Scott Franz: Steamboat should be proud of latest innovative business ideas coming out of Yampa Valley |

Scott Franz: Steamboat should be proud of latest innovative business ideas coming out of Yampa Valley

Yampaca's hats are made from alpaca fleece sourced from this herd just south of Steamboat Springs.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — From the “Fitbit for cows” to bamboo ski poles, I have always been impressed by the ideas and businesses that grow out of the Yampa Valley.

I walked into the manufacturing headquarters of Grass Sticks, the ski pole maker, a few years ago and was instantly inspired.

Inside a garage, they were filling out shipping orders and producing ski poles.

It's been pretty cool to see more and more ski poles on the slopes based on a concept that was started in a Routt County garage.

They’ve since expanded to include paddles for stand up paddleboards.

More recently, I learned that an alpaca herd I had been driving by south of Steamboat Springs was lending some of its fur to make comfortable, warm beanies through the new business, Yampaca

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It’s also becoming easier and easier to buy bacon, eggs and other agricultural items grown right here in the Valley on an online marketplace.

So, I wasn't too surprised last week when I headed to the Chief Theater for the Steamboat Launch event and walked away inspired, and impressed, by the latest round of business ideas coming out of the Yampa Valley.

Sure, there were highlights from other mountain towns with a duo trying to bring a hostel to Summit County and a Telluride businessman expanding his company that lets you use your iPad to write handwritten cards.

But the ideas from Steamboat were really out of the box.

Innovative Ag made a convincing sales pitch for a system that would bring fresh mushrooms to restaurants all across the Western Slope.

Who knew growing them in shipping containers could keep them fresh while also serving as an expedient delivery system?

And the highlight of the event, in my opinion, was the finale.

Steamboat entrepreneur Reed Jones pitched her business idea that aims to empower an entire generation by giving children the ability to run their own businesses online.

A partnership with Four Points Funding, a local angel investor, will help Jones develop the concept.

The pitch was simple.

"Kids make cool stuff, and they want to sell it," Jones told the crowd. "But they don't know where to start."

She said sites like Etsy, eBay and Amazon aren't user friendly, and they require fees up front.

So, Jones is hoping to build an e-commerce site called Yolotta that will give kids a platform to realize their dreams, even if it's just macaroni art.

She also envisions there will be an educational component that will let kids get lessons in starting up a bank account and how to market their products.

I’m confident there will be a couple of great products coming out of Steamboat on the Yolotta site if it launches.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.