Jan 02, 2020

Hold up. This is not a classic New Year’s plea to do and be better. This is about a resolute team of entrepreneurs and community champions in Colorado dedicated to the future of our rural places. Sure, we will reveal our 2020 goals at Startup Colorado, but today let’s have our dessert first. Let’s start by celebrating the things we learned from you in 2019:  

Lesson #1

In many ways, there is more at stake for rural entrepreneurs.

Rural-based entrepreneurs aren’t just building for profits and exits, they are building for people and the places they call home. They state a deep commitment to their community as a top priority, alongside quality jobs and company culture. Additionally, when presented with business principles, like Conscious Capitalism, rural business owners and residents will often look to one another, shrug their shoulders and say, “this is how we’ve always done business.” This is not to take away from the value of triple bottom line principles, but to point out that rural places have maintained a greater sense of community long before it became a “thing.” 

Lesson #2

Rural entrepreneurs and community champions are the next wave of economic developers, and we are going to need a lot more of them.

They are the ground troops, the hustlers, the visionaries, the problem solvers… Startup Colorado’s network growth in 2019 revealed that we have an almost 1:1 ratio of entrepreneurs to community champions. The immense energy and potential within these people cannot be understated or under-celebrated. Supporting their goals and milestones, as well as ensuring they have a seat at the table within local boards and government decisions, is mission-critical. It is also important that entrepreneurs, creatives, and community champions work harder to find and support one another. Working together in tandem can make better use of limited resources and accelerate individual and community successes.

Lessons #3

Rural communities can be hard on one another. 

The greater sense of community and close quarters can make it easy to judge or hold onto a past judgment of a fringe character or a mover and shaker in your neck of the woods. We often hear things like, “that guy will never get it done,” or “they should just sell the idea.” At Startup Colorado, our team is comprised of rural residents from Gunnison, Sterling, and Durango, so we get it. The difference is, when we visit a new town with the eyes of an “outsider,” we see the potential of local characters in a different light. We often hear deflated stories about how their community does not see, understand, or celebrate their efforts. In an era of needed diversity and inclusivity, together, all of us can start by replacing judgment with discernment and embracing that which we don’t understand. Together, we can also learn to celebrate and support our ongoing evolution as individuals. The next time we feel compelled to cast off a person or an idea, let’s seize the opportunity to grow. Instead of walking away, consider diving in a little deeper. This is the first step to becoming more inclusive, and it may reveal some unexpected magic. 

To sum up 2019, with a quote from the Kauffman Foundation, “Entrepreneurship is a community sport.” Our lessons last year prove this point. So, what can happen in 2020 to make the lift a little easier for everyone? Startup Colorado has been listening and has several projects in the pipeline that aim to do just that: 

Goal #1: Scale the network 

(We have to say “scale” at least once, or we wouldn’t be a startup org, right?)

In 2019 we built a strong foundation for our network, connecting entrepreneurs and communities to needed resources. This foundation was built through 40k miles of travel, endless emails, conference calls, and development of a digital media suite to extend communication in all four directions. These efforts produced over 300% growth across all network channels and, quite frankly, have us wondering how we will keep pace. With this in mind, along with input from our steering committee, we have just launched a research project to assess the best virtual platform we can implement to scale the network while maintaining quality. This will allow for better connectivity and ongoing 24/7 support across the state. If you would like to learn more about this project, email our new intern and project lead susan.simon@colorado.edu.

Goal #2: Mentors, where are you?

As we select and build out a virtual platform, we will be ready to better integrate and pair mentors within the network. So, we need your help in finding more mentors. They can be from anywhere, and the prerequisites are few. A good mentor will,

  1. Have a passion and interest in supporting rural entrepreneurs.
  2. First and foremost, be a coach, willing to guide someone, in various ways, as they drive the ball downfield towards that next milestone. 

Great mentors are from all walks of life: industry experts, peer entrepreneurs, generalists, strategists, professional service providers, retired small business owners, executive coaches… Please share our call for mentors and have them join us here

Goal #3: Keep hustlin’!

We, of course, have a couple surprises up our sleeve for 2020, but more than anything, we guarantee that we will continue to support the entrepreneur’s journey and deepen our impact. We will continue to mobilize individuals to attend networking events and educational programs, while also supporting the ongoing development of those same resources in local communities. In 2019, we provided 50 scholarships and supported 32 community events across Colorado. Remember that at any time, you can apply for an individual scholarship or community sponsorship on our website.  

And, if you made it this far, THANK YOU for reading our newsletters! We were over the moon to learn that we have a 40% open rate! That’s double the average. 

Happy new years from your friends at Startup Colorado! 

– Delaney, Taylor, Stan, and Margaret

*Photo of Downtown Silverton, CO by Devon Christopher Adams

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