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Steamboat Strong comes to aid of small businesses

A Steamboat Strong banner hangs on the front of Steamboat Veterinary Hospital in Steamboat Springs.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — North Routt’s Alex Mathisen was poised to have her best year yet for her wedding and event planning company, SoulSpark Events, when the COVID-19 pandemic virtually wiped out her income for the year.

“I’ve been scouring the web for funding aside from the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program), which hasn’t come through,” Mathisen said.

So when she saw a local fundraising group called Steamboat Strong on the Routt Responds Facebook page, she figured she had nothing to lose and applied for a grant. This week, the new, tiny nonprofit gave its first $500 grant to Mathisen. who will be using it to try and pivot her business.

“As a result of the money, I’m putting it back into the community to work on a new project with my contractors,” Mathisen said. “In order to survive, a business needs to be creative.”

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Steamboat Strong co-founder Eric Meyer came up with the idea to create bracelet kits that would keep local kids busy while raising money for small mom-and-pop businesses.

“We’re not a big money group,” said Meyer, who owns Steamboat Roasters. “We’re just giving folks a way to feel like they’re doing something, especially the kids.”  

People can pick up the bracelet kits and then get commitments from those willing to buy the bracelet creations, which include the words, “Steamboat Strong.”

Meyer said he watched his business drop 98% in the first week following the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, and while his business is temporarily wrecked, his family is in good condition. But he’s worried about the small businesses that he said are being left behind by bailouts going inadvertently to larger businesses who muscled out the little guys.

“The goal is to give business owners generic Visa cards to do with as they please — be it pay the electric bill, make rent or help their employees,” Meyer said.

Seven-year-old Noel Clark and sister Natalie went to work with their parents to create the bracelet packs, and they’ve already gotten commitments from family in Hawaii and Pennsylvania to buy their Steamboat Strong bracelets.

Noel Clark works on her Steamboat Strong bracelet to help raise money for small businesses in the Yampa Valley. The Clark family of Steamboat Springs has gotten several commitments from their own families in other states to donate money and wear the bracelets.
Courtesy photo

Mom Rochelle Clark manages several local businesses and wanted some way to soften the hit taken by those businesses.

She and husband, Ryan Clark, have been giving out Steamboat Strong bracelet kits at City Market and Walmart, but they encourage folks to visit the SteamboatStrong.org website or Facebook page to learn where to pick up bracelet kits for themselves.

“We’re looking for people to help get the word out about the bracelets,” said Rochelle Clark. “And we want to make sure people really understand how small businesses are being affected.”

Meyer hopes to give out small grants to local businesses once a week. Residents can also donate directly to Steamboat Strong on their website or email organizers at help@steamboatstrong.org.

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


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