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Moonshot Mentors Bringing Expertise to Local Startups

One manufactures the next generation of outdoor gear to protect camping and backpacking provisions from being ransacked by rodents, birds and other critters. Another is a band of self-described “renegade recyclers” addressing the problems of plastic waste products. A third is giving the time-honored task of tutoring a facelift with technology.

While the products and services provided by these companies are quite different, they have some notable similarities.They are Flagstaff-based businesses working with Moonshot at NACET, the region’s entrepreneur development program, and they are all mentored by Leonard Quimby.

Quimby is a recent transplant to Flagstaff, having moved here last year. A serial entrepreneur who has started half a dozen successful businesses and sold three of them, he currently is the chairman of Sonherd, a business acquisition company that has 11 brands ranging from a brokerage agency to a school supply store.

“I started out my career in sales – door-to-door, sitting-at-the-kitchen-table type sales,” Quimby said. “A good 15 years in, I realized that my most important commodity was not money but time, and the only thing that affords latitude with time is not having to answer to anyone else.”

It is a philosophy that Quimby is bringing to the companies he mentors – Armored Outdoor Gear, Praxis Waste Solutions and Tailored Tutoring – as he coaches them in starting or scaling their businesses.

Moonshot at NACET has eight volunteer mentors assigned to its entrepreneur clients. Their insights, coaching and expertise are all key to the success enjoyed by Moonshot’s startup clients, said Moonshot President and CEO Scott Hathcock.

“All of our mentors are successful entrepreneurs in their own right, so they have the experience, but we also ask that they have a passion for seeing others succeed,” he said. “In Leonard’s case, he just connects very well with people and he goes above and beyond in his dedication to these companies.”

It is a view shared by the company founders with whom Quimby works.

“Leonard has helped Armored Outdoor Gear and myself more in the last few months than anyone else has,” said Tom Monroe, who started the company with a partner back in 2002 as a side project and only pursued it as his full-time career 10 years later.

The manufacturer is housed in NACET’s business accelerator, and Quimby was introduced to Monroe when the company was undergoing some cash flow challenges. Monroe was working on buying out his former partner and, simultaneously, the company had just won a massive order, but did not have the funds for necessary materials.

Quimby helped Monroe negotiate with banks in order to fund both the buyout and meet increased production demands. Quimby is also helping the company with in-kind services, conducting an email marketing campaign on the company’s behalf to increase awareness of the brand. The result has been a “huge” increase in traffic to the company’s website.

“This is stuff I never would have been able to do on my own and I’m sure it would have cost me an arm and a leg to do it,” said Monroe.

Quimby is providing the service through Krackerd, one of his Sonherd brands, as an investment in Armored Outdoor Gear. Under contract with NACET, Moonshot mentors are allowed to make limited investments in the companies they are advising.

The company, whose goods are sold in REI and on the Walmart and Sears online stores, is poised to double its sales this year.

Quimby said that in the case of Armored Outdoor Gear, there were simple things to do that could accelerate growth. In the case of his other two mentees, his guidance has ranged from the basics of increasing revenues to helping a company as it realigned its entire business proposition.

Rob Lokken of Tailored Tutoring had decided to go from providing tutors on its innovative tech-based solution to licensing the platform to educational institutions. He credits Quimby with refining his presentation as he goes into pitch meetings and negotiations with schools and colleges. The company is on the verge of signing a major licensing agreement, Lokken added.

“Leonard speaks from experience, he’s amazingly diligent and he takes a very active mentor role,” said Lokken. “From the very moment I met him, I was impressed and that has just grown as we’ve worked together.”

For Praxis Waste Solutions, Quimby’s challenge was to take a trio of best friends who had an innovative idea about how to address challenges in the recycling market and turn it into a viable business, said founder Tyler Linner.

“As three passionate people who want to change the world, we sometimes don’t think about what’s profitable,” he said with a laugh. “But if we don’t have a business, we can’t change the world.”

Part of that, said Quimby, was helping them realize that something they were doing for free – waste management at events – could be monetized. Now, Praxis has multiple revenue streams from working events and a contract to handle waste management for all events at the Pepsi Amphitheater.

Quimby is modest about what he has been able to do to help each of these companies reach new levels of success. “It’s all due to their hard work,” he said. “I just spit out what’s in my head.” FBN


By Cindy May


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