The Arizona Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network awarded Hoss Sanderson and Karen Steele, owner/operators of Into the Grand, with their 2018 Success Awards last Thursday for the strides they’ve made over the years to turn their once-faltering business into a thriving success. They were also given a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition.
The ceremony was held on the lawn between the state house and senate.
“We were both surprised, very happy and very honored,” said Steele.
The SBDC is a national network of business experts with real life business ownership and management experience who provide one-on-one customized business counseling, counseling small business owners who are just starting out and may have a lot of questions about what to do next to make their business successful, with everything from how to create a business plan, form an LLC, to staffing, marketing and financing.
In Arizona each county has a SBDC representative. In Page it’s Jim Hunter, a former business owner and current Director of Coconino Community College’s Page campus.
“The award Into the Grand was given isn’t for highest gross sales or anything like that, but it’s given to a company whose growth trajectory has remained on a steady upward trajectory,” said Hunter.
Sanderson converted the family boat warehouse into an exhibit and museum dedicated to the history of the early Grand Canyon River Runners and opened Into the Grand in 2013. The Sanderson’s were some of the early Grand Canyon river runners and they founded Sanderson River Adventures in the 1950s. The walls were painted with large murals from rafting life and scenic places in the Grand Canyon, as well as rafts and rafting paraphernalia from rafting’s early days.
Though the space and exhibit looked amazing it wasn’t attracting visitors. In 2014 they added river-style Dutch oven dinners but it still wasn’t lucrative. And that’s when they went to Jim Hunter and the SBDC.
“This award should be a joint-recognition between Jim Hunter and the SBDC organization,” said Steele. “He helped us a lot. There was so much we didn’t know. He much of the process.”
One of the first things Hunter suggested was for them to get on TripAdvisor so visitors to Page looking for something to do during their stay could find them. Partway through 2014 they switched their menu to Navajo Tacos and added a hoop dancer as entertainment.
“We started out as 59th out of 59 restaurants,” said Sanderson. “By the end of May we’d moved up to number ten and about two weeks after that we’d moved to number one, where we’ve stayed.
“I don’t think it’s because our food is better than other places in Page, but I think it’s our atmosphere and activities that put us over the top. And now, when people visiting Page click on TripAdvisor for dinner recommendations, it’s very helpful to our business to come up in the number one spot. It’s little tricks like that that we didn’t know about before that have helped a lot.”
Into the Grand added 40 more seats over the winter and they’re filled to capacity nearly every night.
“We’ve already got some reservations for October,” said Sanderson.