BE Winners: Entrepreneurs behind 3 Abilene business work to grow despite COVID-19

BE Winners: Entrepreneurs behind 3 Abilene business work to grow despite COVID-19

2 Profs Gourmet Ice Cream, Belt Buckle Distillery and Moose Mountain Goods are ramping up production of their products for wholesale distribution. A fire that blew up over the weekend and burned 7,100 acres in the Bridgers continued growing slowly to the north on Sunday, and fire officials said there’s a lot A mixed-methods evaluation research study found that up to six years after engaging in a youth work internship, young adults (N = 54) continued to reg…

Editor’s note: Monday is Labor Day, when we celebrate the American worker’s contribution to this country. For three local businesses, the sky is the limit after receiving BE in Abilene Competition funding. For other business, also hopeful for success, their future is, at best, undecided because of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. This is a snapshot of Labor Day 2020.

COVID-19 is not waylaying plans for business growth for the three entrepreneurial winners in the 2020 BE in Abilene Competition. 

“I view it as hope, that we found three local businesses that show great potential for success and were found to be worth supporting at the local level,” said Brock New, director of business development and marketing for Abilene Industrial Foundation, one of the entities that manages the competition.

Belt Buckle Distillery and 2 Profs Gourmet Ice Cream each won $100,000, and Moose Mountain Goods received $50,000. The funds will help the companies ramp up production of their products – alcoholic spirits, ice cream and coffee, respectively – for wholesale distribution.

Development Corporation of Abilene developed and funds the competition, now in its third year.

BE stands for Build Entrepreneurs.

The AIF, along with Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship at Abilene Christian University and Small Business Development Center, assist in implementing the contest.

While some businesses are in a holding pattern during the pandemic, “the people who are going to persevere, in the long run, are the folks who are going to pivot and try to figure out ways to make business happen through it and not just wait until after it’s over,” New said. 

More:COVID-19 a shot to the Abilene SoDA District bar scene

The owner/operators behind this year’s winning businesses have in common the vision to sell their products beyond the Abilene market. In the age of COVID-19, distribution is a “huge” factor in crafting a formula for success, New said.

“It’s figuring out how you can get your product to market without having to have face-to-face interaction,” he said.

Following are profiles of the three winners and their vision for scaling sales beyond Abilene. 

Carley Dodd and his son, Matthew, bought Terry’s Ice Cream in Sweetwater in December 2017 and 12 months, opened a second location called 2 Profs Gourmet Ice Cream in their hometown of Abilene.

The Abilene store, at 1989 State Highway 351 near Interstate 20, has indoor and outdoor seating and a drive-up window. The real attraction, however, of the former Golden Chick location is its space for production now and long term. The father-son duo had an eye on wholesaling their premium product made with natural ingredients. 

Away from their own stores, the ice cream is available in pints at display cases at Tea2Go and by the scoop at Heff’s and Coastal Cookie at the Mall of Abilene, Dodd said. 

“We’re planning to expand beyond Abilene into many other locations,” Dodd said. 

The BE grant is earmarked for equipment, packaging and marketing, he added.

“When you take your product somewhere else, you can’t just say, ‘Here it is.’ You have to be able to make more of it at a time, and you have to be able to get it out there nicely packaged. We’ve made a whole new logo design already,” Dodd said. “The product quality is still the same, but redesigned the rest of it.”

Federal standards allow frozen products with at least 14 percent butterfat to be marketed as a premium ice cream. Products with less butterfat are labeled ice cream, or if they fall below 10 percent, ice milk.

At 2 Profs, the top seller is Giradelli chocolate ice cream.

“We constantly have to make more of that wholesale than we do any other flavor,” Dodd said.

Other leading flavors are salty caramel, Ande’s mint and strawberry cheesecake. 

2 Profs also makes Italian ice, which has about one-third the sugar of ice cream and no butterfat. The flavors are built on a sorbet base.

The company name is a tip of the scoop to the Dodds’ holding doctoral degrees, with the elder retiring from Abilene Christian University after 38 years. The younger has taught there and at McMurry University.

Making ice cream involves a lot of science, but it also is a product steeped in relationships, Dodd said, falling back on his former career as a sociology and communications professor.

“We really believe ice cream is a relational thing. It’s not that you just sit there and gobble it up. You enjoy it with other people. It provides opportunity to relate and talk and enjoy and also feel satisfied at the same time,” Dodd said.

About 18 months ago the Dodds earned a Texas manufacturing license, long before coronavirus entered everyday conversation. They continued to operate the storefronts during the pandemic, expanding to call-in orders and curbside service, and they are undaunted in their efforts to scoop out a bigger share of the region’s ice cream market.

“We didn’t shut down. We kept it going. We didn’t let go of any of our employees. We’re real proud of that,” Dodd said. 

He said they expect that kind of commitment to their retail customers to benefit them as they add wholesale customers. 

“We’re uniquely West Texan, so we can serve the West Texas region well and offer better customer service and adapt to the needs of our customers,” Dodd said. 

Long before Keith Sanders could legally drink alcohol, he was making it.

“I’ve been making beer and wine since I was about 15, and that was under the supervision of my parents. I was not ‘a-drinking,’ but I was ‘a-making,'” he said with a laugh. 

Sanders is partnering with his father, Larry, and Larry’s longtime pal Tim Yandell to launch the area’s only distillery in downtown Abilene, shooting for an October opening to start production. A tasting room will be added later.

The younger Sander’s home brewing interest, and in cooking as well, was piqued during a trip to Napa Valley as a teen.

“Since then I’ve been enamored with fermentation and the whole process that has to do with it. It’s a fascinating industry,” Sanders said. 

While an intern at Reed Beverage, Sanders entertained the idea of opening a brewery in his hometown, but discovered that the market already had several heavy hitters in that niche. Sanders said he pivoted to an untapped opportunity with the distillery. Efforts on the venture began in 2017 and continue despite the coronavirus.

“We can’t even start making things until the building is done. There’s a lot of crossing T’s for things, especially since it’s a federally regulated industry, so that is why it’s been so long-running,” Sanders said. “There’s been so much paperwork and regulation. There’s a lot of barriers and gates to go through. It’s been an adventure.”

The distillery initially will offer for distribution its signature recipes for a bourbon and gin produced by another manufacturer.

“It takes four to five years to make a good bourbon, and that’s just a luxury we don’t have, so we’re outsourcing right now. We have blends that we went out and found and we’re very, very proud of, and we’re going to barrel those and store those in Abilene and bottle them here,” Sanders said.

“Our gin is our specific recipe, so we’re excited about that,” he added.

The industry insights and connections gained during his internship led to an agreement for Reed to distribute Belt Buckle Distillery products to liquor stores, restaurants and bars.

“We have a huge market. We’re initially looking to sell in Amarillo, San Angelo, Abilene, Midland, Odessa, Lubbock, all the way up to Wichita Falls. So we have a massive market,” Sanders said.

“We’re in talks with some people in Houston and other parts of Texas, but right now West Texas is our initial focus, and Reed is absolutely the best partner to do that, and we’re very, very excited about the opportunity we can bring to each other,” Sanders said.

The company name is a tip of the shot glass to Abilene’s nickname as the “Buckle of the Bible Belt” for its many churches, Sanders said. There also is double meaning because of the ranches in the area.

“It’s just tongue and cheek.” Sanders said. “There’s a lot of plays on that. I thought it was clever.” 

The area’s history will inspire the distillery’s beverage names as well, from the old West days to the 1960s, Sanders said.

“Our first bourbon that we’re introducing is 13 Arrows. That is a story about a local fort, Fort Chadbourne, and a soldier that was run up by the Comanches and shot 13 times with arrows,” Sanders said. “He ended up surviving. It’s a nifty little story.”

Phantom Hill is the initial gin, referencing the area and lake north of Abilene.

“We’re looking forward to sharing the history of West Texas,” Sanders said.

Abilene firefighter Ben Cotton has been fond of coffee for so long he cannot remember the first time he home-roasted his first batch of green coffee beans.

“I started roasting coffee on my own on a grill and from there it just kind of progressed,” Cotton said. 

He tried several home roasting techniques, and even built a coffee roaster similar in shape to a barbecue smoker.

Cotton’s hobby has now turned a business, Moose Mountain Goods. 

“We have researched the many different ways to roast beans, toured well-established roasteries and learned from professionals that have gone before us,” said Lindsey Cotton, his wife.  

The venture is a family affair that includes sons Jackson, 15, and Lincoln, 10. The venture serves, in part, as a way to give the home-schooled boys a real-world education in running a business, Lindsey said.

She also runs a commercial and family photography business and is a bridal show producer.

Moose Mountain Goods is Abilene’s only coffee roasters, LIndsey said. But the family plans to brew sales beyond the city with the ability to ship online orders at their website to retail customers throughout the United States. And, they service commercial accounts. 

“We hope to expand into the grocery market soon, and continue growing our wholesale accounts with coffee shops and other storefronts,” Lindsey said. 

Since launching a year ago with one custom roast, the learning curve has been steep to streamlining operations and developing markets. The DCOA’s entrepreneur competition helped expedite the education.

“The BE in Abilene competition introduced us to a network of knowledge. The Small Business Development Center was incredibly helpful in fine-tuning our business plan,” Lindsey said.

The BE competition’s infusion of cash enabled the Cottons to upgrade their roasting equipment, tripling production. Cost savings came in other ways, too.

“We were also able to purchase inventory in higher volumes, allowing us to receive added discounts. This helps us increase our profit margin,” Lindsey said. 

The company now offers six different coffees, has three private labels and other options are in the works, Lindsey said. A decaffeinated coffee also will be offered.

During the pandemic, the Cottons experienced an increase in online sales. 

“Now that some businesses are open again, we are seeing an increase in wholesale accounts.  We have partnered with other businesses to offer specials and great giveaways using our social media platform,” Lindsey said.  

The Cottons have been intentional with names in the venture, starting with the company moniker. Ben grew up in New Mexico and often trekked to the mountains there and in Colorado. His favorite animal is a moose. His family now likewise enjoys those same mountain retreats. The Roadie coffee is a tribute to those family excursions. 

The stories behind the coffee names, including Front Line, Chokecherry and Silverton, are shared on the website. 

When the company launched, it’s inaugural roast was a Costa Rica coffee called 17:20, a nod to Matthew 17:20. The Bible passage talks about how faith in God moves mountains.

“Moose Mountain Goods is centered around our faith and our family, we work hard and play hard,” Lindsey said.

What sets them apart from other coffee roasters? Lindsey said it is the hands-on nature of their business, from not only the roasting and cooling but also to the bagging, labeling and shipping.

“There is no automation, so each roast is carefully crafted,” Lindsey said.  

Laura Gutschke is a general assignment reporter and food columnist and manages online content for the Reporter-News.  If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to 


Officials hope weather will help slow Bridger Foothills fire, but say work isn't over

Officials hope weather will help slow Bridger Foothills fire, but say work isn’t over

A fire that blew up over the weekend and burned 7,100 acres in the Bridgers continued growing slowly to the north on Sunday, and fire officials said there’s a lot of unburned fuel there.

The Bridger Foothills fire laid down Saturday night as cooler temperatures moved into Bozeman. But Sunday was another day with weather favorable for fire growth, and officials said helicopters were attacking a fire that picked up in the northwest corner of the burned area.

Corey Lewellen, Bozeman district ranger with Custer Gallatin Gallatin National Forest, said at a virtual public meeting Sunday afternoon that fire officials are hoping for help from the weather on Monday with cooler temperatures and moisture in the forecast. A winter weather advisory is in effect from noon to midnight Monday. 

But, Lewellen said, “we’re a long way from being done with this incident.” He said the end of next week is expected to dry up and September is typically “awfully dry.”

Even when the fire is completely contained, Lewellen said, the impacts will linger, and officials will work on rehabilitation and resource protections. He said officials would also work with homeowners affected by the fire.

He said the fire isn’t going away anytime soon and that there’s still a lot of work to do.

“It’s hard. It’s impacting everybody. We recognize that,” Lewellen said. “We’re staying vigilant, keeping our heads up and moving forward as best as we can.”

The cause of the fire is undetermined.

The Forest Service announced road and trail closures in the Bridgers and Bangtails areas until Sept. 30.

Saturday afternoon, high wind stoked the fire northeast of Bozeman. The blaze prompted evacuations for residents of Bridger Canyon, Jackson Creek and Kelly Canyon. Residents in Brackett Creek and the Skunk Creek area of the Bangtails have been warned.

At an in-person meeting with fire officials on Sunday, Sheriff Brian Gootkin called Saturday “the perfect storm.” He said law enforcement evacuated more than 200 people up the canyon before the fire took off. He said it was “pretty amazing that we didn’t lose anyone.”

“I mean, and that is luck, but it’s also not by accident because we had a ton of people out there working hard,” Gootkin said.

The fire destroyed houses and other structures, but fire officials have yet to detail the extent of that damage.

People have been displaced from their homes. The Red Cross said it has helped 11 people into hotels and that it couldn’t provide a typical shelter because of the coronavirus. Gallatin County has assembled a list of ways to donate to displaced residents on its website.

The Gallatin City-County Health Department has a list of mental health resources on its website for people affected by the fire.

Gootkin said law enforcement would allow residents return to their homes once it’s safe to do so.

Extreme fire behavior entrapped three Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation firefighters. They deployed fire shelters as extreme heat and a rapid moving fire burned where they were at.

Hoyt Richards, area land manager with DNRC, said Sunday that the three firefighters “walked through the event.”

“We’re happy to say that they’re released right now and they’re on their way home,” he said.

Overnight and into Sunday morning, cooler temperatures calmed the fire. Residents who were evacuated Saturday night were allowed to return to their homes Sunday morning to gather more belongings and move livestock. They were told to leave by 11 a.m. when officials expected the fire to kick up.

Montana Highway Patrol troopers formed a barricade on Jackson Creek Road near Malmborg Elementary School where they allowed residents to enter “at their own discretion.”

A couple horse trailers parked at a nearby smoky intersection waited for stranded horses to come running through the canyon. A woman said people hauling trailers were there earlier and drove through the canyon to look for loose horses.

Houses along the road were surrounded by charred land, smoldering haystacks and other rubble from houses that were burnt during the blaze. People loaded cars parked in their driveways as planes assessing and dropping water on the nearby fire whirred overhead.

The green and brown pastures were spotted with black char that continued to produce smoke. The layered hills in the distance turned to black silhouettes behind a screen of smoke.

Addie Theisen, a homeowner in the area, grabbed buckets from her house and went across the road to put out hotspots in a pasture that held her three bulls. She was able to get the bulls into an enclosure in her yard before the fire burned some of the grass.

Theisen said she left her home Saturday. Her hay barn “blew up” sometime after that and continued to smolder on Sunday.

“God decided right now to save our place,” Theisen said. “It’s just … it’s just horrible.”

Jason Mendelson and his son Adam grabbed two buckets of water each and helped Theisen put out the hotspots.

The Mendelsons don’t have animals on their property, but Adam, 13, has visited Theisen for the past eight years to see her animals. He said he was concerned with fires near where the bulls are being held.

“They’re stuck in between those two fires, and that’s not good,” Adam said, referring to hay burning nearby and the fire on the mountain.

Gallatin County said late Sunday that evacuated residents would again be allowed to temporarily return on Monday between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m.

Montana’s U.S. Sen. Steve Daines attended the in-person meeting with fire officials. He said this fire was personal for him and that he was thankful no one has died because of the incident. The Bozeman native said he’s received messages from friends who live on the east side of the mountains who have lost their homes.

Daines said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay for 75% of the cost to fight the fire, but said that Garfield County is expecting to see reimbursement next month for the Lodgepole fire, which burned in 2017.

“That’s a battle we’ll continue to fight in Washington on behalf of our community,” he said.

To see what else is happening in Gallatin County subscribe to the online paper.


Author: Freddy Monares

Long-term Effects of Youth Work Internship: The Project Youth Extension Service Approach

Long-term Effects of Youth Work Internship: The Project Youth Extension Service Approach

Youth work internship training and experience can have significant long-term effects on early career performance in up to 40 competencies.

Internship training is equally effective for both short-term (internship) and long-term (job performance) contexts.

Internship long-term training effects may be evident within one year and sustained up to six years.

Internship training effects are evident across several 21st century competencies, notably coping under pressure, working with people, and adapting to change, that are most challenging to young professionals.

Experiential learning and critical reflection are mechanisms most likely to result in behavior changes that foster career transition and effectiveness.

A mixed-methods evaluation research study found that up to six years after engaging in a youth work internship, young adults (N = 54) continued to regard that training and experience (T&E) as highly important for their current work. Over 60% of respondents rated internship T&E as important or extremely important for performance on 35 of 40 competencies targeted. Competencies most valued are also critical to effectiveness in high-intensity, high-demand settings, including composure under stress, adapting to change, sustaining a positive approach. Respondents also offered their retrospective views affirming the importance of T&E for performance during internships. Recent (1-2 year alumni) and past (3-6 year alumni) interns’ views of training effects were equally positive. Qualitative comments identified adaptation and interactive skills as significant benefits, with teamwork and critical reflection as helpful strategies. Implications for practice, research, and policy are discussed.

youth worker training

youth worker competencies

long-term training effects

21st century competencies

critical reflection

© 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


BE Winners: Entrepreneurs behind 3 Abilene business work to grow despite COVID-19

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