Red Bird farms Colorado

Financing an Entrepreneurial Spirit

Red Bird Farms, Denver, Colorado

September 23, 2016

By: Ann Nachtigal

Japanese-born Mareo Torito describes himself as a “crazy” businessman. Nearly broke with just $2,500 in his pocket and a pending relocation with his employer, Torito decided it was time to take a calculated risk. Turns out his educated gamble 35 years ago has paid huge dividends.

“I liked this country (Colorado) so much and I didn’t want to move to California or back to Tokyo, so I said ‘No, I don’t think so, I’m going to start my own business,’ Torito chuckles. “I was 31 years old. Isn’t that crazy?”

What might sound crazy for some has translated into wild success for Torito, who bought Red Bird Farms in 1980, relying heavily on his past experience as a butcher and restaurateur.

Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, and distributed in 15 states, Red Bird Farms prides itself in providing all-natural chicken, free of hormones and antibiotics. Red Bird has found a niche in the trendy “meals to the market” industry by providing hand-cut, cage-free chicken products to grocery markets and restaurants. In fact, the Red Bird logo can be found in several high-profile restaurants in the Denver area including Elway’s.

A Great Western Bank customer since 2006, Red Bird is quickly becoming one of the bank’s largest customers. Red Bird Farms has grown from a $10 million company to $50 million and growing today, thanks in part, Torito says, to his trusted CFO Bill Snakenberg and business banking partners Brian Kunkel and Great Western Bank.

Torito’s patience and instinct were both tested in 2012 when he saw the costs of raw materials shoot up and his margins squeezed. Torito needed help.

“So many times I felt like I was done, that’s it,” admitted Torito. “We explained our circumstance and he (Kunkel) studied and helped us.”

CFO Snakenberg added that the business line of credit injected critical capital into the company, giving it “a lot of flexibility and allowed us to make a lot of equipment purchases that we wanted to make for a long time.”

In addition to funding its current plant, the mortgage of Torito’s personal home and two Japanese restaurants Torito owns, Great Western Bank is also financing a 13,000-square-foot expansion of Red Bird’s current plant.

Always the entrepreneur, Torito is already looking at his next big business opportunity and has committed to working with Kunkel on a business plan for this next adventure.

“We appreciate the fact that he’s given us a lot of attention and comes up with some really ‘crazy’ solutions,” Snakenberg said.

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