[copperpress-advertserve-ad zone="3"]
ARCHIVED  April 1, 1997

The Network

Laramie entrepreneurs get a little help from more-seasoned veterans

LARAMIE — One of the greatest assets a young entrepreneur can have is a network of friends and associates who provide leads to new business and clients.

Nowhere is that more true than in Laramie, where an informal network of compatible businesses — some fledgling, others more established — are working together to help nurture each other by using each other’s services and steering new business to the community.

Running through their network like a common denominator is the University of Wyoming, the Internet and a love for Laramie’s laid-back lifestyle.

Wind River Visual Communication, for example, started three years ago as an informal partnership between two UW students designing and circulating bar flyers. They branched into posters and postcards, and today, they specialize in custom design work for companies in print, CD-ROM and on the Internet with a growing national clientele.

That probably wouldn’t have happened without a little help from their friends at two older Laramie software companies, Aspen Tree Software and IDES (Integrated Design Engineering Systems).

“We fell in with a good group of people … a real good network,´ said Kevin Schaff, president and co-owner with Dave Coleman of Wind River. Their company did some print work for both Aspen Tree and IDES, and those companies in turn recommended them to others.

“Here in Laramie, we definitely appreciate all of our customers, but it’s really nice to have people like Aspen Tree and IDES,” Schaff added. “They’ve both brought us bigger names to work with, and that’s helped us to hit other markets. That’s been real great, and that network’s been the most important key.”

Nobody appreciates the importance of networks more than Aspen Tree’s founder and president, Brooks Mitchell, who also is a UW business professor who teaches entrepreneurship.

“Your networking and your connections are just critical, and if you don’t have them, I don’t know how you could ever survive,” Mitchell said. “One of the things we have at Aspen Tree that I’m willing to share with other people here is our connections, and we’re doing that with Wind River.”

Mitchell founded Aspen Tree 17 years ago in Texas, moved it to Laramie 10 years ago when he accepted a professorship at UW and has watched it take off on a “wild and wonderful ride” these past seven years. The firm specializes in designing computerized automated employee selection systems for big corporations, such as Coopers and Lybrand, Motorola, Macy’s and America Online.

“A company like ours ought to be in New York or Dallas, but we’re in Wyoming, and we capitalize on that,” he said. “Wyoming is a great marketing tool for us.”

“The Wind River boys – we’ve been able to introduce them to companies outside of Laramie they would never have contact with,” Mitchell added. “They couldn’t possibly get that kind of access without us. And they’re good guys. They’re doing big things for Motorola, Coopers and Lybrand, and we’re doing it right here in Laramie.”

Wind River also has benefited from its association with IDES, a 10-year-old software company headed by Mike Kmetz that specializes in software for the plastics industry, including a database service that allows people to survey plastics companies for material they need.

“Between us and Aspen Tree, we’ve provided them with a pretty good flow of business,” Kmetz said, adding that Wind River has given his company a new logo, new product literature and a redesigned Web site. “They’ve done some very, very creative things. We use them for any graphical communication work that comes up — we don’t even shop around.”

Sometimes a favor produces business. Wind River’s Coleman redesigned a newsletter for an organization Kmetz belongs to as a freebie, and now that organization wants to hire Wind River to design a brochure. And when Kmetz and Wind River wanted a plastics background for a magazine ad, they shot it at Allsop Inc., a plastic injection-molding manufacturing company that opened in Laramie last summer.

A key common denominator to this informal network, which includes several other young companies, is their link to the university.

“We all met through the university,´ said Wind River’s Schaff.

“The reason we’re in Laramie is that Laramie has the university,” Kmetz said. “The university serves us in many, many ways — it’s been very good to us. We all came out of the university, the majority of the core people here, and we all like Wyoming, and we wanted to stay here.”

IDES hires UW students to maintain its plastics database, paying them more than they’d make working in most student jobs while providing on-the-job training to boot.

“Ideally we’d like to have a feeder system, and if we continue to grow, we can do something like that,” Kmetz said. “It’s important for us to find people who want to live in Wyoming.”

Mitchell describes his relationship with the university as “symbiotic.” He often invites executives from firms served by Aspen Tree to speak at his classes, and while it’s sometimes difficult balancing his schedule, he describes his association with the university as a “perfect relationship, a win-win relationship.”

“The university attracts talent,” Mitchell said. “A lot of my employees here are former students of mine. I’ve had ’em for four years, you know, how can they fool me?”

The other common denominator is the Internet, which allows the companies to serve clients nationally and still enjoy the Laramie lifestyle. Mitchell calls it “the next industrial revolution” and predicts it will allow many other entrepreneurs to live and work in Laramie.

“With the Internet and the capabilities there, the opportunities just become immense, and more and more people can actually live in towns like Laramie and have a lifestyle here and not sacrifice anything. I think the Internet is the final piece of the puzzle that makes it happen,” he said.

If you doubt the power of the Net, just ask Kevin Schaff about Wind River’s next venture — a one-stop permanent e-mail center for those who are constantly changing e-mail addresses.

Laramie entrepreneurs get a little help from more-seasoned veterans

LARAMIE — One of the greatest assets a young entrepreneur can have is a network of friends and associates who provide leads to new business and clients.

Nowhere is that more true than in Laramie, where an informal network of compatible businesses — some fledgling, others more established — are working together to help nurture each other by using each other’s services and steering new business to the community.

Running through their network like a common denominator is the University of Wyoming, the Internet and a love for Laramie’s laid-back lifestyle.

Wind River Visual Communication,…

[copperpress-advertserve-ad zone="3"]

Related Content