Colorado Springs Company Janska Thrives Despite the Odds

The odds seemed stacked against Janska, even before the Colorado Springs clothing manufacturer got off the ground.

The couple who started it had no background in the apparel industry, no marketing acumen and no experience running a small business. All they had was a dream to produce comfortable yet fashionable fleece clothing -- and when they did get the business going, they ran into cash-flow problems and quality issues from one of its primary vendors.

If you'd bet against Janska, though, you would have lost. After 11 sometimes rocky years, the company beat the odds and now has 40 employees, a projection of $3 million in sales this year, and a growing list of awards that include owner Jan Erickson's recognition as the state's top small businessperson for 2014. She will compete with winners from 49 other states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam for the national Small Business Person of the Year award May 15-16 in Washington, D.C.

"It is a miracle they survived," said Gerald Smith, a Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) mentor who helped Erickson and her husband, Jon Thomas, Janska's vice president, learn about management, finance, accounting, budgeting and forecasting sales. "They had nothing to bring to the business except her dream and their savings. Neither of them had any business experience or expertise in manufacturing, the apparel industry or marketing."

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