By Khara Wolf
West Slope Startup Week (WSSW) is on the move! This free week-long event for entrepreneurs and small business owners is relocating from Grand Junction to the rural startup hub of Durango, Colorado this August 21st-25th. The startup week’s relocation to Durango is part of a broader, strategic plan set in place by the event founders in 2019. This revolving hometown location will help share the entrepreneurial spirit throughout the Western Slope region.
WSSW is a free, choose your own adventure, educational conference for people who have started or want to start a business. With over 70+ sessions this year, the conference will also be a key opportunity for networking in Rural Colorado. Packed with panels, workshops, networking sessions, and more, this grassroots event for Colorado startups will bring together entrepreneurs, ecosystem builders, funders, and mentors.
“WSSW is for you, whether you are curious about starting a rural company, working in a startup or just want general business knowledge and fun loving W’slopers to hang with,” said Bryan Wachs, founder of QuikrStuff and one of the original Grand Junction organizers.
What is a startup week all about?
We recently spoke with Vanessa McCrann, Lead Organizer of West Slope Startup Week, and asked her who WSSW is for and what folks can expect to take away from the event. She shared that “West Slope Startup Week is for rural founders and the community that supports them. Whether you’re considering starting a business, or ready to grow and scale your business, you’ll find something of value in the program. We welcome community members who are eager to learn more about the local entrepreneurship scene. Whether that’s Durango or anywhere else on the Western Slope, all roads lead to West Slope Startup Week.”
The event will bring together all the players in a startup ecosystem: entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, and business support organizations. Cory Finney, Fund Manager, Greater Colorado Venture Fund, said, “WSSW is the highest density collection of startup activity outside of metro markets. It attracts people from rural Colorado, but also attracts investors and entrepreneurs from outside of that market. Having everyone in one place for the week allows for easy access to new connections and provides opportunities to see old friends.”
Free Events & Programming for All Businesses
As a grassroots initiative, all sessions were crowdsourced from experts across the Western Slope region. That has led to some powerful programming for the 2023 conference. McCrann added, “This year in Durango, WSSW programming is focused on the content that is personal and interactive, to help founders get ahead together. All sessions are in person this year, which allows for more authentic connections. Entrepreneurs will have daily opportunities to hone their networking skills. Founders will also find workshops on trending technologies to help their business.”
One trend we can’t wait to learn more about is AI-ChatGPT based technology. On the forefront of this topic, Gabriel Garcia will be presenting on how AI-ChatGPT is revolutionizing lead generation as part of the Toolbox Track. His session Easy AI-Powered Lead Generation for Small Businesses and Startups will demystify the process and help participants get started with AI-based technologies in their business.
Personal branding has also been a hot topic in digital marketing lately. Maryrose Milkovich Ewing will be providing a path of discovery in her presentation to help business owners find their own story. Her presentation From Padawans to Dragon Slayers: Networking with Your Origin Story, is part of the Communication Track this year.
On the People Track, Behavioral Economist Kristie McPherson will be leading the discussion on Flipping Towns: Transforming Economies in Rural Communities. This trendy WSSW topic will be focused on community redevelopment and transitioning Single-industry towns. The presentation will help participants understand the potential of small-town entrepreneurship and pave the way towards meaningful social change.
The programming isn’t the only exciting highlight this year. Durango’s work hard/play hard lifestyle means unlimited outdoor adventures are waiting for this year’s WSSW attendees.
To attend this year’s startup week, visit https://westslopestartupweek.com to register online and view the schedule of events, presenter bios, and more.