Small Business Development Center helps business find stride to thrive in Coconino County | Local

They all arrive as if they are arriving for work – on time. They are all smiles as they meet Jen Green-Vance, president and CEO of Strides 2 Thrive and Elevated Shredding.

“With these guys and girls, it’s amazing,” Green-Vance said, after hugging or talking with each one of her clients. “And our job is to help them grow and thrive and achieve their best life possible.”

Green-Vance and her husband Joe Vance specialize in offering services to people with disabilities in the Flagstaff area. From assisted-living and day services to job training and skills acquisition, they offer opportunity to people with a range of disabilities.

And with the help of the Coconino Small Business Development Center, Green-Vance secured the funding to build facilities for their growing businesses – Strides 2 Thrive and Elevated Shredding.

“I don’t think this would have been possible,” Green-Vance said, waving her arms at the buildings now standing on Empire Avenue, were it not for the partnership with the Coconino SBDC. “I felt so supported during very challenging times.”

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The two buildings are side by side, and the businesses that are housed in each support each other as well, Green-Vance said. Stride 2Thrive operates group homes, a day treatment program for adults and employment services. Next door, Elevated Shredding provides the avenue for on-the-job training and paid employment by offering professional document destruction services for businesses throughout northern Arizona. Elevated Shredding is northern Arizona’s only owned, certified, mobile information destruction company – and all the paper material is recycled.

“We have several job coaches who work in group settings or with individuals to receive supported employment opportunities,” Green-Vance said. “We often refer to Strides 2 Thrive as Elevated Shredding’s sister company and vice versa.”

The partnership with the SBDC was just what the businesses needed, Green-Vance added. She and her husband had a dream, began to pursue it and found that they needed to grow.

“We began looking at commercial properties to meet our needs, Green-Vance said. “We literally couldn’t find anything.”

So, they’d need to build. But how? Where do they find funding? What kind of budget? That’s when she walked through the doors of the Coconino SBDC, housed at the Coconino Community College Fourth Street Campus.

“They were being problem solvers, guiding me through and celebrating success,” Green-Vance said. “That relationship is hard to find.”

Gina Couillard, former Coconino SBDC program director and grant manager, said, “My job is to sit back and support her.”

Green-Vance expanded on what Couillard and the SBDC did for her and her businesses: Connected her to lenders, helped her with a business plan and financials to demonstrate they were a good prospect, despite being less than three years old. There were spreadsheets and projections crafted to satisfy lenders.

“To say there were many moving parts would be an understatement,” Green-Vance said, of the building project, which was completed by Flagstaff-based Loven Contracting.

The Coconino SBDC “provides advising, training, online courses and resources for businesses throughout the northern Arizona region,” according to the SBDC website. Among services are: business plan assistance, market feasibility and research, cash flow analysis, financial projections and pricing, marketing strategy, identification of potential capital sources, start-up guidance and more.

In 2021, the Coconino SBDC served 787 clients, assisted with 26 new business starts, supported 955 jobs, created another 78 jobs and supported more than $91 million in annual sales in the county.

In fact, the Coconino SBDC was so successful, Couillard was offered, and accepted, the position of Associate State Director for Finance and Compliance for the Arizona SBDC. Couillard, herself a business owner before deciding to share her expertise through the Coconino SBDC, had the relationships with lenders to help Green-Vance find the funding she needed to realize her dream. And the financials and projections have been spot on, Green-Vance added. They’ve met all their goals, even during a global pandemic.

“To have that kind of expertise and the challenges to spend the time to help me get to my goal, that’s irreplaceable,” Green-Vance said.

For more information about the Coconino Small Business Development Center and the services offered, visit For more information about Strides 2 Thrive and Elevated Shredding, visit

Larry Hendricks is the senior manager of public relations and marketing at Coconino Community College.