Finding “THE” site for “THE” soaking place on the Northern Front Range….
When securing commercial real estate in one of the most intense markets nationally for a new brick-and-mortar business like Soak Boulder, the zoning and land use ins-and-outs alone are quite complex and expansive.
But the real story is this….
While operating in a zone of significant perceived and real risk,
Soak Boulder’s success hinges primarily on its capacity to exercise and invite a profound level of creative collaboration.
No area of this business makes it more evident that radical collaboration is key than the search for a commercial location.
The Alps Boulder Canyon Inn is the fourth property we have seriously considered as Soak Boulder’s future home. Its rich history, quintessential Boulder charm, and dream location make The Alps an attractive option for charting the course forward. In short, it’s awesome, and, it’s not cheap. The multi-million dollar price tag does not deter us, and instead, inspires a new boldness in approach.
The Probability Factor (Multiples)
Until now, we have cautiously surveyed only one property at a time. But anytime a prospect fell through after weeks or months of work, it was back to square one. Every property is unique, so any serious exploration is an investment; from zoning challenges to city/county processes and design considerations to adjusted financial modeling, it takes significant resources (time and money) to explore the viability of each site as a potential location for this business.
The Alps immediately captivated our imaginations with its attraction and great practical potential. And while it could be the one (we’ll know more after we submit a special use review packet to Boulder County this fall), we are concurrently pursuing two other properties.
We recognize the investment in simultaneous explorations is worth it to accelerate the process.
Of the two alternative options, one is a downtown Boulder space, a relatively blank slate, where the soak and sauna experience would be fairly straightforward, and almost entirely indoors with no extra frills. As for the other, conversations are in process with the new owners of a third property that demonstrates potential to operate as a small resort (a la Ojo Caliente) with indoor and outdoor options, nestled right against the foothills and a literal rock’s throw from Boulder Creek!
It Takes a (Creative, Committed) Village
To actualize Soak Boulder on a reasonable timeline, we must activate and focus the people and resources required to secure a site in the next few months.
We are fortunately backed by an incredible team of advisors and experts including real estate agent, Peter Vitale of Cove Real Estate (also on the City of Boulder Planning Board), Scott Rodwin of Rodwin Architecture (see Japango), and Wren Farris, creatress of Soak HQ, to name a few. Having rallied a handful of key stakeholders committed to this vision and approach, we aim to tap an even greater network, inviting the collective wisdom needed to guide this process and catapult this vision forward.
This means getting uber creative and uber collaborative in several key areas:
Real Estate Purchase:
Soak Boulder is a major and unique build-out, so finding an aligned partner (or group of people) to invest in the real estate we need is an easier path forward than convincing a current owner to change the use of their building. This means stretching beyond the current network and perhaps pulling together a deal with multiple investors who may or may not have previously done business together.
A number of Soak Boulder supporters have raised their hands as connectors – offering targeted outreach and strategic introductions to key people in their circles. To maximize their efforts, we engage and equip connectors with simple language to convey what we do and why, Soak Boulder business basics to speak to how we do it, and three easy ways to make an introduction to our team.
Cultivating Allies and Partners:
Particularly at the municipal and county level, establishing relationship is critical. The aim is to illuminate the undeniable asset Soak Boulder is to the community while also adhering to the processes and protocols in place, demonstrating solid commitment, business acumen, and partnership.
As small business owners, we get a lot of advice thrown our way. Much of it is welcome, and we are very fortunate with the advisors drawn to support this vision.
No matter how awesome the person or perspective however, the bottom line is about whether or not we are operating in a way that is aligned with the purpose and core values of the business. We share the journey and insights gleaned from the exciting, wild ride of starting a business like this because the sooner you know this the better: there is no secret sauce. The only limits to creativity and possibility are whatever we believe they are.
And, we believe:
Having a clear vision doesn’t mean having it all figured out.
There are multiple paths to realizing the singular purpose of Soak Boulder. Involving other invested stakeholders in discovering how we get there simultaneously engenders trust in leadership and a clear zone for creative contribution and participation.
When there’s a YES, there’s a way.
In collaborative endeavors, discerning alignment is a critical first step and, ideally, people self-select. Since “yes” is a feeling and not just a thought, we aspire to provide clarity on the Soak experience as early in the process as possible to our tribe of potential stakeholders.
The “way it’s been done” is done.
By many traditional measures, we are underdogs. We don’t let that deter us. Instead, we innovate! We magnetize key players and resources by balancing confidence and humility, and by consistently maintaining curiosity and a learning mindset.
Being a “passion project” and being a big deal (BFD) are not mutually exclusive.
We don’t pretend we are playing in the VC world. We know what we are creating – as well as how we are going about it – appeals to and aligns with a spectrum of people who have the financial wealth and social capital needed to bring this vision into reality.
Our main job is to bring people together.
When you get a bunch of people in a room (at least, until soaking tubs are ready) who are excited about wise business strategy and solvent financial viability, and who are extremely passionate about self-care and their community, remarkable things happen.
In closing, we have our work cut out for us! But because we know there is more to landing Soak Boulder’s future home than simply raising capital and overcoming planning and zoning challenges, we remain dedicated and passionate as the humble and capable stewards, people mobilizers, and inspirational visionaries we are, bringing Soak Boulder to life!