Eagle businessman hopes to lend a hand | VailDaily.com

Eagle businessman hopes to lend a hand

NWS Paul Kulas DT 10-26-10

EAGLE, Colorado – When Paul Kulas went into business for himself 21 years ago, he got a little help with rent and a lot of good advice. Now he hopes to give some advice to others starting their own businesses.

Kulas, an entrepreneur in the communications technology business and the founder of the coming “Zelda B” social media site, is opening his office to the public every Friday morning. He won’t write code for you, or fix your balky computer. Instead, he wants to be a resource or a sounding board for others.

Kulas said he’s been frustrated by the tone of the country these days.

“Everybody’s complaining, but nobody’s taking any steps to make anything better,” he said. Thinking about how he can help led to this idea.

“Helping others is what our country was founded on,” he said. “It seems like our mains problems today are selfishness and greed.”

So beyond helping other entrepreneurs, Kulas hopes he can set an example for others.

“Everybody talks about education, but if five people in every community volunteered in schools once a week, or if someone could take a couple of hours to help people learn to eat right … ,” Kulas said.

While Kulas is a big believer in helping how he can, technology is his specialty and passion.

He believes people starting small tech companies in the valley may be the answer to a question that’s rung in the valley since skiing caught on – what can fuel the local economy besides tourism and real estate?

“Technology is how we can cure ourselves,” he said.

But in all the ways technology changes lives and economies for the better, Kulas has enough time in the business to be fully aware of the other side of that coin.

“People really aren’t aware of the dangers on the Internet,” he said. “People don’t know what to watch for.” And, he added, some of the brightest people in the field today are working on the wrong side of the legal and/or moral divide.

But people who want to see if they can succeed in the field can find slow or tough going. That’s why Kulas wants to help.

“If I can help some people learn about technology, or starting a blog, hopefully they’ll do that for somebody else,” he says.

The idea of helping others just starting in a field is nearly as old as business itself. In fact, Kulas had more than one helping hand as he was starting out in the early 1990s.

Just after setting off on their own, Kulas and his partner found a landlord willing to cut them a break on their rent, and who didn’t require a lease for the new business’ first year open.

Someone else, now a longtime friend, helped with advice.

Jack Taylor, who runs the Colorado Small Business Development Center at Colorado Mountain College in Dillon, said those helping hands can be crucial for any startup business.

“We really encourage people with startups to talk to people in that business, or a similar business,” Taylor said.

Taylor’s office, which serves the northwest corner of the state, is also a resource to both new and existing businesses, and provides free counseling to virtually anyone who asks for it. The center also puts on low-cost seminars several times a year.

Taylor said the center provides as much no- or low-cost service as possible to business owners, and said he’s always looking for more people willing to help.

Jill Anderson, Hollis Dempsey and several partners last year tried to start a business help service called Strive and Thrive. The nonprofit group started a website with numerous tips from several professions, and last year held a contest for a “business makeover.”

Since the makeover – awarded to Fly Fishing Outfitters of Avon – was finished early this year, Strive and Thrive has gone into a kind of hibernation.

“We’re trying to figure out what we want to be,” Dempsey said. “We all own and operate our own businesses, and we found out that what we were offering was already avaialble in other places.”

Dempsey, a co-owner of Human Resources Plus in Eagle, said she’s discovered that http://www.biz.gov, run by the federal Small Business Administration, is a good place for entrepreneurs to find advice.

But, Anderson said, the idea of Strive and Thrive is still alive.

“The premise was to give back,” Anderson said. “Now we’re trying to do this on a bigger scope.”

Kulas hopes his idea catches on with a bigger audience, too.

“I’d like to see 1,000 of these things spring up around the country – people saying, ‘I’ve got a few hours a week, and I can help others,'” he said.

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.

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