Small-business owners are the lifeblood of the Snowmass business community, and Jenny Smith and Marty Swanson are two young entrepreneurs who are expanding their local business ownership interests.
Marty and Jenny own Stripped, all natural drink mixers, and they have taken over the operations and are in the process of purchasing Holiday Seminars, a company that has organized physician group seminars in Snowmass for 32 years. In a couple of weeks we will focus on Smith and the seminar business. Today, we're focusing on Stripped.
Marty grew up in Washington, D.C., and attended Georgetown University. His high school had a group ski trip to Aspen, and Marty always wanted to return west and be a ski bum.
"I always knew I would live in a place where I could walk to a chairlift," explained Marty.
He convinced a friend with a car to travel west and explore Aspen. In town that first day they ran into a girl they knew from Bethesda, Md., and she steered them toward jobs and a place to stay. That was 1992, and Marty's been here ever since.
Marty worked the usual service jobs. At the Stonebridge Inn, where he was the bar manager for nearly 10 years, he met Jenny. They have been personal and business partners ever since.
In December 2005, Jenny and Marty opened Fuel on the Snowmass Mall, serving custom coffee drinks and breakfast and lunch specialties.
Owning a business in a seasonal resort was a challenge to the young entrepreneurs.
"To own a small business in Snowmass Village, you have to be an owner/operator to turn a profit," said Marty.
"You know your business inside and out (when you own and manage your own business), but it's also really demanding," added Jenny.
At Fuel, Marty and Jenny complemented the other's skills.
"Jenny created all of the menu items with a couple of exceptions that I put in there," explained Marty. "She is the creative side and has the business know-how from growing up in a family business. And I'm the practical operations with the kitchen and front of the house experience."
Jenny and Marty owned and operated Fuel for nearly five years until 2010. When they got the opportunity to purchase Holiday Seminars from Jenny's parents, they took the risk and sold Fuel to two long-time employees.
At Fuel, one of the drinks they sold was a natural drink they created called mint lemonade. The drink seemed to be a nice accompaniment with some of the alcohol sold next door at the Daly Bottle Shop, and a drink mixer was born. The only problem was that Marty and Jenny were maxed out running Fuel so their drink mixer ideas would have to wait - until now.
In February, Marty and Jenny partnered with a natural bottler in Denver and created three natural drink mixers - a sweet and sour mix, a mojito mix and a margarita mix. The mixers are made from real juice and organic cane sugar with water. There are no additives included.
Reed Lewis and Daly Bottle Shop in Snowmass were the first clients, followed a few days later by the Stew Pot. Now, the mixes are available in 24 locations up and down the Roaring Fork Valley. In Snowmass, you can find them at the Daly Bottle Shop, 81615, Sundance Liquor, Stew Pot, il Poggio, Big Hoss and Village Market.
"We started here in the valley self-distributing," said Marty. "Our plans are to get picked up by a small distributor, and we're in early talks to make that happen. We hope to expand to all of Colorado and eventually nationally."
In the Roaring Fork Valley, they continue to pick up new accounts with one new account last week and others in the works. They are also interested in talking with the new Whole Foods in Willits with the new liquor store next door being one of their clients.
Currently they are marketing Stripped through social media and word-of-mouth and are working on web pages and an expanded Facebook page where they have information about their products.
When they aren't working, Marty likes to get out and ski, hike, get on the river, and listen to live music. Both Marty and Jenny have recently taken up paddle boarding, which they love.
"I like the culture here in Aspen/Snowmass, the activities, and the fact that I can walk two miles into the woods," said Marty. "In Snowmass, I love the people and I love being part of the business community."
Steve Alldredge is the former assistant editor/writer for the Snowmass Sun. He now runs a local communications company whose clients include Related Colorado. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.