By Margaret Hedderman
Startup Colorado, a nonprofit organization that supports rural founders and entrepreneurial ecosystem development, is pleased to announce the winners of the Founder Coopetition. The program is a unique 4-week business accelerator designed to help rural founders take their business to the next level by combining cooperative learning with a competition for $15K in micro-grants. The Coopetition successfully concluded with three exceptional startups securing top honors.
The Founder Coopetition brought together fifteen early-stage entrepreneurs from diverse business backgrounds, who participated in the intensive program aimed at accelerating their startup’s growth. This initiative is part of Startup Colorado’s ongoing commitment to catalyze entrepreneurial development and promote innovation in underserved areas.
After four weeks of collaborative training, business assignments, and mentorship, the three standout companies awarded grant funding are as follows:
- Elisha Espinoza of Palisade Coffee – Located in Grand Junction, Palisade Coffee Company is all about fresh unique coffee experiences. They’re on the journey to discover incredible coffee and honor the legacy of a town built on its orchards and vineyards. Find them in-person for delicious single-origin cold brew or try their pour-over packs for unforgettable coffee anywhere you go!
“The Founder Coopetition became a crucial step in the success of my company,” Espinoza said. “The cohort was so incredibly supportive, and we found a refocused vision throughout the entire process.”
- Robin Hall of Town Hall – Based in Steamboat Springs, Town Hall Outdoor Co makes sustainable outdoor apparel for adventurous kids and their families. They want every kid to Love Outside, for the health of themselves, the planet and their communities. They believe in People+Planet+Place—and Town Hall’s ‘place’ is Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where getting your gear dirty is a badge of honor and community is everything.
“The Startup Colorado Founder Coopetition was eye-opening, powerful and couldn’t have come at a better time for Town Hall,” said Robin Hall, founder of Town Hall Outdoor Co. “The Coopetition allowed me to step back from the day-to-day to focus on strategy, connect deeply with other passionate Colorado entrepreneurs and learn more about myself, the funding landscape and where our business is headed.”
- Julia Taylor of GeekPack® – Based in Durango, GeekPack® is on a mission to change the face of tech by bringing new voices into the conversation. Through an e-learning platform, they create unlikely success stories by defying the constraints of traditional higher education and equipping women and other underrepresented communities with in-demand, transferable digital skills to thrive in a rapidly changing world.
“Participating in Startup Colorado’s Founder Coopetition helped me refine my business by better understanding and articulating my ‘ask,'” said Julia Taylor, founder of GeekPack. “As a bootstrapped company, our immediate need isn’t funding, but instead we’re in the process of scaling our newest initiative, the GeekPack Partners Program, and need advisors who share our passion and believe in our mission to help us close the digital skills gap.”
All participating founders produced a final pitch presentation, which was reviewed and voted upon by more than 200 experts and mentors at organizations such as Techstars, Hubspot, the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network Colorado (BENCO), Rockies Ventures Club, and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Final scoring also incorporated peer reviews and participation.
Each of the winning startups will receive a $5K micro-grant to help fund their growth and expansion plans. In addition to continued access to Startup Colorado’s extensive network of mentors, resources, and support, they will now gain access into the BENCO advisors network, to ensure future growth.
“The Founder Coopetition has once again demonstrated the remarkable potential and talent found within rural communities,” said Tim Martinez, Startup Colorado’s Founder Coopetition Program Director. “We were excited about all 15 ideas and were then impressed by how much progress each had gained in 4 short weeks. We can’t wait to see the positive impact that these businesses will have on their respective communities and beyond.”
The Founder Coopetition program epitomizes Startup Colorado’s mission to empower entrepreneurs and foster economic growth in rural areas. By combining cooperative learning with a competitive spirit, the program encourages collaboration, innovation, and entrepreneurial excellence.