In a recent article from Inc Magazine, ten cities were named at the Best Small Cities for Entrepreneurs. Would you guess that four of the ten cities were in our own backyard? Logan, South Jordan, Taylorsville and Lehi to be exact! Utah has nabbed the title for Best State for Business by Forbes Magazine five plus times. Our tech sector is booming, our population is increasing and our economy is reported to be one of the fastest growing in the nation. So if you've been thinking about taking your business idea and turning it into a reality, keep reading for why now might be the time to take the plunge.
"The Utah economy is doing very well right now," said Wells Fargo economist Charlie Dougherty in a recent Deseret News article. "It's doing well for all the reasons you'd want to see an economy do well — mainly a fast-growing labor force (that) is very well-educated and young." The number of working-age adults in the state is projected to grow by 15.1 percent between 2020 and 2030, more than triple the 4.6 percent projected national population growth. So not only is there a great pool of talent to hire from, but also more people to utilize your products and services.
A Burgeoning Food Scene
It's no secret that the bulk of our clients are in the food industry, from food trucks to bakeries to BBQ to sit-down restaurants, we love the passion for the current food scene in Utah and boy is it growing! The dining climate in Salt Lake City and beyond has grown tremendously and we are seeing more cultures, cuisines and types of dining than ever before making their mark. So much so, that the Utah Office of Tourism is sending chefs, cocktail mixers to L.A. and N.Y. to pitch Salt Lake City as a foodie hotspot. Managing director of UOT was quoted as saying “Our brand around the Greatest Snow on Earth and red rock country are well-established. Now we want people to understand there also is this urban adventure that involves a lot of amazing food.” So if people are already traveling to Utah for the beauty and adventures in our state, why not add dining to the list? The picking is ripe for a company looking to capitalize on the excitement and focus on our growing culinary scene. We don't mind because we get to try a taste of the the food of every food company who applies for a loan! ;)
Diversity is on the Rise
If you have a business or are thinking of starting one that caters to our growing minority population, now is a smart time to get your plan into action. From a recent Salt Lake Tribune article we learned that new estimates released Thursday by the Census Bureau show that Utah’s Hispanic population grew by 25.6% between 2010 and 2018. That’s more than twice as fast as the 10.8% growth in Utah’s non-Hispanic white population.The Asian population in Utah also grew by 48.5%; people who are “two or more races” grew 42.5%; blacks by 37.9%; and Pacific Islanders grew by 27.5%. American Indians had a slower 9.9% increase. So with all the growth and movement to Utah, there will be more unique needs for products and services catering to these specific populations and beyond.
How can we help?
The Utah Microloan Fund is here for you for the biggest hurdle in opening a new business, funding! We provide loans to small business owners up to $50,000 and accept both start-up companies as well as established enterprises. While we consider factors like credit score and collateral, a lot of what we do is based on a solid business plan and your personal character. We try to look at the big picture of your idea when it comes to businesses instead of just one factor as we want you to succeed!
In addition, whether you are looking for help on how to best apply for a loan or assistance after the fact, we have many resources to help. Through our Program Manager of Lending we provide one on one consulting to prepare you for our loan committee and get you in the best position to be approved for a loan. If you need additional help we have amazing partners who are ready and willing to provide assistance to match your unique needs. After we get you approved, we also have a dedicated Program Manager of Client Training who is there to help you with all your next steps, free of charge. Three free classes a month are also held to provide additional training and learning opportunities with topics ranging from development, financials, social media, websites and more.
So if any of the above sounds good and you are ready to start your entrepreneurial adventure let's get in touch! Write us an email, give us a call or stop by one of our loan orientations to learn more about how the UMLF can help you get your venture off the ground as we've been helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1991!
Here at the Utah Microloan Fund when we get asked about what kind of companies we help with our small business loans and training we just have to smile. Part of the excitement and joy of working for the UMLF is that we get to help so many different kinds of businesses get their dream off the ground. Food trucks, barber shops, coffee roasters, dog treat and food producers, spas, gyms, restaurants, service providers and board games. Yep you read that right, board games! Our June Small Business of the Month winner is none other than Succubus Publishing, a powerhouse company that just officially launched their game, Middara. What makes this game so special? Keep reading as we sit down with owner Alex Hansen as we learn about his and Brooklynn Lundberg's journey in creating this vast universe, getting it off the ground and what they learned during the process.
UMLF: What are your backgrounds? What made you start your quest for creating your own board game company?
Alex: Up until our 2015 Kickstarter for Middara, Brooklynn worked in the board game retail industry for Hastur Hobbies in Murray and later for Game Night Games in Sugarhouse. He was also a full-time playtester at Eat, Sleep, Play developing the latest Twisted Metal game. Salt Lake is a huge gaming town and through these jobs, he was able to make tons of connections in the world of board gaming.
Before making board games for a living, I (Alex) was a salesman at a local wholesale florist, and before that, I taught guitar lessons full time. I had no real background in gaming other than I was obsessed with video games and drawing crazy fantasy characters in my free time.
UMLF: Can you tell us about your journey from having the idea for the game to how you got to where you are today?
Alex: Brooklynn and I are good friends from high school. Instead of paying attention in class, I would draw all day long in all of my classes. One day in English class, Brooklynn approached me, said he loved my art, and asked if I wanted to help him develop some ideas he had. I agreed. This was about 15 years ago. We've been working on this game for 15 years! We would meet up multiple times every week and just hash out ideas. I have piles and piles of sketches. It was a great time.
Then in about 2014, after a failed Kickstarter totally unrelated to Middara called "Assemblage of Eternity", we decided to go big and make Middara happen. The game was still in it's phase of conception but we knew that in order to gain attention it needed to look good. So we borrowed some money from family and used it to quit or jobs for the summer and work on getting the Kickstarter campaign to look awesome. After tons of delays, we finally launched Middara in May 2015 and were able to raise almost $350,00 in that month. We were blown away.
UMLF: This game Is huge! Can you tell us what players kind of experience they can expect from buying Middara?
Alex: Middara is one of the heaviest (both literally and in complexity) board games ever made. And we purposefully made it this way and we love it! It isn't really made for a quick session to play with your kids on a Friday night. Middara is for the hardcore board gamer looking for a real campaign-driven adventure than spans the course of 6+ months. It draws a lot of inspiration from RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, JRPG video games like Final Fantasy, and tabletop games like Warhammer. You take on the role of an Adventurer and follow their storyline as you build you character up to be a true warrior to be reckoned with!
If anyone is curious, they can check out our BGG forum where our customers are constantly discussing the game. Our Facebook group is also very active. You can see how passionate the community is. They are constantly posting pictures and interacting with each other. They paint all the miniatures to show off and even create their own homemade content. We also have an Instagram page.
UMLF: You guys obviously put a lot of time and love into creating the universe and all of the characters of your game. Who are some of your favorite characters? What’s their story?
Alex: Absolutely. We've been working on this non-stop for over 5 years! There are so many characters in the game that it's hard to choose. Middara functions like one of those old "choose-your-own-adventure" novels from the late 90's. While playing through the game, choices you make really matter and change the course of the game. So, to not risk spoiling anything for anyone interested in the game, I won't say too much about all the characters involved. But, if I had to choose, my favorite character would be Zeke. Brooklynn usually plays Nightingale.
UMLF: Where can someone purchase Middara currently?
Alex: Well, right now we are completely sold out and the only place to find a copy of the game is on aftermarket sites like Ebay. Of course this route isn't the most financially feasible since copies of the game are selling for upwards of $250!
But! If you're interested in snagging a copy of the game, you're in luck! We are running a Kickstarter campaign on June 24, 2019 where we will be reprinting the original game and expanding on the product. It's going to be an amazing Kickstarter campaign and you won't want to miss it! We are even giving away free swag to backers that pledge on Day 1!
UMLF: How do you feel like the Utah Microloan Fund helped your business?
Alex: Even though we were able to raise $350,000 on our Middara Kickstarter campaign in 2015, our lack of business experience got us into a serious bind. It became clear that we would be unable to fulfill our promises to Kickstarter backers. The game was too massive and expensive. Our passion for making games blinded us to the financial reality of our situation.
So, after shark-tanking it around Salt Lake for the good part of 2018, we were able to recruit an awesome team of supporters and investors to help Middara come to life! UMLF along with a number of other resources has been crucial to helping us get the game produced and shipped to our customers. Without them, we'd be stuck in development purgatory with nothing more than a cool idea. Thanks UMLF, you guys are awesome and we tell all of our entrepreneurial friends about you!
Thanks for sitting down with us Succubus Publishing! To stay in touch with them:
Keep an eye out for their Kickstarter, launching June 24th! You can sign up for an email reminder here: https://mailchi.mp/succubuspublishing/entertheportal
If there are two things our office loves, it's coffee and dogs. What else makes the Earth go round? With her recent graduation from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program, receiving the award for Park City's 2018 Small Business Person of the Year by Alignable and just all around being an awesome human being, Claudia McMullin and her company Hugo Coffee Roasters are the Utah Microloan Fund's May Small Business of the Month!
UMLF: Claudia tell us about yourself and your background. What made you get into roasting coffee in Park City Utah?
Claudia: I moved to PC from NYC in 1999 after quitting my job in a Wall St. law firm and selling my apartment. In my never ending quest to NOT be an attorney, I was the Executive Director of Nuzzles & Co for a few years and ran for office and was elected for 2 terms at a Summit County Council member. During my tenure as Chair of the County Council, I sat on the executive committee of the PC Chamber and learned that the coffee shop vendor in the Visitor Information Center was not renewing its lease. I went home and told my husband that I could run a coffee shop and .. Voila.. I bought the shop. Within 1 year I decided to buy/start a roasting company because I wanted to vertically integrate and control the quality of my own product. I reached out to the talented roaster, John Lynn, in summer 2015 and we launched Hugo Coffee Roasters together in December 2015.
In addition to animal rescue, my passion is to mentor young entrepreneurs (Lucky Ones, Drool) and connect people. I am a member of the PC Chamber, UWNG, PCWBN, and President of the PC Rotary. I have sat on many nonprofit boards including the Sundance Advisory Board, University Hospital Foundation, Kimball Arts Center, PC Chamber, and MAG. I am currently on the Lucky Ones Advisory Board.
UMLF: What is the history of Hugo’s for those who don't know the scoop?
Claudia: I opened Hugo Coffee shop in the Visitor Information Center in Kimball Junction in February 2013. I decided to name the company after my handsome rescue dog, Hugo, because I ran Nuzzles & Co and was known for loving animals… especially dogs. I launched the roasting company in December 2015. In 2018 we rebranded Hugo Coffee Roasters to include an animal rescue give back mission. Our mission at Hugo Coffee is to save dogs by roasting fantastic organic fair trade coffee! Our vision is to become the go-to coffee for animal lovers nationwide.
UMLF: How do you feel Hugo’s is different from other coffee roasters in Utah?
Claudia: Hugo Coffee Roasters’ differentiator in the roasting world lies in our animal rescue give back mission. For every retail bag of Hugo Coffee sold (whether online via Amazon or in brick & mortar retailers like Whole Foods), Hugo Coffee gives between 8-10% of its proceeds to an accredited animal rescue. For example, for all online sales, Hugo Coffee donate to Best Friends Animal Society. For all regional sales, Hugo Coffee donates to Nuzzles & Co. - unless our customer prefers a different animal rescue in which case we’ll donate to the customer’s chosen rescue. Hugo Coffee also pops up at animal (Yappy Hours) and animal rescue related (Super Adoptions, Strutt Your Mutt) events and farmers markets to sell our retail coffee and swag to benefit specific animal rescues. In addition to Nuzzles & Best Friends, Hugo Coffee has donated to Canines With a Cause and the Utah Animal Adoption Center.
With respect to our roasts, Hugo Coffee’s roasts are intentionally and specifically created to appeal to a broad range of palettes and, as such, range from light to french roast dark. Our coffees are all named with a nod towards dogs: New Trick Light Roast, Rollover Breakfast Blend, Bonafido Medium-Dark Roast, Howler Espresso, Black Paw French Roast, Downward Dog Decaf and Dog Daze Cold Brew. Our beans are organic fair trade. In picking the specific farms from which to buy green beans, John seeks farms that pay a living wage and offer benefits to all employees. Locally, we are environmentally focused by utilizing an oxidizer with our roaster for prevent emitting particulates into the air.
Oh, and finally, our coffee is fantastic!
UMLF: You recently graduated from Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program. Congrats! Tell us about your experience going through the program.
Claudia: I loved every minute of the GS10K program! I met the most amazing people who I hope to have in my life for a long time. I felt supported and inspired by my fellow entrepreneurs. My growth opportunity involved launching a new product – which I did on April 1st. Dog Daze Cold Brew Packs for making cold brew at home or camping without any muss or fuss. I can’t wait to collaborate with and support every single one of my fellow scholars!
UMLF: What is your favorite blend of coffee you guys produce?
Claudia: I love Bonafido and drink a french press of it every day. Once the weather warms up, I drink Dog Daze Cold Brew as well.. And everyday!
UMLF: Every business has its highs and lows. Tell us about a challenge you faced as a small business owner and how you overcame it?
Claudia: Cash flow! Self funding launching and growing a manufacturing company was much more expensive than anticipated. Incurring debt vs. investor capital to supplement my own funds was my chosen path. I do not want to incur any more debt so must become self sustaining in 2019.. Which I am on the path to become!
UMLF: How do you believe the Utah Microloan Fund has helped you and your business?
Claudia: The UMLF has helped me with financing equipment for my new customers.. Especially St. Regis Deer Valley. And, of course, providing critical cash flow. I am beyond grateful to the UMLF for their support and resources!!
Thanks for sitting down with us Claudia! To try Claudia's coffee you can visit her in person at their coffee shop, check out their roastery or buy online:
To visit the Hugo Coffee Shop:
To snag a bag of coffee online you can visit here: