State Ecosystem Building:
COVID-19 has had profound effects on our lives and our economies. Since March 2020, I have led a team of spirited leaders and innovators from across Colorado’s private, public, nonprofit, and academic communities who are working passionately to mobilize much-needed resources and relief for Colorado’s small businesses, nonprofits, and contingent workforce. That collaborative effort has been formalized as a nonprofit, Energize Colorado, with a mission to help Colorado small businesses stabilize and, over the long term, thrive.
As CEO of Energize Colorado, I apply my expertise as an ecosystem builder to cultivate economic resilience in a critical segment of Colorado’s economy. In fact, local businesses employ approximately 1.1 million people or 48.2% of the private workforce for the entire state. Energize Colorado provides critical funding, education, mentoring, mental health resources, and other support to these businesses and individuals.
BRIDGING THE GAP, SEEDING THE FUTURE
Coloradans are resourceful and innovative, but building economic resilience for the long term will take a deliberate effort to enhance connection and foster engagement across sectors and business types. It will take a diverse and inclusive approach, empowering businesses to thrive through collaborative problem solving and innovative approaches to business challenges. Energize Colorado seeds that engagement, offering mentorship, knowledge sharing, and opportunities for partnership development, among other resources.
Because PPP alone does not provide enough interim support for many of Colorado’s small businesses, one of our first major efforts was to launch the Energize Colorado Gap Fund. The Gap Fund combines private funding with $20 million in federal money designated by the Colorado legislature with support from Gov. Jared Polis and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. The fund is open to sole proprietors, businesses, and nonprofits with less than 25 full-time employees, who can receive up to a $15,000 grant and a $20,000 loan for a possible combined total of $35,000 in financial assistance. The fund gives priority to rural, women, and BIPOC owned businesses.
Energize Colorado is a natural outgrowth of my previous work leading regional ecosystem initiatives, advising governments, developing partnerships, and supporting innovation programs that connect businesses, universities, governments, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and startup communities to catalyze innovation and increase impact. I’m proud to lead a team of Coloradans helping Coloradans, supporting our diverse business community through the next normal.