Caverns scores coup, is picked for reality series |

Caverns scores coup, is picked for reality series

America Online customers across the country have the chance to watch Glenwood Caverns owners Steve and Jeanne Beckley deal with the ups and downs of running a new business.

The Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is one of four businesses that will be featured for the next year on “The Start-Up,” an online reality series offered to AOL customers.

Stories, video interviews and online chats are included in the series, which is meant to give other new business owners help and inspiration for their own projects.

“This is a great opportunity for them to talk with other entrepreneurs,” said Mandy Gauldin, spokeswoman for the caverns. “There’s an ongoing chat for each of the four companies about the challenges they face as a relatively new company.

“And it’s a great way to get more people in the country to know about the caverns,” she said.

Being featured in the series is a big-time commitment for the Beckleys, but the nationwide exposure is what sold them on the program.

The feature is being produced by the staff on, an online version of the magazine of the same name. It launched April 8, and the first segment can be viewed by any browser at the following address:

An update will be added every month and video clips will be included beginning April 21.

However, only AOL members will have access to the series as it continues, Gauldin said.

“The nation’s small business owners are the lifeblood of our economy, but they face unique challenges in their first year,” said Sarah Bernard, vice president and general manager of AOL for Small Business.

“We hope that our new reality feature is not just entertaining, but informative to other small businesses in need of real-world examples for coping with these challenges,” Bernard said.

The ongoing reality series will share with AOL members the day-to-day rewards and roadblocks ” from financial frustrations to technical troubles ” that come with starting and running a small business.

“‘The Startup’ participants are constantly dealing with a variety of issues, including budgeting decisions, employee problems and customer retention concerns, all of which are typical for entrepreneurs in the beginning,” said Rieva Lesonsky, editorial director for Entrepreneur Magazine.

The other three featured businesses are a luxury spa hotel in New Orleans, a specialty salsa bottler in Winooski, Vt., and a tweensters girls clothing company in Corpus Christi, Texas.

“The Startup” online series will feature:

– Business profiles on each of the startups and their owners.

– Updates of a different business each week, highlighting the highs and lows from the previous month.

– Weekly video vignettes highlighting the businesses, the locales for each and the owners’ personalities.

– Dialogue and thoughts from each startup from online AOL journals, also known as blogs.

The Beckleys are working with freelance writer Geoff Williams of Dayton, Ohio. Gauldin pitched the Caverns to him months ago as a prospect for the series.

The multi-faceted nature of the adventure park, with the caverns, tram, gift shop, restaurant and outdoor activities, convinced Williams it would a good business for the series.

Gauldin said the editors questioned the Beckleys closely before choosing the caverns.

They wanted to make sure each business was stable enough that it wouldn’t fold during the year-long series, but also that it wasn’t propped up by investors who could absorb big losses. The idea was to find true entrepreneurs who are making a success of their ventures largely on their own.

“We worked for four months to get it solidified, and there were rigorous interviews,” she said.

Williams and a video crew came to Glenwood Springs in March to check out the place, and they left a video camera with the Beckleys to shoot more footage for the Web site over the coming year.

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