August 2020

Ramon Alvarez

Ramon Alvarez is President of Alvarez Enterprises, Inc., and owner of Minuteman Press, a small family business serving Colorado Springs as a full-service design, print, and direct mail provider. Ramon applies his vast leadership and business experience to help businesses of all sizes create and execute print campaigns that integrate cohesively within their overall marketing strategy. Ramon’s experience includes executive positions in Domestic and International settings for Fortune 500 companies, leading up to 14,000 associates and $3.5 billion is revenue.

A first-generation immigrant from Guadalajara, Mexico, Ramon grew up and worked at a large farm in the Central Valley of California. His career has allowed him responsibilities for businesses in the Western half of the U.S., in South America, and Canada. He has opened several retail locations from the ground up and operated small and large formats. Ramon is fluent in Spanish, and prides himself in giving back to the community. He currently Chairs the Board of Directors for the Colorado Springs Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and advices on several other non-profit Boards in El Paso County and Denver. He has a BS in Business Management and MS in Organizational Leadership and International Management.

“I not only left the consultation a bit more educated but boy was I inspired! Ramon [Alvarez] is a true mentor and amazing human

JJ Lopez

“Ramon Alvarez es un escelente persona.”

Francisco Solis-Moralez

“Estamos agradecidos por el apoyo que nos brindan, muchos conocimientos que si ponemos en prácticas lograremos realzar nuestras ventas, asesoría precisa y enriquecedora.”

Maria Silva

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Business Service & Solutions, Inc. “guides and inspires others”

by Dean J. Miller

Current headlines underscore hard lessons of history as they are dusted off and the nation learns them once again. Tariq Collins, Sr. is helping to teach a better outcome.

“If you’ve been blessed with the vision to see a problem, you’ve an inherent responsibility to make a change,” said Tariq. “To the Black community: Stay educated, know yourself, and have a vision of who you want to be. For others who want to help: Assist in whatever way you feel necessary that paves the way without creating a handout; To everyone: if you see something, do something.”

Spoken slowly and with conviction, these are the words of Colorado Springs businessman and veteran, Tariq Collins, Sr. The Bronx native, raised in Atlanta, settled his young family in the Pikes Peak region following Army service at Fort Carson. Today, Tariq helps lead a growing conglomerate of family businesses in Colorado Springs, Atlanta and Miami.

“Through our family’s efforts, we guide and inspire others to take control of their lives and become their own boss – that’s the drive,” said Tariq. “Our business lines place us in crucial areas: food that contributes to health; safe transportation; financial, business and logistical success, and a strong real estate effort.”

In Colorado Springs, Tariq and other members of the family shape the success of Business Service & Solutions, Inc., to empower individuals and cultivate entrepreneurs with tax preparation, business consultants, bookkeeping, business plan development and more. But he is equally involved in family businesses that buy and flip property; provide private car services; operate a farm-to-table restaurant model; and provide custom product packaging.
“Growing up, we didn’t have wealth; our parents were our greatest assets,” said Tariq, one of 11 siblings. “Our parents taught us right from wrong and we listened.”

In 2019 Tariq completed certification to teach Google’s nationally acclaimed, “I am Remarkable,” course and conducted it for the Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center.

“The course allows everyone to help minorities and people of color – the groups society likes to put labels on – to be seen, heard, and express themselves,” said Tariq. “It’s a great program, but not a cure for the hard social challenges the nation struggles with; but it’s a start.”

The 90-minute session allowed the audience to stand and share their own truth as powerful testimonials. Tariq is proud to deliver the popular course at no charge.

“It’s important to give back — both as an entrepreneur and as a business owner,” said Tariq. “Information like this should be given out; this is how you make the world a better place.”

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Shaula Denton image

Shaula Denton

With a commitment to supporting business owners, Shaula Denton joined the Pikes Peak SBDC team as the Customer Service Representative in January 2020, swiftly advancing her role to Consulting Coordinator & Client Navigator.

Drawing from over 25 years of entrepreneurial experience, Shaula has a proven track record, having owned and operated a thriving event rental business and launched a successful power washing company serving the Denver-metro area. Recognizing the growing demand for high-quality event rental services, she expanded her ventures by launching a second rental company catering to the Colorado Springs market. Notably, in 2021, Shaula played a pivotal role in the successful launch of a brewery, demonstrating her strategic acumen and business expertise.

As the Pikes Peak SBDC Consulting Coordinator and SBDC Business Consultant, Shaula continues to make an impact in the community, helping businesses of all sizes achieve their goals and thrive.

Shaula’s professional journey has always revolved around service to others. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Radiologic Technology and enjoyed a fulfilling career as a Radiologic Technologist for 7 years before venturing into business ownership.

Raised in a military family as the daughter of a USAFA graduate, Shaula moved around the world before settling in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she completed high school and attended the University of Nevada Las Vegas. In 2001, she and her family moved to Colorado to pursue her love for the mountains and to start an event rental business.

Outside of professional endeavors, Shaula enjoys spending time with her two adult children and parents, who all reside in the Denver-metro area.

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Mackenzie Tamayo

Mackenzie has over fifteen years in the hospitality industry, most notably as the Sales Director of The Pinery at the Hill and Business and Marketing Regional Director for Altitude Hospitality Group. Mackenzie has assisted in opening and/or strategizing with a handful of local hospitality businesses including Sprig Eats, Till Kitchen, GOG Market and Café, The Pinery at the Hill, GOG Catering, Kinship Landing, Hearth House Venue and many more. With ties to various nonprofits in the area including Dream Centers, Mary’s Home, Converge Lecture Series and the like, Mackenzie is well versed on both the for-profit and nonprofit experience. Mackenzie has planned and executed over 1,000 events in the Colorado Springs and metro areas as well as received the Visit COS Community Builder Award and CSBJ Rising Star Award. She also assists in running the ‘my_cosprings’ flagship Instagram/social page which provides a guide to the best of Colorado Springs for locals and travelers alike.

Mackenzie is excited to join SBDC to assist with local businesses who desire to gain consulting, up-to-date knowledge on COVID-19 resources and ultimately curate the strength and bandwidth to ensure their business is successful.

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SBDC consultants help entrepreneurs bring Air O Sport to market

By Dean J. Miller

On weekends and after school growing up, Mike Kinner pedaled his bike to the family business where he worked under the encouragement and guidance of his father. In time, he gained strong work ethic, became a skilled supervisor, and learned the value of community support as the family literally rolled in the dough establishing the award-winning, regionally renowned, “Donut Mill,” with legendary bear claws, cinnamon buns and more.

While ownership of the Woodland Park, Colo., Donut Mill eventually changed hands, Mike recalls that sweet treats of the ‘Mill were enjoyed by all – a key point that would guide Mike’s journey as an entrepreneur nearly 20 years later in Colorado Springs.

“My wife, Stephanie, and I are really big on sports and backyard games,” said Mike. “Today, we have two children, daughter McKenzie, age 4, and son Samuel, age 1, and we’re all about barbecues and backyard fun.”

But in 2017, the couple realized not everyone was having fun. “It seemed every game in the backyard would isolate somebody,” said Mike. “Games were either too competitive and a grandparent or child couldn’t play; or a teen thought the game wasn’t ‘cool’ enough.”

In that moment, Mike and Stephanie, a New Hampshire native, were sparked to design something new: a game that would be fun for all ages, allow for individual or team play, be adaptive to people of all abilities, be challenging in the backyard or park, and scalable for tournaments at schools, clubs, camps and for inside or outside play.

Over the next 18 months the couple hand-crafted six prototypes, worked with manufacturers and brought designs to local parks to seek community feedback. A true family affair, daughter McKenzie regularly helped with quality control, adding water balloons to the game as a personal favorite.

To ensure adaptability, students at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind were introduced to the game and provided crucial feedback. Bells were added to allow visually impaired athletes to enjoy the thrill of a game-winning shot.

The result: Air O Sport, a tower of brightly colored, reactive rockets that fall with a direct hit from beanbag-discs through multiple ways to play: individually or with teams, casually or high speed, and options to add bells, glow sticks, water or strength-training movement. Development included game rules, scoring and strategy.

Throughout the effort, the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center provided confidential consulting, offered entrepreneur-focused workshops, and provided guidance in accessing federal assistance.

“Our Pikes Peak SBDC volunteer consultant, Carrie Clarke, was a game changer,” said Mike. “She provided pivotal insight that allowed us to fill our first orders and she was incredibly helpful as the pandemic hit.”

With a background in law and a passion for business growth in Colorado Springs, Clarke helped the Kinner’s through considerations in planning, marketing, business systems and operations.

“Consultants provide entrepreneurs a fresh look at their business plans,” said Clarke. “A trusted outside perspective can make a world of difference. The Kinner’s are a perfect example of entrepreneurs who had a great idea and sought assistance to produce it and take it to market.”

And bring it to market they did. In 2019, with their prototype racing toward initial production, Mike went on trade show tours selling directly to schools, camps, colleges, and recreation programs.

As game development and pre-sales climbed, there were realities: the young parents had to continue to earn a living. Stephanie carried on as a dental hygienist; Mike served as a consultant in the home remodeling industry. And there was bigger news: Stephanie was pregnant with Samuel and doctors were worried about his health.

“There were heart breaking discussions with doctors and long nights,” said Mike. “We put our faith in God and prayed as the pregnancy continued.”

After two years of development and late nights, the Kinner’s committed nearly $150K to initial production. In June 2019, their manufacturer delivered: their garage was stacked to the ceiling with Air O Sport games. Following a quality inspection, they shipped orders on time to 40 states. Through camps, schools, and colleges, more than 50,000 would be introduced to the game that first year.

Two months later, the Kinner’s welcomed Samuel into the world. The child was born with medical challenges and spent some of his first months in intensive care. Stephanie has since completed certified nursing assistant training to care for Samuel.

“I feel it’s my duty as his mother to give him the best care possible,” said Stephanie. “At one year old, he’s a warrior; he shows us each day how personal our decision has become to make Air O Sport accessible to all.”

In November, Air O Sport was the featured product at the Orange County, Calif., National Adaptive Physical Education Conference resulting in sales from throughout the country.

While Air O Sport online sales and social media buzz continue, arrival of the pandemic hit the company hard. Trade shows, community demonstrations, team sports and summer recreation are at a full stop.

“Pikes Peak SBDC has been crucial throughout the pandemic; Carrie provided great advice to examine our marketing,” said Mike. “While we hadn’t initially marketed for home use, Air O Sport is the ideal game and gift for families and groups social distancing together – it’s a game the whole family can enjoy.”

Today, a new version of the game for pool use is in development along with user guides applying both versions as character development and social-emotional learning (SEL) tools for home school and other academic environments.

“The focus and importance of character and SEL skills couldn’t come at a more crucial time,” said Mike. “The pandemic continues to impact us all and we will need safe, effective ways to ensure emotional well-being. Air O Sport will be part of the answer and so will the Pikes Peak SBDC.”

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