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It's Cold Outside, but the Ice Cream Still Tastes Good


January 15, 2009 — Kim Allen's doubts about establishing an ice cream franchise were alleviated soon after she opened her business in a strip mall on busy Dewar Drive in Rock Springs -- Sweetwater County residents love the ice cream creations, smoothies, cakes and shakes served up by the friendly and well-trained staff at the Cold Stone Creamery.

Allen had operated a daycare facility in Rock Springs for about 13 years but wanted to start something new that would help her family plan for a more secure retirement. She says her "ice cream freak" daughter was very impressed after sampling some of the products at the company's Casper franchise. Allen went to the company's Web site to inquire about establishing a franchise, and was surprised to hear from them the next day. They already were looking at Rock Springs as a potentially strong market to open a new store.

To get started, though, Allen needed to obtain a business loan, and contacted Mark Atkinson, the Rock Springs Region director of the University of Wyoming Small Business Development Center.

"Mark pretty much did all of the paperwork, and worked with the bank to create a business plan and make cashflow projections as requested by the bank and the SBA," Allen says. "His estimates were right on, and we were able to obtain the SBA guarantee and open the business."

She says people "have gone crazy" over some of the products, especially the ice cream cakes. Her sales have ranked as high as 11th in a region that includes 31 franchises in Utah, Montana and Idaho. This was despite a road construction project that disrupted traffic in the area for several months, and the colder temperatures. Fortunately, she says people enjoy ice cream year around, although sales decline during the winter.

"I don't have a business degree and didn't understand some of the business aspects of opening the franchise, but Mark was able to answer my questions," she says. "He's very knowledgeable, and did a really good job. I'll go to him if I have any more questions."

Atkinson says Allen deserves the credit for her early success.

"She was very tenacious in her investigation of the company and the requirements to start," he says. "The project had many setbacks, but Kim championed her way through each one of them."

With its main office located on the UW campus, the WSBDC is part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Wyoming Business Council. The WSBDC provides management assistance, educational programs and helpful resources for Wyoming small businesses and entrepreneurs.

The WSBDC offers low-cost educational forums and one-on-one counseling at no cost to participating businesses in areas such as planning, management, marketing, and finance. The WSBDC has regional offices throughout the state. For more information, call 1-800-348-5194, e-mail wsbdc@uwyo.edu or go to the Web site at www.wyomingentrepreneur.biz.

Atkinson's office is in Suite 205 of the Wells Fargo Bank at 1400 Dewar Drive in Rock Springs. He can be reached at (307) 352-6894, or by e-mail at matkins2@uwyo.edu.

Posted on Thursday, January 15, 2009

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