Sometimes a little bit of capital – somewhere in the range of $2,500 to $3,500 – is all a business owner needs to get started or to make a small change. This capital can help build a website, buy equipment, or – as the story of Ron Edwards will show you – open a vibrant, Caribbean-themed café in Crested Butte.
Back in 2014, the Small Business Resource Center (SBRC) and Region 10 started the “Small Changes Loan” program. The goal of the program was to increase access to microloans that were not readily available from traditional lenders.
The application process is expedited. The initial consultation fee and closing costs are waived. Collateral is not required. The terms are reasonable: up to five percent fixed interest over a 12 to 18 month period. On top of everything, a free download of QuickBooks is the cherry on top of the cake.
Since its inception, Small Change Loans have made a positive impact on a number of businesses. Ron Edwards’ Heartsong’s Caribbean Crunchies is one of those success stories.
Born in New York, Edwards’ journey to Western Colorado is a story of resiliency. He started in the Marine Corps in 1981, which brought him to Southeast Asia – a place that drastically changed his “relationship with food.” The unique cuisine of the region inspired him to “understand the connection between the entire process of cooking – the aromas, the presentation of the bright colors of fruits and vegetables and meats, chicken and fish grilled to perfection right in front of you.” It is where especially fell in love with ginger.
“When people eat my café, they get to understand what love tastes like.” ~Ron Edwards
An impromptu visit to Crested Butte on his 32nd birthday created a domino effect that established his roots in Western Colorado. On the fourth day of his visit, he was hired to build a log cabin just above Crested Butte. “There I was, on my fourth day in Colorado, on a bed of pine needles, staring at sky that I could almost touch,” Edwards reminisces. “It’s a moment that made me weep and still sticks with me today.” He was asked to continue for a few more weeks and upon completion opened his own wood finishing business. He also began playing his own brand of jazz, blues, and ballads at the Grand Butte Hotel.
After a stint in New Mexico, Edwards returned to Crested Butte with a new philosophy on life. He was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2006 and suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2010. Despite these hardships, he remained genuinely positive. His health situation inspired him “to love more despite how I feel.”
Based on his deep love of food and its relationship to good health, Edwards started making crunchies, an organic, ridiculously delicious snack food posing as a “cookie” at the farmers market in 2014.
After the farmers market ended, the local demand for his crunchies continued to grow, so Edwards decided to open a café. He found the perfect location, and began pursuing his aspirations before even confirming logistics. (With permission from the landlord, he began renovating the space two weeks before even signing a lease.)
Edwards’ natural entrepreneurial skillset took him a tipping point. He had secured private financing and successfully crowdfunded via an Indiegogo campaign, but it wasn’t quite enough to push his project to its ideal starting point.
A happenstance meeting took place that changed everything. Edwards met Linda Riba, Assistant Director for the SBRC, and their interaction led to a serendipitous realization: Edwards needed funding, and Riba recently spearheaded a new loan program designed specifically for projects like Edwards’.
“This was right on time,” Edwards referring to his introduction to the Small Changes program. “It’s such a niche lending mechanism.”
With funding secured though SBRC, Edwards moved forward with opening Heartsong’s Caribbean Crunchies. The quaint location – 403 4th Street in Crested Butte – a bright and vibrant tribute to Edwards’ Barbados roots.
His menu boasts a mostly organic lineup, with the only exception being the chicken and beef, which is all raised on Colorado ranches. “We know who the farmers and ranchers are,” Edwards shares. Crowd favorites include gluten free crunchies, mango-ginger lemonade, jerk chicken, black eyed peas and coconut rice, and “Unruly Spice Tofu”. Offering vegan and vegetarian plates along with meat dishes meet the local demand for organic food and fits most food preferences. The popularity of the food is often attributed to how Ron seasons all his foods and drinks.
Heartsong’s mission statement – “to provide a place of peace, to serve joy, love, and laughter with organic foods and drinks” – personifies the genuine, humble, and fun-loving nature of Ron Edwards.
“When people eat at my café, they get to understand what love tastes like,” Edwards beams.