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Colorado led the nation in new business application growth in 2023, Census Bureau finds

Sonny's Mediterranean
Posted at 9:01 PM, Jan 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-19 10:08:36-05

DENVER — Inside every new small business are a lot of very early mornings and late nights spent. David Schloss knows this well.

It was a years-long journey of hard work and sacrifice that led to him turning the keys on his very own restaurant in Denver’s Highlands last year. But you won’t hear any complaints from Schloss.

“It’s just a dream come true for me,” he said, sitting on a barstool at the front of his restaurant. “Even if I’m tired, I roll out of bed and I get in here and then I’m in my second home. And I’m happy. So, I’m just grateful.”

Sonny’s Mediterranean opened in June 2023 and quickly became a hit. Schloss recalled the excitement — and stress — of customers lining up out the door “from day one.” Named after Schloss’s 120-pound Great Pyrenees dog, it offers a menu of Mediterranean dishes made to order.

“It’s just my favorite food to cook. It’s what I know how to cook,” Schloss said. “It’s connected to my heritage.”

Schloss and the entire team at Sonny’s are in good company. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were nearly 139,000 new business applications filed in Colorado in 2023. The state led the nation with a 115% increase in applications year over year.

The jump in new business interest came as local and state leaders tried to create more support for small business start-ups. A bill passed by the state legislature in 2022 reduced application fees from $50 to $1 into 2023, and Schloss said his interactions with Denver city officials during his start-up process were positive and helpful.

“It’s a little discombobulated in the permitting process and the inspections and everything. It’s a big learning curve,” Schloss recalled. “But everybody that I met with and had to pass through was super supportive. And when I would make little mistakes here and there, they helped me fix them quickly so I was able to get the doors open.”

It’s not entirely good news for entrepreneurs. Businesses across the state are dealing with higher costs, especially when it comes to properties and rent. Restaurants like Sonny’s Mediterranean have also grappled with higher food prices.

“It’s frustrating to, you know, both the owners and the restaurant patrons, the guests that come in. But it is what it is,” Schloss said. “You know, we’ve got to pay our staff. We’ve got to pay our rent. And we try to provide a great value to customers. And I think if we can maintain doing that, we’ll be able to weather the storm when it comes.”

Experts say the increase in new businesses is a positive economic indicator, among several at the beginning of 2024. All the same, Schloss knows things can change. Since it’s “totally out” of his control, he is choosing to hone in on his craft.

“I do believe that people still have to eat, and people still don’t have time to cook all the time,” he said. “So if we can provide a product that people want, I still think people will come through the door.”

Colorado led the nation in new business application growth in 2023, Census Bureau finds

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