Daycare in South Routt wins business plan competition |

Daycare in South Routt wins business plan competition

Kasey O’Halloran talks with a prospective client in the infant room at Little Lambs Daycare in Phippsburg.
Kari Harden

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The owner of a new South Routt daycare center and two architects with plans to make mountain homes more streamlined and affordable were top winners in the 2019 Community Business Plan Competition, sponsored by Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs and Yampa Valley SCORE — Service Corps of Retired Executives.

Kasey O’Halloran of Little Lambs Daycare in Phippsburg took home the first prize of $7,000.

“Kasey has clearly put a lot of time and energy into the business plan effort while finding a critical need in the community,” said judge Greg Friedman, a volunteer business mentor with SCORE, an offshoot of the Small Business Administration that supports start-up businesses.

The need was so great in South Routt that there was an immediate demand for Little Lambs’ service, O’Halloran said.

“We’ve found amazing relief from parents that they finally have an option,” said O’Halloran, who opened up for business in June after getting licensed by the state.

The CMC-sponsored competition allows for new businesses to enter as long as they’re located in the county and have operated for less than a year. Before Little Lambs opened, South Routt parents’ only options included home daycares and driving their children to Steamboat Springs. It was especially difficult for parents with babies. Part of O’Halloran’s business plan was making space for children age 2 months to 8 years.

She plans on putting the prize money away for emergencies.

“I’m very risk adverse,” said O’Halloran, who is an accountant with a marketing and international business degree. “We’re keeping it in savings in case of emergencies like a heater goes out.”

Randy Rudasics of CMC’s Yampa Valley Entrepreneurship Center, said this year’s competition was robust thanks to generous prize incentives provided by sponsors like the city of Steamboat Springs, Mountain Valley Bank, Vectra Bank, Yampa Valley Bank, Alpine Bank, Steamboat Pilot & Today and Startup Colorado.

The second-place winner was the team of JD Haskell and Erik Lobeck, local architects who co-own Anvil Modular Housing, a business focused on designing pre-fabricated homes that will fit into the mountain town environment.

At a glance

The Yampa Valley Entrepreneurship Center’s annual Business Plan Competition launches in spring with a callout for business plans, which are due by early fall. Free business plan writing workshops are often offered. Judging criteria is well defined and based on similar contests at Loyola University in Chicago. Current contest guidelines can be found at Plans are judged on 40% written presentation, 45% oral presentation and 15% financial viability. Judges are volunteers, often former business executives who help mentor business people and entrepreneurs in the community. The first-place prize is $7,000 with $2,000 worth of free marketing and $5,000 for second place.

“When most people think of modular homes, they all think of a design that hasn’t changed in 35 years,” said Haskell, co-owner of Anvil Modular Housing.

“Ours are regionally inspired and designed,” added Erik Lobeck, Haskell’s business partner and fellow architect. “Our targets are mountain towns that are located along the spine of the Rockies.”

Rudasics said Lobeck and Haskell submitted a detailed business plan that took into consideration everything from intense snow loads to knowing the size of the trucks that would be hauling in pieces of their pre-fab homes.

Lobeck said they’re aiming for a building cost of $225 to $250 per square foot, which is considerably less than current site-built homes that are averaging $325 to $400 per square foot.

Anvil has found a manufacturer in Utah that is already in the pre-fab building business, and now Lobeck and Haskell are looking for places to build a model so people can see the quality first-hand.

They currently have a basic website at with their contact information and one of their current designs, which include two-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath and three-bedroom, 3 1/2-bath models.

Others who entered the business competition included: Heidi and Jason Breidert with Wave Brewing, which produces kombucha; Cheyenne Carrell with Big Pine Trout, which stocks trout for private landowners; Matt and Carrie Rochon with Steamboat Ciders; and Ryan Ellis for Solstice Vans, which converts vans into camper vans and provides them as an Airbnb product.

Rudasics said no matter who takes the top prize every year, the Community Business Plan Competition has been invaluable for launching successful businesses due to the intense rules and regulations that force owners to really work at producing a coherent business plan.

Little Lambs’ O’Halloran agreed.

“It’s worth the energy you put into it,” O’Halloran said. “You get to examine your business so much more, and it helps you align your business. If you want your business to be successful, it keeps you focused.”

Judges were eight-year veteran Kemp Bohlen, a retired Hewlett-Packard executive; Friedman, a three-time judge and retired telecommunications executive and real estate developer; and first-time judge Carrie Reuben, a marketing executive and social entrepreneur who also is known as an “angel” investor.

The judges reviewed 11 entries this year and interviewed the six finalists in person.

“Frankly, the success of small businesses is one of my top priorities,” Friedman said. “I want Steamboat to be a community that supports locals who want to build businesses and create jobs.”

Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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