During the Covid crisis, I’ve been regularly discussing the dramatic amplification of inequities that already existed. From a business perspective, some businesses have benefited during this crisis, while other businesses (and entire categories of business) are being wiped off the face of the earth.
Here’s a blunt statement of what’s going on that showed up in a Slack channel yesterday.
Working through my market portfolio this am and thought This metric would be of interest to this group. Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google, Netflix and Microsoft have added 3 trillion dollars to their value since COVID started. This is a deep wealth transfer from small businesses. These 6 companies have more market cap than the entire emerging market sector.
I’d like to introduce a new project – Can Do Colorado.
Covid has had a dramatic negative impact on local (or main street) businesses. Energize Colorado was set up in March to help companies with less than 500 employees survive and emerge from the Covid crisis. As part of the rapid scale-up of a new non-profit (now hundreds of active volunteers across the State), Energize Colorado has worked with many other non-profits supporting small businesses and has engaged in several public-private partnerships such as the Energize Colorado Gap Fund.
Can Do Colorado showcases small businesses’ hard work across the state through a series of short videos that strengthen customer confidence by connecting Colorado’s consumers with small businesses. The campaign extends a direct call to consumers to support businesses within their communities that are open, adhering to public health orders, and following best practices.
None of these activities would go anywhere without the deep, embedded, and optimistic spirit of Coloradans helping Coloradans. Starting today, let’s all embrace Can Do Colorado and help our local small businesses survive and emerge from this crisis.
That is the amount that over 5,600 Colorado small businesses requested from the Energize Colorado Gap Fund in our first three weeks of open applications.
According to the SBA, small businesses in Colorado employ more than 1.1 million Coloradans, almost half of the state’s private workforce. 90% of the applicant pool came from one or more of the Gap Fund’s priority groups: BIPOC, women, veteran-owned, or companies in rural Colorado.
We anticipated that the demand for the Gap Fund would be massive and that we needed to provide a model that could offer a sustainable path through the post-Covid economic recovery. To that end, the Gap Fund provides a combination of grant and loan funds to recipients. We are using a Program Related Investment (PRI) model to offer ultra low-interest loans and guarantee repayment to our loan partners. We pair the PRI with philanthropic donations to cover the overhead and expected losses from running the ultra low-interest loan program. As a result, our financial model creates a 5x multiplier on grant dollars.
We need your help to meet the need and to maintain our commitment to rebuilding a statewide economy that is more inclusive and more resilient. On October 8th at 5:30 pm MST, I’m co-hosting a virtual fundraiser with my good friends Governor Jared Polis, Gap Fund Chair Kent Thiry, and Energize Colorado’s CEO, Wendy Lea. While we’ve raised over $25 million to date, we are looking to raise another $25 million. While we have a PRI contribution minimum of $50K, we accept donations at any level to help fuel our ability to provide loans to small businesses in need.
If you’re available, please register here to join us as part of the effort to help small businesses in Colorado navigate and emerge stronger from the Covid crisis.
The Energize Colorado Gap Fund is open for applications. At some point, I’ll write a blog post about the story of how this came together via a public-private partnership to fill a much-needed gap in the Federal funding for small businesses throughout Colorado due to the Covid crisis, but for now either send this to people you think it is relevant to or, if it is relevant to you, please apply for funding.
If you are a business or nonprofit with less than 25 full-time employees (including sole proprietors) you can apply for up to a $15,000 grant and a $20,000 loan for a possible combined total of $35,000 in financial assistance.
The applications and awards will be done in rounds to allow the Energize Colorado Gap Fund to provide assistance through December 2020. This is not a first-come-first-serve process, but rather one that will be focused on helping those in need receive priority access to assistance.
A detailed FAQ for the Energize Colorado Gap Fund is available, but here are a few summary points around eligibility and priority.
Who is Eligible?
Priority Will Be Given to the Following:
I’m incredibly proud of the hard work of the many volunteers at Energize Colorado and the leadership of Wendy Lea who helped get this up and running. And, the Energize Colorado Gap Fund Executive Committee, under the leadership of Kent Thiry, is amazing to see in action.
Manufacturing, agriculture, retail, and tech. These are just a few of the many industries in Colorado led and supported by local businesses. But what are we doing to support them through the current health and economic crisis?
West Slope Startup Week (WSSW) launched last week (this year in a virtual format) — a full month of online programming open to businesses across the state. Programming includes sessions from people such as Energize Colorado (EC) CEO Wendy Lea and myself.
Equally innovative is the new element of digital mentorship. Led by Energize Colorado’s Mentorship team, we have brought together more than 45 mentors with expertise in finance, tech, sales, and more. This mentorship program is an opportunity for organizations, including EC and Techstars, to nurture Colorado’s rapidly growing talent on the Western Slope and throughout all of Colorado.
Helping Colorado’s economy recover is about more than just a return to normal – it’s preparing for a fundamental transformation. Our future economy is one driven by a belief that equity and empathy are key strategies for inclusivity and long-term success.
Energize Colorado, a non-profit founded by many of Colorado’s business leaders, including myself, is here to lead this transformation. There are three key steps in Energize Colorado’s plan for economic recovery and growth:
During times like this, I am reminded why I, and many others, became entrepreneurs – to satisfy a never-ending curiosity and drive to learn. This is, in part, why mentorship is so valuable to me and integral to EC and Techstars’ startup week programming.
Regardless of your age or expertise, there is always something to be learned and gained. Now more than ever, we have to come together across the state to support each other and lead this transformation. I am calling on all of you to recognize the value mentorship has had on your journey and participate.
The Covid crisis has generated, or amplified, a number of separate crises. One of them is a mental health (or mental wellness) crisis. As humans, our entire way of living has been dramatically impacted by Covid. We are isolated from each other, many of us are afraid of being in public, and we are feeling enormous weight from economic, social, familial, and organization pressure.
One of our goals with Energize Colorado is to create a non-profit for the extended business community of “Coloradans helping Coloradans”. We decided to make providing Mental Health Resources one of the primary initiatives.
The Energize Colorado website has a comprehensive list of mental health resources that are available, but here are two new ones.
Free or low-cost therapy or mental health support with a licensed therapist: As of the other day, we currently have therapists in Colorado who have donated a total of up to 1,000 free hours. If you are a therapist and you are open to donating up to five hours of free therapy, please sign up on the Therapist Volunteer page.
3 Free months of Simple Habit: Sign up to access meditations, sleep content, and movement exercises, designed to help you care for your mind — all free for 3 months.
Also, Energize Colorado now has a mailing list so you can stay informed on upcoming webinars as well as information from Energize Colorado.
Energize Colorado, working with Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), has just released business templates that offer best practices, direction, and information on how businesses can restart operations safely and effectively.
These templates are based on OEDIT’s recommendations along with input from Kroger who has been a leader in evolving better practices as an essential business.
As businesses start opening up in Colorado, we are entering a very tricky phase of the Covid crisis. I appreciate the work that the 200+ volunteers at Energize Colorado are doing to help the companies with less than 500 employees navigate things.
I’m excited to announce the launch of Energize Colorado, a new Colorado-based non-profit to help energize companies in Colorado survive the Covid crisis and then thrive as we get the crisis under control.
A month ago (which seems like a year ago), I wrote a post explaining that the Covid crisis was actually three interwoven crises: health, financial, and mental health. As I went deeper through my work on various aspects of the Covid crisis on a volunteer basis across a number of initiatives, I began forming a clear view on the importance of the private sector taking a leadership role in helping the private sector.
I was fortunate that several of people who I started working with, including Wendy Lea, Erik Mitisek, and Marc Nager, were highly motivated by the mantra “Coloradans helping Coloradans.” The group rapidly expanded through both my network and theirs and quickly shifted to a mode of actively doing things, as volunteers on the private sector side, to actively support local businesses, entrepreneurs, rural businesses, women & minority-led businesses, non-profits, and contingent workers.
On March 23rd, a founding team of 15 people, led by Wendy Lea, got together to sketch out the idea for a new Colorado non-profit called Energize Colorado. The simple notion was to rally a large group of volunteers across the state who would donate their time and talent to help Colorado businesses under 500 employees stabilize, rebuild, and grow.
Amy and I have seed-funded many non-profits and are happy to include Energize Colorado in the list of things that we were the first funders for. Five weeks later, Energize Colorado is over 200 volunteers and growing daily.
In addition to creating new initiatives, Energize Colorado is focused on amplifying many of the activities happening throughout Colorado to help small businesses. Rather than duplicate efforts, Energize Colorado is adding to the mix, amplifying things that other non-profits are doing, highlighting new initiatives, and helping business people understand and navigate the many new initiatives from our State and Federal government.
The various categories of activities and information are currently organized as:
There will be at least two major new initiatives launched next week, with a steady stream after that. Follow along by subscribing to the newsletter or following the Energize Colorado twitter feed.
If you want to get involved and help in any way, please sign up on the volunteer form.
I’m proud to be a Coloradan helping other Coloradans in this crisis.