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Giving and Philanthropy : Innovation & Job News

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Colorado Enterprise Fund gets $776,500 grant

The Colorado Enterprise Fund has received a $776,500 grant to support its small-business lending and technical assistance programs statewide.

Colorado Enterprise Fund is among seven Colorado Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) to receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund. Other recipients include Denver -based Mercy Loan Fund, Mile High Community Loan Fund and Triple Bottom Line Foundation, as well as Aurora-based Community Enterprises Development Services. Outside of Denver, First Nations Oweesta Corp. in Longmont and La Plata Homes Fund in Durango received awards.

“We are honored to receive this funding from the CDFI Fund again this year,” says Ceyl Prinster, president and CEO of Colorado Enterprise Fund. “This award will expand our ability to finance businesses that create quality jobs, enhance long-term economic vitality and expand community prosperity to insure more residents benefit from Colorado’s robust economic growth.”

Certified as a CDFI in 1996, the Colorado Enterprise Fund received its first CDFI Fund award of $275,000 in 1997 to increase capital access for small-business owners across Colorado. Since then, Colorado Enterprise Fund has been awarded nearly $10 million to continue that work and expand its focus to increase access to healthy foods and serve more communities of color and businesses located in persistent poverty counties.

Denver launches business accelerator for healthy foods in underserved neighborhoods

The Denver Office of Economic Development has partnered with The Unreasonable Institute to launch the Food Access Project  in underserved neighborhoods. The accelerator is offering a training and mentorship program to support 10 ventures to improve access to food in select low-income communities in Denver. 

“It’s exciting to be able to bring the city’s resources together with the ingenuity of entrepreneurs,” says Teju Ravilochan, CEO of The Unreasonable Institute. “This partnership combines the innovation of nimble startups with the systems-shifting capabilities of the city government, creating the potential to really make a lot of people’s lives better.” 

The program is focused on reducing food insecurity in Globeville, Elyria-Swansea, Montbello, Westwood, Northeast Park Hill, Five Points, and other neighborhoods. Early stage ventures can apply to the Food Access Project through June 25.

“This is part of our proactive approach to building healthier communities throughout the city,” explains Amy Edinger, OED interim executive director. “By targeting entrepreneurs, small businesses and nonprofits, we recognize that Denver has a broad talent pool of individuals that, with a little support and key introductions, can make a lasting difference in addressing food insecurity.”

The program will provide each of the participants with a five-day in-person bootcamp. The effort will also provide six months of support from mentors, financial modeling training from Unreasonable Financial Architects, access to investors, and a network of over 530 Unreasonable Institute ventures across the world.
 

Denver’s Magpie Supply among winners of $25k at 4th Go Code Colorado pitch competition

Magpie Supply was one of the three companies that won the annual Go Code Colorado pitch competition. The company, which shows historic farmers’ market prices to farmers to help them find new markets, won $25,000, as well as a trip to the AT&T Foundry and a opportunity to pitch at Techstars and Boomtown.

Like all Go Code Colorado participants, Magpie Supply harnessed the power of public data. In this case, the company mapped prices farmers were able to charge at farmers markets throughout Colorado. The company also plans to develop a feature to help small farmers combat the cost of transporting goods. 

“This idea is a spin-off from a business concept I worked on last year with a Go Code Colorado team,” explains Daniel Ritchie of Magpie Supply. “Our team has worked hard to identify the real needs and concerns for Colorado farmers to develop a truly valuable tool to get more produce to market.”

Magpie wasn’t the only winner at the competition this year. Judges selected three of the 10 finalists to win a $25,000 contract with the state. The other two winners were Drip, from Colorado Springs, and Hud Buddy, from Fort Collins. Drip is a tool that helps with water analysis, including well and water quality information and Hud Buddy allows for simplified noise analysis for HUD residential developments.

“I continue to be impressed by the creativity and collaboration of the Go Code Colorado teams,” says Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams. “Teams continue to show the value of public data if we can get it into the hands of innovative and entrepreneurial people who have a different perspective on how to use it.” 

BuildStrong Education launches, supporting a foundation for education in the Front Range

Oakwood Homes has built its Foundation for Educational Excellence into BuildStrong Education. The newly launched foundation renews its focus on creating high-quality schools and improving the relationship between communities and schools to build bonds that make neighborhoods safer and stronger.

The Foundation for Educational Excellence was launched by Oakwood Homes Founder Pat Hamill in 1997. The Denver-based residential developer, has helped fund and plan numerous schools in communities it’s developed. It has invested more than $4 million into educational programs in Green Valley Ranch, Montbello and the broader Front Range. The initiatives have included professional development, student recognition, new school development and the creation of collaborative public/private partnerships. 

“Pat Hamill’s dedication to building strong schools has created tremendous educational opportunities for our children in far Northeast Denver,” explains Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. “If we want great communities, the schools will lead the way, and Oakwood Homes’ BuildStrong Education is setting the stage for these schools to soar.”

The new organization has a focus on northeast Denver, where it says only 34 percent attend high performing schools, which it calls the lowest rate in the city’s school districts. That’s despite it housing two of Denver’s highest performing schools.

The organization also will support the recently launched Colorado Homebuilding Academy. That organization is aimed at training students and others to find gainful employment in construction industries. In Colorado there are currently more construction jobs than workers. 

Co.Starters now offering (an affordable) boot camp for would-be startups

The Co.Starters program has graduated more than 3,000 entrepreneurs nationwide and now it’s coming to Denver’s Commons on Champa. The nine-week business development program will launch on May 17 and will help participants learn about launching businesses with a community of peers. 

“This nine week program equips aspiring entrepreneurs with the insights, relationships and tools needed to turn business ideas into action. Unlike traditional platforms, Co.Starters applies the lean business modeling methods popular among high-growth startups to businesses of all kinds,” explains Jacqui Dietrich program manager at the Commons.

“The program is new to The Commons and will be a regular offering focused specially on women and minorities,” Dietrich says. However, she adds, “The Co.Starters program is open to any new business or new product idea, regardless of sector or industry.” While this is the first time the program is launching in Colorado, it’s been used in other cities including Chattanooga, Cincinnati and Detroit. 

“Up to 15 aspiring entrepreneurs will be admitted to the first Co.Starters at The Commons cohort. The deadline to apply for the upcoming cohort is May 3,” Dietrich says. The program, supported in part by the Kauffman Foundation, will cost participants $125 including curriculum and meals. 

The program, Dietrich says, helps participants understand their assumptions about their businesses and how they will work and then enables them to talk with their target customers to validate their ideas. “This approach enables entrepreneurs to rapidly uncover flaws in their concepts and find viable models more quickly,” she says.

The Commons plans to offer cohorts on a rolling basis. Entrepreneurs can apply here and successful entrepreneurs who wish to serve as mentors for the program can register to help here. 

Low-income Coloradans could lose small business funding under budget proposal

Denver’s Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) is warning that important funding for low-income communities in Colorado is at risk under President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal. The Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund has issued $40.3 million to Colorado’s 15 CDFIs, including CEF. 

Local CDFIs are able to leverage every $1 in federal funding with up to $12 in private investments from banks, foundations and other funding partners, explains CEF President CEF Ceyl Prinster. “The total economic impact of CDFI grants in Colorado is as much as $480 million supporting businesses, affordable housing and nonprofit community projects.” Under the budget proposal all that economic development could be at risk as the Trump Administration has proposed slashing CDFI’s, says CEF President CEF Ceyl Prinster. 

“CEF was the first mission-driven lending organization in Colorado certified by the CDFI fund in 1996 to serve low-income and minority populations. Over the last two decades, CEF has leveraged $8.5 million in CDFI fund awards to loan more than $58 million, financing nearly 2,000 small businesses in our state,” Prinster states.

The fund has a national budget of just $250 million, Prinster asserts that the CDFI fund costs each American just 79 cents annually.

“CDFIs fill a vital need in the nation’s financial services eco-system by serving communities and market sectors that conventional lenders cannot,” Prinster says. “The ultimate goal of CDFIs is to bring their customers into the mainstream economy as bankable businesses, home owners and/or individuals.”

Indeed, the fund has the support of major banking associations, including the American Bankers Association, who have issued a letter to Congress in support of the CDFI fund.

Denver takes advantage of a soaring economy with JumpStart 2017

Last week Denver introduced JumpStart 2017, its sixth annual strategic jobs plan for economic development.

JumpStart is more than an annual strategy, it is a statement of values for how Denver builds a local economy that secures our community’s legacy and maintains our city’s unique character in the years ahead,” according to Mayor Michael Hancock, who unveiled the plan, put together by the Denver Office of Economic Development (OED).  “In 2017, our eyes are squarely focused on taking the necessary strides to help ensure that all residents have the opportunity to benefit from Denver’s vibrant economy.”

As such, the plan focuses on increasing economic mobility and establishes anti-displacement strategies in certain neighborhoods. In 2017 that focus will include the neighborhoods of Montbello, Westwood, Globeville and Elyria-Swansea. The strategies are designed to help uplift ailing neighborhoods while reducing urban poverty. 

The mayor’s office said that the JumpStart is helping to create jobs in Denver. The previous year’s report aided the development of nearly 3,000 new jobs and assisted the city in retaining 7,000 jobs, according to the office. The strategies helped spur $111.4 million in capital investments and also funded the creation of 579 affordable homes. 

“With strong employment and wage growth, Denver has led the nation as one of the most vibrant economies,” explains OED Executive Director Paul Washington. “We’ve thoughtfully identified goals for JumpStart that we believe will make the most of the opportunities before us.”

The 2017 strategies include encouraging developers of projects financed by OED to hire low-income residents for entry-level positions. It also will support the creation of a maker space, a collaborative space to allow entrepreneurs access to manufacturing resources. The plan will also help create cooperative business ownership models in the targeted neighborhoods.

Community Wealth Building Network announces first job opportunity

Metro Denver's Community Wealth Building Network aims to build wealth within the community through increasing local ownership, control of resources and income. To date, the network was supported by volunteers at other organizations. But now, it's ready to hire its first staff member. 

"We are looking for someone who can not only connect with disenfranchised community residents, but also feels comfortable meeting with organizational and Metro Denver leaders," says Patrick Horvath, interim vice president at The Denver Foundation. "Denver is on the cutting edge of this movement and we can be a proving ground for innovative economic strategies that lift whole communities."

To that end, the Community Wealth Building Network's new fellow will conduct on-the-ground research into current and potential community wealth building in the metro area. The fellow will work to strengthen connections between such efforts and with the network's partners. They will create a five- to seven-year community wealth building vision and plan for metro Denver.

Community wealth building engages in creating sustainable businesses that keep jobs and resources within the community. It also promotes land trusts, local procurement by institutions including universities and hospitals, local investing circles and community empowerment.

"Look at the Green Taxi company, which is the largest worker co-operative in Colorado: All the drivers own a share in the company as well as their vehicles," says Halisi Vinson, executive director of Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center (RMEOC), an organization that helps companies move from sole proprietorship to employee-owned businesses.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Denver Food Vision introduced for public comment

The first draft of the Denver Food Vision is open to public comment through the end of January. Officials aim to help the city further improve the food system, create jobs and improve access to healthy food.

Officials say Denver's food system includes tens of thousands of skilled food system employees, thousands of businesses and hundreds of nonprofits, school and community gardens. It also includes food pantries and emergency food access. Despite those factors, the city also states that nearly 20 percent of children experience food insecurity or hunger. The new plan aims to address all those issues.

"From farm to table, Denver's food system presents an incredible opportunity to strengthen the health of our communities, as well as promote business development and job creation," says Mayor Michael Hancock. "Through this community vision, we will have a solid framework in place to help guide public and private resources to build a stronger, more resilient Denver."

In developing the food vision plan, the city held 11 community listening sessions and 11 focus groups with food businesses that generated nearly 5,000 comments. The city also is seeking feedback and hosting two hearings on Jan. 12, one at Mile High United Way from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m and another at the Commons on Champa from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. People can also comment on the draft via an online survey. People can also email their questions and comments to DenverFoodPlan@denvergov.org.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Kauffman Foundation awards $400K grant to Commons on Champa

Denver's center for entrepreneurship, The Commons on Champa, won a $400,000 Inclusion Challenge grant from the Kauffman Foundation. The new grant will allow the Commons on Champa to launch the "Entrepreneurial Journey" accelerator program to expand its work with female and minority entrepreneurs and innovators. 

The new "Entrepreneurial Journey" program is free and will focus on educational resources for women, people of color, military veterans and new American citizens. It will be offered quarterly, includes a track-based curriculum and aims to serve hundreds of individuals from underserved communities each year.

"The Commons on Champa was founded to grow downtown Denver's culture of innovation and entrepreneurship and by reducing barriers to entry and supporting entrepreneurs from all walks of life," says Tami Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership. "We truly believe that economic growth and city-wide prosperity happens when entrepreneurs come together to create community, share ideas and empower themselves, and we thank the Kauffman Foundation for the support of The Commons on Champa."

The new award is one of 12 Inclusion Challenge grants awarded to nonprofit organizations. The Commons on Champa said that 376 applicants applied for the grant funds and support from the Kauffman Foundation. The Kauffman Foundation presented the awards at its Mayor's Conference on Entrepreneurship in St. Petersburg, Fla. The awards ranged from $87,000 to $420,000 over the next two years.

"Collaborations like The Commons on Champa are creating empowering spaces for entrepreneurs from all walks of life to achieve their business goals, reducing existing barriers to starting up and driving a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship," says Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. "We welcome the opportunity to leverage this grant to better equip our women and minority entrepreneurs with the skills, network and resources necessary to turn their incredible ideas into successful businesses."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

SRI Conference comes to Denver

Sustainable and responsible investments will be at the forefront of the 27th annual SRI Conference, which has moved from Colorado Springs to Denver. The conference, being held at the Hyatt Regency Denver at the Colorado Convention Center from Nov. 9-11, and will be headlined by former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and Denver Chief Sustainability Officer Jerry Tinianow. 

First Affirmative Financial Network, which organizes the conference, calls it the largest annual meeting of responsible investment leaders in the U.S. The 2016 event will bring more than 650 investment professionals to Denver to discuss sustainable urban development, improve returns for philanthropic investors, clean energy policy and leveraging renewable investment opportunities.

"One of our goals this year in moving The SRI Conference from The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs to Denver was to showcase some of the leading sustainability and impact investing experts who live right in our own backyard," says Steve Schueth, president of First Affirmative Financial Network. "This year's agenda reflects a greater focus on local people and organizations that are demonstrating a more responsible approach to business and investing -- one that is geared toward shifting the paradigm and creating a truly sustainable future."

As such, roughly 30 percent of the conference sessions will feature speakers from Denver and Boulder. Tinianow, Denver's first chief sustainability officer, will discuss how his office is working to implement Mayor Michael Hancock's "Scale, and Everybody Plays" agenda. Likewise, Ritter will join former National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) Director Dan Arvizu to discuss clean energy policy in the U.S. and the opportunities it represents in terms of jobs.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

CU Denver relaunches Nobel at Noon Series

Nobel at Noon has returned to CU Denver. It's a lunch-and-learn series of discussions open to the public about each of the Nobel prize categories and the ideas that win them. The discussions began on Friday Oct. 28 and are occurring every Friday at noon through Dec. 9 at the CU Denver Welcome Center in Admissions at the Student Commons Building.

CU Denver previously hosted the Nobel at Noon series most years from the mid-1980s to 2008. Previously it was for students staff and faculty, but the university is now inviting the public to join. 

"The series focuses on the Nobel Prize winners who were announced this fall and what the award-winning research means for society," says Emily Williams, a CU Denver spokesperson. She adds, "This Friday’s talk is about the prize winner in Medicine. The winner this year was Yoshinori Ohsumi, who won for a discovery he made about how cells stay healthy, which is critical in cancer research. Dr. Chris Phiel is the CU Denver faculty member giving the talk this week and he is amazing! In his lab, students also study cell behavior, so he should give a great presentation."

"We're really trying to involve the local community, particularly people who work downtown in this series," Williams says. "One of Chancellor Dorothy Horrell's key priorities is to make CU Denver a place where the downtown community can engage with our faculty and their research and we're very excited about this series."
 
During the series, CU Denver faculty will discuss the meaning, details and importance of each Nobel Prize in an informal presentation and discussion format. The presenters will explain the history behind each prize, its importance and help the audience gain a more practical understanding as to why the award matters.

The remaining events include:
 
  • Nov. 4: Nobel Prize in Medicine with Dr. Chris Phiel
  • Nov. 11: Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences with Dr. Phil Luck
  • Nov. 18: Nobel Prize in Peace with Dr. Manuel Espinoza 
  • Dec. 2: Nobel Prize in Literature with Dr. Sam McGuire
  • Dec. 9: Nobel Prize in Physics with Dr. Martin Huber
Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

DUGood is the University of Denver's new crowdfunding platform

The Pioneers are forging ahead with a new crowdfunding tool to finance projects on the University of Denver campus. To help faculty, students and staff develop impactful projects, the school recently launched its new DUGood site.

Crowdfunding has helped many small businesses get their feet on the ground or get their first order completed. In this case, however, the university is making sure that the projects created and are committed to improving the campus and the services it offers. 

One of the first projects on the site is an effort to create a Student Emergency Fund. The fund will provide support to university students facing emergency situations from the need for textbooks to the need for emergency travel. Another project aims to support the Daniels Student & Refugee Partnership to mentor resettled refugees through the African
Community Center.

While only staff, students and faculty can propose a project, anyone can donate any amount they please to support the projects of their choice. What's more, even if a project isn't fully funded the project organizers will receive what they raised through the DUGood platform within 60 days of a campaign closing.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Denver Startup Week breaks record with 12,500 attendees

The 2016 installment of Denver Startup Week again broke records, with 12,500 people registering for the more than 300 events, drawing celebrities and entrepreneurial rock stars. For the first time, the nation's largest free startup event also hosted a pitch fest, awarding a package worth $35,000.

It was another significant year of growth for the event, with nearly 2,000 more attendees and about 70 more events than 2015.

"We convene community better than anywhere in the country, and Denver Startup Week is an excellent representation of our thriving and diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem," says Tami Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership and co-founder of Denver Startup Week. "Our strength in numbers grows our culture of innovation and entrepreneurship and further establishes a powerful platform in Downtown Denver to attract the most innovative companies and investors in the world."

Other than panels with celebrities like Under Armor co-founder Ryan Wood, a former Dallas Cowboys fullback and owner of Steamboat Springs' Sweetwood Cattle Co., and Silicon Valley regular Suzanne Cryer, the most anticipated event was likely the Pitch Challenge, which had awarded a package of cash and mentorship worth $35,000.

The competition was winnowed down to eight finalists who made their pitches to an audience of their peers and a panel of judges. The three finalists were Orderly Health, edn and Sidekick Holdings. The winner, Sidekick Holdings, makes a device that simulates soccer training with a partner. Orderly Health, the third runner-up, helps users get on-demand information about healthcare via text messages. The second runner-up was edn, a Techstars company that  introduced an indoor garden for herbs, vegetables and flowers.

The event also saw new funding for startup-focused nonprofits. JPMorgan Chase granted $60,000 to each of four nonprofits including the Commons on Champa, Accion, Mi Casa Resource Center and the Path to Entrepreneurship Program.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Rose Community Foundation awarding Innovate for Good grants

The Rose Community Foundation will host an event at the Cable Center on Sept. 14 to award grants through its Innovate for Good program, which is supporting youth projects and youth-adult projects with a total of $250,000. The program announced the nine finalists for the youth-adult partnerships this week and will choose the six awardees, each of which will receive $30,000 to realize their projects, at the event.

The organization already selected four youth-led projects to each receive a $5,000 grant and support to realize their projects. The youth awards will support the CeC Early College Mentorship Program, which will mentor-match high school junior students with high-school freshmen; the Juniors for Seniors project to build one-on-one relationships with teen volunteers and nursing home residents; the Stories Worth Saving project for teens to document stories of assisted-living residents; and the Theatre for Social Change Group project which aims to offer teens ways to use the arts to explore difficult social issues. 

For 2016, the second year for the awards, the foundation asked youth and youth partnering with adults to develop projects that answer the question: "What idea could you bring to life to empower youth to make the community better?"

Last year's awards challenge didn't have a thematic focus, according to Sarah Indyk, Rose Community Foundation's director of special projects. This year it was separated into two different pathways, with the youth awards and the youth-adult awards. "The youth-led projects were really conceived of by youths without formal adult partners," she explains. She adds that since the adult-youth partnership projects are a lot different it made sense to go through a parallel process; the Sept. 14 event will decide which youth-adult projects will be funded.

“Both groups will benefit from extensive training coaching and support from the Youth Leadership Institute,” Indyk says. "We're running a full incubator providing support to all awardees and finalists. It's a way we could support all the finalists even if they don't receive funds. That amounts to $50,000 in additional support."

Visit rcfdenver.org/IFG to learn more about the program and finalists.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.
53 Giving and Philanthropy Articles | Page: | Show All
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