The entrepreneur bug bit Colorado native Curt Richardson at an early age. he started his first business—organizing and overseeing neighborhood-wide garage sales, where he kept a percentage of the proceeds—as a fifth grader. By the time he was 21, he owned a company that manufactured and imported molds for companies like Mattel® and Display Technology.
In the early 1990s he built the first prototype of a waterproof case to house electronic devices in his garage. Today, that company is Otterbox, a global company designing and making tough, waterproof phone cases.
“I saw what it was like trying to build a business on my own, with little or no feedback, input, and support from people who were in my shoes—other entrepreneurs,” says Curt.
When you walk into a place like the Forge BVI, Curt goes on to explain, you experience collaboration, camaraderie, community, connectivity, culture, and creativity. When Curt thinks of C-level, these are the words that pop into his brain. The Forge BVI is a fulcrum that supports entrepreneurs as they concentrate on cultivating their companies. It’s where foundations are built.
And that’s why he was so keen on bringing a coworking facility to the BVI. Curt doesn’t want to see the next generation of business leaders wasting—sometimes years—of time learning how to build and run their companies successfully. If coworking had been around when Curt was at the beginning stages of Otterbox, it would have grown into the company it is now much sooner, he believes. “I was working in my business, not on my business,” he says. “I was putting out fires, and trying to figure out things as they were happening, instead of anticipating them and planning ahead. You have to fight those fires, that fire-fight of the day, but you also have to work on the business. Most people just fight the fires and they think that is business.”
The Forge BVI won’t just be a common office space where entrepreneurs come with their laptops, plug in their headphones, and work in communal isolation. It’s where serious business owners can come to bounce ideas off one another, become educated in business fundamentals, and build world-class companies.
Coworking facilities have sprouted up all over the United States. But in such a large country, they barely creates a ripple in the pond. The BVI, which occupies a much smaller footprint, will see a greater impact. Curt and his wife and business partner, Nancy, want to make an investment in the new place they call home, and “move the economic needle, helping people to start businesses that create jobs and can make a real change here.”
Curt with a business coach for seven years after many starts and stops at the beginning of Otterbox. A proponent of the E-Myth (Entrepreneurial Myth) principle, which espouses the mistaken concept that most businesses are started by people with tangible business skills, when in reality, most of these endeavors are started by “technicians” who know almost nothing about running a business. And they fail. Miserably.
E-Myth teaches how to view the business from an entrepreneurial perspective (How must the business work?) rather than a technician’s perspective (What work has to be done?) That’s a very basic and simplified overview, but you get the picture. Success hinges on the approach, not necessarily the technique.
“I hope we bring that kind of curriculum to the Forge,” states Curt. “That’s what entrepreneurs need. They need that foundation in order to be creative in their business.”
“My hope is that the Forge brings to a new generation of people—that are hungry to do it right and to learn—solid business practices so they can succeed and make a difference in the BVI’s economy,” says Curt.
Any type of business stands to benefit from a Forge BVI membership. While tourism is certainly a driving economic force, adjunct industries thrive from the waves of visitors that wash up on the BVI’s shores. Food services, experiential businesses, and other service businesses that depend on tourism look to be the frontrunners. Product-based businesses don’t number as highly as their service-based counterparts, though Curt would be thrilled to see makers start exporting their wares.
Coworking is for any business owner, not just the young, hungry entrepreneur. Established business owners looking to hone their skills and up their knowledge base are welcome to join the facility. “I think it would great if some old guy like me came to the Forge and said I need help,” laughs Curt.
For Curt and his wife, Nancy, investing in the BVI goes much further than creating the Forge. It’s really about the people. “We could buy properties and do something with them,” he says, “but really, we’d rather empower the people who live here to do that and reinvest in the community. It’s much bigger than us starting a business here and a business there.”
Another component of the Forge BVI is the concept of philanthropy and giving back to the community. That’s one area where Curt and Nancy lead by example. They have been active in the West End’s “Pack to School” program, which provides more than 500 school children with backpacks stuffed with supplies and materials.
“It’s just one way we can give back to a community that blessed us,” said Curt. “We don’t do this to get something monetarily. Be sure that we get something from this. It’s not in our heads, it’s in our hearts. We get something that is much more powerful, because we get back by watching the people of the BVI gain.”