Farmer hands planting to soil tomato seedling in the vegetable garden. On the background a watering can for irrigation. Organic farming and spring gardening concept

How Colorado’s Rural Jump-Start Program Supports Entrepreneurs

By Cody Johnston

Since it was relaunched in 2021, Colorado’s Rural Jump-Start Program has supported a growing number of new businesses throughout the state. 

Lounging at their campsite, Kass and Beth Kremer watched as dozens of cars streamed out of the San Juan Mountains before sunset. Together, it dawned on them that these day-trippers were missing out on half the intrepid backcountry experience without spending the night.
“That whole night we were thinking, there has to be something we can give people to fully experience the outdoors,” said Kass. 
That fateful summer night spent along the Alpine Loop in 2020 hatched the idea for Sasquatch Expedition Campers – a bespoke, tow-behind camper manufacturer now based near Silverton, Colorado.
“The product connects with the culture, the people, and the whole brand of the town,” he added.

Sasquatch Campers officially launched in 2021, joining an unprecedented number of entrepreneurs starting businesses despite the pandemic. The first quarter of 2021 saw the highest number of new business filings ever in Colorado,  as well as an uptick in engagement with rural business incentive programs that the State has provided for years.

Sasquatch Campers in Silverton, Colorado
Sasquatch Campers in Silverton, Colorado, is a recipient of the Rural Jump-Start Program.

“We want to innovate, adapt, and strive,” said Morgan Vankat, the Program Manager for the Rural Jump-Start Program. “When we’re looking at rural areas, [we] have to think creatively about what we’re doing to promote economic activity.”
Administered by the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), the Program fortifies startups in twenty-six of Colorado’s rural counties with grants and tax relief.
Through the Rural Jump-Start Program, Sasquatch Expedition Campers, along with twenty-six other accepted small businesses, have qualified for up to $40,000 grants and up to $5,000 for each new hire. 

Businesses like these located in, or moving to, designated rural zones across the Centennial State receive tax relief from state income taxes, state sales and use tax, county personal property tax for the business, as well as 100% of state income taxes for the employee.

“We’ve really been working on figuring out how to build that economic vitality in rural areas,” said Vankat.

The initial bill—signed by then-governor John Hickenlooper in 2015 and launched in 2016—mandated the tax relief element but did not include grant funding. Over the last six years, 172 business owners and their new hires have received tax benefits through the program.

“We want to make Colorado a place for everybody,” said Vankat. “One way we do that is by serving every corner of the State, and that includes rural Colorado and its underserved communities.”

Governor Jared Polis authorized a revamped continuation of the Rural Jump-Start Program just over a year ago–introducing the grant funding, opening eligibility requirements for more rural business participation, and allowing new businesses to partner with their local chamber of commerce or economic development organization in the application processes.
Roger Hosea, Sterling County entrepreneur and the founder of DocuPots, stood to Polis’s right during the signing ceremony. DocuPots produces biodegradable planting pots made of shredded documents for home gardening, landscapers, and commercial agriculture. Hosea was also a participant in Startup Colorado’s Founder CO-Opetition Program in 2021.

“Entrepreneurs are a staple of America. People that have ideas and have the opportunity to explore those ideas in trying and sometimes failing,” said Hosea. “I don’t think you have that opportunity in all countries around the world.”
Hosea, a twenty-year veteran of the shredding business, went through the iterative process of product design to produce biodegradable pots from recyclable materials that don’t immediately break down when watered.

DocuPots, a startup in Sterling, Colorado, is another recipient of the Rural Jump-Start Program.

DocuPots, like most businesses in the Rural Jump-Start Program, was accepted for four years, with the ability to extend up to eight. Since the addition of the grant funding in July of 2021, Rural Jump-Start has committed $662,500 to startups around the State.

“If you want a rural community to survive and thrive, the businesses need to be invested in those communities,” said Vankat.

For the Kremer’s and their business partner Daryl Magner, building local with the help of Rural Jump-Start is top of mind.

“We do have our first employee and plan to hire a second,” said Kass. “Wages are high, so taxes are high and the tax credit will help quite a bit with the overall success of our company.” 


Join the free Startup Colorado Network to find more resources for rural entrepreneurs.