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How Alumni-Owned and Led Businesses Fuel Greeley’s Growth

Welcome to Bear Biz

Office of Alumni RelationsOffice of Alumni Relations
August 03, 2023

From tacos to music and tourism, local and University of Northern Colorado (UNC) alumni-owned business owners have been enriching the Greeley community for decades and helping students get in on the action, too. 

Through UNC’s community relations program, Bear Biz, business owners have a unique opportunity to show their connection and affinity for the university. Becoming a Bear Biz partner is easy and free, although many choose to offer exclusive perks and discounts to students. Currently, more than 70 local businesses participate in Bear Biz, fostering the “town-gown” environment so many community members cherish. 

The Colorado Model Railroad Museum partners to encourage students, parents and alumni to visit, but also because they enjoy having students intern and work at the museum.  

Several of the museum's top executives and board members are UNC graduates who choose to partner through Bear Biz because they see the value in the university to the greater community.  

Proud alumni and Bear Biz partners, Robby ’03 and Amanda ’07 Aguilar, own several businesses throughout Greeley. The partnership is important to the Aguilars because it’s their invitation to UNC friends and family to stop by and share some laughs with them over a great meal and good drinks. 

“My wife and I met here over 20 years ago. It’s important that we create a safe and fun environment for all UNC students and for our community,” said Aguilar. “I try to volunteer and give back to UNC as much as I can.” 

Aguilar’s Slushed location — kitty-corner to Central Campus on 8th Avenue and 17th Street — is nearby where he and his wife used to grab lunch in between classes.  

Without the Bear Network they were welcomed into as students, Aguilar says it would be impossible to survive or stay relevant in an ever-changing market. Partnering with the Monfort College of Business on several case studies regarding entrepreneurship, Aguilar credits students with giving invaluable feedback and suggestions which help them adapt to the needs of the city.  

Due to the creativity and fresh perspective of UNC students, Heather Anderson ’21, Visit Greeley’s director of tourism, is developing an internship tailored to them. 

Professional experiences, like an internship, are required for many degrees at UNC. To support students and their needs, Anderson is helping create an opportunity for them to gain valuable insight into the importance of increasing tourism in Greeley. 

Tourism is a vital aspect of Greeley’s economy, and the unique, local businesses the city boasts are what set it apart. Anderson explains that for every dollar spent by a visitor, it equates to more than $300 in economic impact on the local community. 

Some of the driving forces behind Greeley’s tourism industry are UNC alumni who chose to stay here. Executive director for Greeley’s Downtown Development Authority, Bianca Fisher ’07, explains how alumni often see gaps in what the city has to offer and seek to address them. 

She cites Ryan Gentry as a former student who noticed there were few night life options for older college students. 

“People were leaving the community to go to Fort Collins for the night life, so he opened three different college bars downtown,” said Fisher. 

Fisher highlights another alumnus, Ely Corliss ’12, who saw a need for a live music venue so he opened the Moxie theater and started “BandWagon Magazine.” He also co-owns Luna’s Tacos and Tequila with Samantha Corliss ’11 and Brian Seifried. 

Fisher is in awe of how the city has grown and expanded to have something for everyone and at the alumni who stuck around to cultivate the vibrant community Greeley has today. 

Alumni-led growth provides incoming students with a thriving community to enjoy during their college years. Just as these business owners are excited to welcome students back for the fall semester, they are equally excited to welcome alumni. Alumni from outside of the region are encouraged to return to Greeley to experience the fourth fastest growing city in the nation and participate in our events celebrating a century’s worth of memories and traditions at the 100th Homecoming October 9-15.