Colorado nonprofit Energize Colorado helps more than 2,000 women and minority-owned businesses stay alive during pandemic
(CBS4) – Energize Colorado, a pandemic-born nonprofit, has worked throughout the past year and a half to help small minority-owned and women-owned businesses stay afloat, providing additional funding to fill the gaps left by federal money. Now, there are more opportunities for local business owners in underrepresented communities to get the essential help they need.
In the early stages of the pandemic, Governor Jared Polis launched an economic task force to help analyze and address the economic toll of the pandemic closure and subsequent restrictions. Energize was born from this working group and achieved 501c3 status within a few months.
After speaking with dozens of community organizations on the ground, the nonprofit quickly learned that federal funding was insufficient for many small business owners, especially those in under-represented communities, across the State, which may not have had the resources, expertise and connections to acquire all the money it needed.
For example, Energize Colorado, with the help of financial specialists and innovators from the public, private and philanthropic sectors across the state, developed a “Gap Fund” to give small businesses the extra help they need to stay alive.
Using money from the CARES Act, Energize Colorado deployed Gap Fund grants to 2,064 small businesses in Colorado.
“These are small businesses, 25 employees or less, with priority over women, veterans, small rural businesses and BIPOC,” said Wendy Lea, CEO of Energize Colorado. “I think the thing that touched me the most was being with these small businesses, these owners, and seeing what they’ve been through and seeing how much help a little bit, how far it goes for them, just emotionally… it’s so rewarding, and it’s also heartbreaking.
Peggy Sue Schmoldt was one of those lucky business owners to receive the funding. She has owned the Academy of Cosmetology Arts – a beauty school in Denver – for 20 years.
“They made a difference at the right time to tell you the truth,” Schmoldt said.
Thanks to the Gap Fund, Schmoldt was able to keep his beauty school running without having to lay off employees.
“Being able to provide a service for my industry means a lot to me,” she said.
Lea says that last year, Energize Colorado received more than 10,000 requests for top-up funding, but only had enough to award the money to just over 2,000 of those applicants.
Now, she says a new bill signed in June by the governor just allocated an additional $ 15 million in assistance to small businesses, and Energize Colorado will help deploy that money to some of the businesses in sub-communities. represented who did not receive help in the last round.
“We are excited about the opportunity to leverage the mechanism we have built to serve these businesses again,” Lea said.
Lea expects this money to help at least 800 more small businesses in Colorado.
Energize Colorado also has $ 8 million in low interest loans to help even more small businesses. The loans are made possible thanks to the money raised from the private sector, and Léa hopes that they will be deployed soon.
“Some businesses can really benefit from a loan at very low interest rates,” Lea said. “This is why we are delighted to accelerate the deployment of this type of capital, once again to the same audience. ”
Lea says all efforts are “in the spirit of resilience and fairness and building Colorado’s next economy on the small business side.”
Schmoldt says she is grateful to see so many people coming together to help businesses like hers during an unprecedented time. She says it has made her business stronger than ever.
“There has been so much collective kindness, where other people are really, really helping others, and it’s wonderful to have had,” Schmoldt said.
To learn more about Energize Colorado’s Gap Fund, Click here .
To learn more about other resources Energize Colorado provides for small businesses, Click here .