Features Erick Mueller, Executive Director of the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship

5-Minute Listen

A new mentorship program aims to help Colorado business owners and entrepreneurs navigate the growing economic crisis. Erick Mueller, the Executive Director of the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business, introduces COVenture Forward and how business owners can take advantage of an extensive network of mentors, CU faculty, and business students.

Erick Mueller, executive director of the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship in the Leeds School of Business, poses on his Harley Davidson motocycle that he uses to get to entrepreneurship workshops around the state. (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

Erick, who also facilitates the Demystifying Entrepreneurship program in rural communities, says mentors can provide a fresh perspective and help business owners develop a path forward.



“So this is a very important time to support our entrepreneurs and small businesses through mentoring through expert knowledge and experience from our faculty and mentor network.”

Margaret: This is Startup Colorado.  We work with change agents across the state who are dedicated to building for rural Colorado. The communities are small but their stories are big.  

I’m Margaret Hedderman and today we’re letting you know about a new mentorship opportunity for Colorado’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. You just heard from Erick Mueller, the Executive Director of the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business. Some of you will know Erick from the Demystifying Entrepreneurship program. 

Erick: COVenture Forward was built to help entrepreneurs throughout the state of Colorado through three main areas.

Margaret: The program will provide mentoring and coaching sessions with seasoned entrepreneurs and business owners, insights from faculty with the Leeds School of Business, and eventually student micro-internships. Mentorships are open to business owners across industries.

Erick:  We just saw our local businesses or local entrepreneurs really take a big hit, obviously, and we couldn’t be on the sidelines. We had to contribute where we could. And so we leveraged some things that we have at the Leeds School, specifically our faculty insights and our mentor network, as well as our thousands of students. We said, well, let’s help our businesses through mentoring and helping any way that we can. And let’s build this platform to help our local businesses.

Margaret: Erick says they currently have 70 mentors helping entrepreneurs. Initially, mentors were helping business owners on conserving cash and navigating lease payments, now they’re pivoting to help business owners strategize for the months ahead. 

Erick: Now we’ve seen a transition of businesses really making a plan forward, and what does that look like and our mentors are providing a fresh perspective in that regard.

Margaret: The initial commitment for mentorship is a one-hour meeting. From there, the mentor and mentee can determine if they’d like to continue the connection. 

Erick: Entrepreneurs, by definition are used to adapting and used to change. But these are unprecedented times. Things have shifted so quickly and so dramatically that our entrepreneurs and small businesses can really benefit from a fresh perspective and just to chat with somebody that has been through a downturn before that has great experience and getting through challenges.

Margaret: COVenture Forward is also an incredible opportunity for CU business students, who will be involved in the program. 

Erick: The goal of getting our students engaged is really twofold. One is to provide, you know, amazing experience for our students and helping our small business and entrepreneurs throughout the state. And two obviously the other key goal is to help our businesses that need help in really transitioning through this COVID experience.

Margaret: If you’d like to signup, head over to bitly.com/coventureforward and fill out a quick application. From there, you’ll be matched with a mentor. We’ll also have a link to COVenture Forward on our website, StartupColorado.org. Additionally, Erick says they are still looking for more mentors, if you’re interested in helping other business owners navigate this crisis. 

I’d also like to give everyone a heads up about the regional resource Zoom calls that happen every Friday. There are a total of four calls for each region of the state and they feature representatives from the local, statewide, and the national level. We’ve covered everything from updates to stimulus packages, opportunities for hemp and ag, and PUA for 1099 contractors. Again, these calls are every Friday. You can find links on our website. 

Until next time, thanks for listening. 


At Startup Colorado, our mission is to demonstrate that rural entrepreneurship will ignite a culture of potential, empowering people and places to thrive and define their own future.  Join us today: startupcolorado.org

Startup Colorado is housed within the Silicon Flatirons Center at the University of Colorado School of Law, and funded by the Office of Economic Development and International Trade, The Foundry Group, Zoma Lab, and Visa.