vitality to the city core or other commercial districts, and diversifying the city’s economic base.
Both of the new applicants, Good Vibes River Gear and The Jungle Pet Shop, have spent years cultivating businesses based around things they are passionate about, and the requested funding will help each of them grow an aspect of their business.
Maegan Veenstra said the gear shop, which has been in business for five years, has been growing leaps and bounds and their goal is to be a face of Craig and Moffat County as the coal power industry is wrapping up in the area.
Good Vibes is the only custom sewing shop for rafting items in the nation, Veenstra stated in the application, and the shop makes unique items that can’t be found anywhere else.
The next step in their growth is to purchase a grommet press machine to help speed up the manual process of pressing grommets. Veenstra said that they are even hesitant to do too much marketing, because they might not be able to keep up with the already high demands.
“If we got any busier without getting any production style machines in there, we wouldn’t be able to meet the demand,” Veenstra said.
And it’s more than just river gear, Veenstra said they are also making grocery bags and trash bags.
“It’s amazing how much we make, and the demand is so high, we have to have those machines and have more people working,” Veenstra said.
Although they’ve been asked to sell their products wholesale to retailers, Veenstra said they are able to sell all of their own products directly to customers. Most of their customers find them through word of mouth in the boating community.
Both Maegan and her husband, Josh, manage different social media pages where boaters just meet and talk about gear, places to go, and boating techniques. The Veenstras also recently updated their website capability so that if someone builds a cart on their website, it will reach out to the customer again to see if they are ready to place the order.
Right now 90% of Good Vibes’ customer base is outside of Craig and it’s becoming a wide-spread thing. Many of their customer base is coming from Steamboat and the Front Range, but they also get orders from Montana, Idaho, and a couple random orders from New York and West Virginia.
With the new white water park that’s coming to Craig, Maegan said if they can get the local community to utilize the river more, it would be a beautiful thing for their business.
The Jungle Pet Shop has also been able to tap into a niche market by selling aquatic pets and plants that are in demand in both the local and regional market.
Clint Gabbert, Pet Shop owner, said one of the innovations the shop has created over the past year is they started a cricket farm. By raising their own crickets, the shop doesn’t run out of crickets in the winter time or have to ship them in from places like Georgia.
The shop uses crickets to feed a variety of the aquatic plants they sell, and Gabbert has also been able to sell crickets to pets stores in Steamboat for similar purposes.
Gabbert is now the proud owner of 29 W. Victory Way, where the shop is located. The previous owners were going to sell the building once the lease was up, so Gabbert pooled all of his money and jumped at the chance to buy the location.
The grant request for $3,000 will be used to give the exterior of the building a facelift. In the application, Gabbert said they are going to paint the outside of the building green and black to match the jungle theme inside.
Gabbert will also be restoring the sign from the previous location, so “The Jungle” will show on the outside of the building as well.
The EDC agreed that all of these improvements will continue to add vibrancy to downtown Craig, as these businesses have already been doing.
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