Part 1 left off with us leaving Longmont at the end of Week 1 of the PopUp Business School. A blog reader (Carol) had sent me ideas of places we might want to see when we weren’t in Longmont. (And we’d get to meet Carol later in the week!) So we headed five hours south on a route that took us through Boulder, Golden, and Colorado Springs. We tent-camped at a KOA in Pueblo and it was another warm, rain-free night.
We got up and headed 2 hours southwest to Great Sand Dunes National Park. If you haven’t heard of it, click on the link and check it out. It was AMAZING! This park is home to the tallest sand dunes in North America. It took us about 3 hours to wander through the dunes and make our way to the top. It is a physically demanding climb (for most people) and the sand got incredibly hot. (If you plan to go to the top, make sure you wear sunscreen, sneakers/hiking boots with socks, and take plenty of water!) Eye protection is important too because the sand blows around in areas. It was well worth the drive and we hope to go back someday!
We returned our sleds and headed to Durango. We drove the Million Dollar Highway through the San Juan National Forest to Ouray before dark. It was incredibly scenic but parts of it were scary too (and there wasn’t even snow!) Single-lane, winding roads through mountain passes will definitely keep your attention! But it was worth every white-knuckle second! We camped in Ouray at another KOA and almost every spot was full! The camp host shared that Ouray is “the off-roading” capital of the world. And there were 4-wheelers in almost every camp site!
Sunday morning’s drive took us north to Aspen and we decided to stop and check it out. We planned to take the gondola to the top to hike, but clouds were rolling in and a $70 ride wasn’t worth it. We missed out on a free gondola ride in Telluride which was about 10 minutes from our campground – and it was sunny in the morning too!
We decided to book an AirBNB* for Sunday & Monday night. The weather was threatening Sunday and we knew we’d be out late Monday night. And we headed to class on Monday morning ready for…
PopUp – Week 2!
We walked in to Pete’s “Headquarters” and everyone was sharing their weekend adventures. Monday’s focus was learning more about how to find customers online. We learned specific ways to use social media platforms like Twitter to search for people to connect with. Alan also explained boosted/promoted posts and when it might make sense to do that with your business. We also talked about trolls & naysayers and Alan gave us some great advice – “If there’s one thing you can remove from your life to make you happier – it’s comparisons. Just be where you are.” Pete also shared some wisdom about “getting in” with influencers and summed it up with “lead with the give – help people” – and “people to people is the answer – connect, make sure your values are aligned.”
And when class finished up Monday, a group of six of us headed to Denver for Monday night football! It wasn’t a very Mustachian night, but it was SO much fun! We’ll never forget taking Alan and Jack from PopUp to their first game! (Simon and Henry had left to go back to the UK to run another PopUp event! These guys are BUSY!) It was a terrific game that came down to the last seconds and the Broncos won!
On Tuesday, Alan taught us more about networking that works. We did group work on how to find the right people to work with and how to make connections. And in the afternoon, we got things done. We worked in small groups to identify our next steps and our friends helped us seek solutions to any problems we were encountering. It was a super productive day!
Wednesday’s class was all about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and how to get our websites noticed. We talked a lot about key words vs. “spammy” words. Alan also gave examples of how voice searches differ from typed searches and how that might affect SEO. We also had a classmate that worked for Google, so she shared all about Google Trends. I had never heard of that before and it is a really cool tool to try out! The day ended with the PopUp Top 10 Ways to Drive Traffic and the reminder to test, measure and try something new if it isn’t working!
A bunch of people in class took part in Longmont’s last Bike Night of the year. Longmont has Colorado’s oldest (14 years!) weekly family bike ride! We had different plans for the night! It was my first blog reader meet-up! Two wonderful ladies drove to Longmont to have dinner with us! We had a great conversation and by the time dinner was over, we were chatting like old friends! I gave Carol some advice about her blog and she hit publish this week! She is focusing on building a wonderful and joyful life by downsizing the number of hours you work! Read her first two posts at DownsizeYour2080.com!
We enjoyed coffee back at the Barking Dog Café on our way into class on Thursday! The focus of the day was how to present our ideas, tell our story, and share our “pitch” in ways that connect with our customers. We talked about tone of voice, body language, and the importance of being confident. After all of the activities, I think we were all much better at explaining our businesses! We also spent time in the afternoon learning about being creative with our businesses too. Most of us stayed at the HQ and enjoyed a cook-out and spending time with each other Thursday evening!
After we packed up the tent on Friday morning, we looked at the sandstone cliffs and river at the campground that had been our home for the last two weeks. We loved the tent camping and the weather certainly helped! We headed into Longmont for our last day of class – excited, but a little sad that it was ending too.
The focus of Friday was negotiations and asking for what you want. Alan stressed focusing on the long-game and building strong relationships with people we really want to work with. Pete also talked to us about keystone habits and happiness. He shared what makes him “tick” and how getting the “first hour right” helps the day flow more easily.
I think people spend a long time trying to figure out what makes them tick. Or they just try to use what makes other people tick and it doesn’t work out. We’re working on better defining that for ourselves right now too.
The day ended with Alan sharing 12 great PopUp “Gifts” for us to consider as we moved forward with our businesses. The Gifts included things like “business is about having money, not owing money” and “think big, start small” and my favorite, “the more you give, the more you get”. This is different than traditional advice given to entrepreneurs. But it makes SO much sense after spending two weeks with this team.
And before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye to this productive, supportive, and energetic group. And to Alan, Jack, and Pete. It was a fantastic two weeks of learning and of growing our circle of friends. We are still connected by a Facebook group, an email list, and we have a Google Spreadsheet with all of our business ideas. It will be terrific to see what ideas stick and how others take what they learned to develop new business ideas too!
I am hoping to highlight some of these new businesses over the next few months. I think you will love what members of the group are doing!
But our trip didn’t end there! We still had four days to enjoy, so we headed through Rocky Mountain National Park toward Steamboat Springs. After we left the front range, it was much colder (30’s at night), so we stayed in a hotel Friday and Saturday night. (We’re not that brave – or frugal! There was snow in the high peaks each morning!)
Saturday we got up and did a 5 mile round-trip hike at Fish Creek Falls in Steamboat. The views were spectacular! And later in the day, we had our first PopUp Business Reunion in Steamboat! We had a terrific time hanging out at the upper deck at the Salt & Lime Restaurant with one of our “classmates”, her husband, and their teenage boys.
We spent time with them again on Sunday and we also got in a gondola trip up Steamboat Mountain and we spent a few hours at Strawberry Park Hot Springs! What a beautiful area! (I feel like I’ve said that about everything we saw in Colorado – but every turn was another amazing view!)
Sunday night we drove back to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and saw elk bugling and a bull moose. We stayed in a “camping cabin” in Elk Country Campground in Grand Lake both nights. The cabins were great! They had small electric heaters which was plenty to keep the space warm. They cost about $65/night – less than half of what we could find hotel rooms for in that area. Grand Lake was beautiful and the leaves in the area were just starting to change colors. We did a few short hikes and went back to see the animals in RMNP one last time. And the elk were bugling like crazy! SO COOL!
We headed back to Denver on Tuesday to catch our flight home. Luckily the plane was delayed an hour and we were able to check out Red Rocks Amphitheater! What a great venue! We definitely want to see a concert there.
Well that about wraps up the details of the trip. We are SO glad that we made the (smart) decision to go! We could have stayed home and worried more about getting our renovation under control and getting moved out of our house. But we decided that this is what retirement is about. The houses could wait. This vacation met all of the habits I wanted to focus on this year – keep moving, eat real food, help others, simplify, keep learning, explore, choose happiness and have fun.
If you have any interest in starting a small business or if the entrepreneurial spirit strikes you down the road, you can check out the PopUp Business School online. My predictions? PopUp will be back to the United States within the year AND PopUP will become a destination learning vacation for people when they discover HOW GOOD these guys are. (And remember – the classes were free to us because PopUp’s model uses sponsors rather than charging students.)
In my next post, I’ll share our expenses and compare them to the predictions I made in the post where I announced we were travel hacking our way to Longmont for our first retirement trip! I’ve never kept track of expenses (and we don’t have budget either!) We’ll see where our frugal habits saved us money and where we spent more money than we thought!
As always, thanks for reading! Is anyone out there interested in starting a small business – or have you started one recently? What about you bloggers – do you consider your blog a business, or is it just a hobby? Would you be interested in attending a two-week PopUp school?