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Starting a new business in this economy can be a harrowing
ordeal, but many upstarts are finding help from a likely
The South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual
business expo on Oct. 28, and several of the booths featured
companies that have opened in the past year. The gathering serves
as a crucial link between businesses new and old.
“This event, it’s already been very successful for us,” said
Tricia Engelbert, a Highlands Ranch resident and owner and CEO of
Lakewood-based 5280 Drug Testing.
Engelbert’s drug-testing company joined the chamber earlier this
month after being in business about a year. Her business has
enjoyed significant growth in 2011, especially since July, and the
expo brought her crucial exposure and contacts as she starts
looking to expand her operation to other south metro
Centennial-based Celebrity Lanes opened in September and is
seeking to spread the word about its offerings. The bowling alley
features a bar and grill with 40 beers on tap, a children’s zone,
an outdoor patio and special events. Business has been increasing
steadily, especially as the cold weather has arrived, but events
planner Katelyn Smith said connecting with other chamber businesses
will be an aid to further growth.
“It’s been great networking, making some contacts,” Smith
The expo featured about 90 local businesses, ranging from dental
practices to bakeries. Some were established — like Littleton
Adventist Hospital and Public Service Credit Union — while others
were just making their start. Regardless of where they are in their
evolution, Engelbert believes companies in a like-minded community
can learn a lot from each other.
“We’re stronger together than we are alone, and I want to be a
part of that,” she said.
Engelbert, a registered nurse and a mother of three, hopes her
drug-testing business can be more than a service for customers. She
hopes to form partnerships with the community to educate residents
about the dangers of drug abuse. She’s particularly passionate
about synthetic drugs, which have received a lot of attention from
cities such as Littleton and Centennial in recent months.
“It’s not just about the bottom line. We really want to make a
difference,” Engelbert said.
The expo, which in 2011 celebrated its 90th anniversary,
included a chamber board of directors meeting, a leadership awards
luncheon and an after-party. There also were professional seminars
on such topics as financing a small business, building sales
relationships and saving money for college. Because the first expo
was in 1921, many participants dressed up in clothes from that era
as part of a Roaring ’20s theme.
The south metro area of Denver includes several flourishing
communities. If strong, new businesses mesh with established ones,
the region could continue to grow despite economic troubles.
“Being a Colorado company, I’d like to invoke Colorado companies
to keep it local,” Engelbert said. “That makes all of us
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