What it’s like to do business in the high country

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June 13, 2014
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Talking Shop with Stephanie Scholl of Big Shooter Coffee

Stephenie Scholl/owner-operator, Big Shooter Coffee/Kremmling

How long have you been in business? 16 years

How did you get started in this business? Quite by accident actually. My husband and I both had part-time jobs at the hospital and worked split shifts. We lived too far out of town to make it worth our while to go home and come back. We wanted a place to be able to hang out, drink coffee and relax between shifts. I had experience in the restaurant industry working my way through high school and college. I was also the first one to start a bagel shop in Fort Collins back in the late ‘80s. So, I had a good understanding of restaurant operations. I saw a niche in the community, and, even though coffee houses were in their infancy, I knew it was a growing trend.

Business mission statement: I don’t have a formal mission statement but, my philosophy has always been to provide a top quality product and service.

Success in the mission: I feel I have lived up to that philosophy — especially considering the fact I have remained in business for 16 years.

Challenges to the mission: Challenges to any business is finding, training, and retaining employees that can treat your business as if it were their own.

How do you cope with Grand County’s seasonal surges? Mostly by cutting back on employee hours. Owning a small business in Grand County is a lifestyle choice. We need a second income because of the seasonal nature of Kremmling.

What do you think is the biggest business barrier in Grand County? To get more residents to shop locally.

What do you think is your biggest business barrier on a state and/or national level? Taxation

What can government here do to help? My initial response would be “nothing.” The government is already trying to be too involved in private business. However, after I thought about it awhile, I came to the conclusion that it would be nice to have some governmental help in acquiring and supporting solar water and photovoltaic panels as alternative energy sources for the coffee shop.

How does your business give back to the community? Donations to the schools and various community based functions.

Give examples of how you are environmentally responsible. We recycle our coffee grounds. We purchase eco-friendly paper products. We are currently looking into acquiring solar panels to heat our water, and photovoltaic panels for electricity.

How do you support other local businesses? We shop locally as much as possible, and try to spend money in as many different businesses as available.

How do you feel about direct competition? It’s inevitable. So, I prepare for it by always trying to deliver the best possible product and service. I am always researching and staying on top of industry trends. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it doesn’t make good financial sense to open a new business in direct competition with an established business. In our small community, we are fighting for the same dollar and it only dilutes sales/tax revenue for both businesses. There are so many available business options that don’t have to compete directly for the same consumer dollar.

What business products or services do you get outside of Grand County? Mostly dry goods and paper products

How do you market yourself (and track results)? Primarily, my customers market us by positive word of mouth. I try to ensure that our product and service is above expectations. We’ve been featured in Sunset Magazine and the Denver Post, which increased our traffic tremendously. (All for free!)

What’s the main thing you have you learned in your years in business? To enjoy working for myself each and every day. What a great lifestyle I have being my own boss, regardless of the challenges. When you truly love what you do , it rubs off on your employees and customers, and keeps them coming back for more.

Where do you go for help when you need it? My in-laws.

Who is your biggest business influence/mentor? Early on it was Beth and Wade Wilderman. They helped me form a business plan and showed me the ins-and-outs of the coffee shop business.

What do you think is the most significant economic driver in Grand County? Tourism

If you could go back in time and start up your business venture all over again, what would you do differently? Nothing. I really try to be a forward thinker. If I don’t like something, I change it. We started out in a small location that was less than ideal, but made it work. When circumstances allowed, we moved to our current location. We always knew, that in order to grow, we had to be more visible and more spacious, so, we made it happen.

What’s the best compliment you received from a client/customer/guest? That they walked in not expecting to get the best latte/espresso drink they have ever had, and were completely shocked by our drinks, ambience, and service.

What do you consider to be your biggest mistake in business? It’s not necessarily my biggest mistake, but, if I really want to grow the business I need to capitalize more on the retail aspect of our logo. I’m not ready to take on that extra work just yet at the expense of my family and free time.

How much of a role does technology play in your business? As big as you want to make it… More and more coffee houses are going to more automated systems. From espresso machines, to cash registers.

What are the technology challenges in your business? Keeping up with bigger industry’s deeper pockets. Some of the newer, fancier, technological advances in the point-of-sale systems don’t make financial sense for such a small business. I need to be able to put those same dollars back into fixing broken equipment, or giving employee bonuses.

What’s the general key to making a customer happy? Engaging them. Most people just want the opportunity to talk about themselves. And that’s a good thing. Being able to draw them out makes them feel a bigger part of the world. I’m convinced that making a customer happy with my attitude and caring nature trumps putting out a good drink… that’s why I strive to do both.

Is their any certain trend you’ve noticed in consumer habits lately? When I first started in the business, we probably processed less than 10 credit cards a day. Now, it seems that cash is becoming extinct. We average 40 credit card sales on slow days.

What are some tricks such as signs or window displays that you’ve noticed work in attracting customers to your front door? One of the best things I did was utilizing our window space with product listing. It really helps draw the drive-by customer in. Also, we are known for our quirky art signage. That attracts lots of attention and provides great photo opportunities for tourists.

What are some ways to keep up staff morale? Have Shawn, my husband, aka The Big Shooter, be around the shop more! Money is also a great morale booster.

What are some ways you train your staff on an ongoing basis? I work side by-side with them on a constant basis.

If you could give advice to a novice entrepreneur, what would it be? Have extra money set aside to deal with the initial slow times. No matter how new and exciting your business is, there comes a time when the honeymoon is over, and you need to prepare for extended periods of slower sales. Also, be prepared to work A LOT. If “you” are what makes the business successful, “you” need to be in it.

Is their any certain trend you’ve noticed in consumer habits lately?


When I first started in the business, we probably processed less than 10 credit cards a day. Now, it seems that cash is becoming extinct.


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The Sky-Hi News Updated Jun 13, 2014 03:08PM Published Jun 13, 2014 03:54PM Copyright 2014 The Sky-Hi News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.