Kelly and Will Watters were working as skiing and fly-fishing guides when they began searching for functional, yet stylish clothing that would be stretchy, breathable, and water-resistant, and also appropriate for wearing downtown to meet a client.
“We started out of a personal need,” said Kelly, who with her husband founded the active apparel company Western Rise in 2014. “We discovered a lot of clothes were not the style we were looking for. They were not something we’d wear every day. We were hunting for more classic, timeless clothing we could incorporate into our wardrobe.
“We wanted one set of apparel that would perform for all of those things; less is more.”
Looking to grow their company, the Watters turned to Region 10, a Montrose-based nonprofit that offers assistance for new and expanding businesses in six western Colorado counties. The Telluride-based company got a major boost in June after it received a loan from the Rural Business Loan Fund Statewide Collaboration through the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.
“It’s a new funding source available; Region 10 was the first Loan Fund in the state to successfully disburse the funds,” said Region 10 Business Loan Fund director Dan Scinto, noting there are additional funds available for similar start-up projects.
The loans are geared toward businesses in underserved markets (the Western Slope, for example where there is less access to capital). The program also distributes loans based on the companies’ merits – “the people operating the business versus the proven cash-flow of the business,” Scinto said.
Will Waters is a third-generation fiber manufacturer who understands how to custom-design fabrics to be high performing.
“They have a true passion for the fibers and the process of materials that go into their products,” Scinto said.
Region 10 provided valuable business advice and helped them navigate the loan application process, Kelly said.
The loan they received allowed the Watters to grow their team, focus on reaching “higher sales goals,” and purchase inventory. Western Rise generally launches new collections seasonally, but is looking to move toward a monthly collection launch, Kelly said.
The company brought on three new employees this year, doubling its team members from three to six.
“We expect to add two more employees in spring of next year,” Kelly said. “We’re trying to grow our base office in Telluride. It’s been a great community for our business. Telluride is an awesome place to product test – if it holds up in Telluride, it will hold up anywhere.”
Region 10’s Business Loan Fund assists local businesses and non-profits located within Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel counties. The Business Loan Fund focuses on loans that help create or retain jobs, and/or establishes or expands needed businesses in the region.