Colorado Partners Working on Increasing Rural Entrepreneurship Receives America’s New Business Plan Grant Collaborative Colorado team to pilot a policy academy for rural entrepreneurs

  • Published
  • On June 22, 2020

A collaborative group comprising Telluride Foundation, Silicon Flatirons Center at Colorado School of Law, and Startup Colorado, was recently awarded a $85,000 grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation (Kauffman Foundation). The group will encourage rural entrepreneurs to advocate for better policies in support of entrepreneurship. This collaboration was selected as one of nine Kauffman Foundation entrepreneurship advocates, through its “America’s New Business Plan” competition to inform local, regional, and national policy debates with the voices of entrepreneurs.

According to Jason Wiens, Policy Director in Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation, “Too often and for too long, America’s policymakers have misguidedly prioritized big business over new business. The grants in this portfolio will bring new ideas and voices to policy debates so that entrepreneurship is no longer an afterthought. Together, they will level the playing field so that anyone with an idea has access to the opportunity, funding, knowledge, and support to turn it into a reality.”

The grant will enable the development and execution of a three-day entrepreneurial policy academy through the Silicon Flatirons Center in Boulder. This academy will educate eight rural entrepreneurs and leaders from the Startup Colorado network to become strong policy advocates and help them realize their ability to provide direct input to local, state, and federal policymakers. The academy will be followed by a live policy forum, hosted by Telluride Foundation, where the entrepreneurs will present their concepts and policy recommendations to state and federal legislative and agency representatives.

“We are proud to join the Kauffman Foundation’s national effort while aligning state goals and rural needs,” said Paul Major, President & CEO of Telluride Foundation. “Our project proposes to merge the need for policy engagement, and entrepreneur advocacy.”

While new businesses created by entrepreneurs are the primary source of almost all new jobs, entrepreneurs are underrepresented in conversations on the future of law and policy in the United States.  Contributing to public policy conversations and processes often requires a significant investment in time and resources, preventing meaningful participation by many entrepreneurs and small businesses, 89% of which have 15 or fewer employees.

For Colorado, this initiative is a unique opportunity to pilot a transformative educational experience that supports the voice and advocacy of rural entrepreneurs and leaders at a critical time. This academy aims to teach entrepreneurs the tools necessary to engage and influence policy decisions at a local and state level. The addition of these underrepresented voices to policy conversations can help ensure that the outcomes of those conversations are stronger and more representative of the entire population.

As a result of COVID-19, the initial program details are being adjusted in service to public health demands. For more information or to join the initiative, please email startupco@colorado.edu.

Silicon Flatirons is a research center on technology and innovation at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Law. The mission is to elevate the debate around technology law and policy, support and enable entrepreneurship in technology, and inspire, prepare, and place the next generation of experts. Through intellectually honest programing and community engagement, Silicon Flatirons reaches across sectors to create dialogue and inspire innovation.

Startup Colorado is a grassroots organization whose mission is to demonstrate that rural entrepreneurship will ignite a culture of potential, empowering people and places to thrive and define their future. Led by a team of rural entrepreneurs and community champions, Startup Colorado works throughout the Western Slope and Eastern Plains, supporting initiatives that benefit the long-term resources and success of Colorado’s rural entrepreneurs.

The Telluride Foundation exists to create a stronger Telluride and regional community through the promotion and support of philanthropy.  2020 marks 20 years of making more possible through the foundation’s commitment to enrich the quality of life of the residents, visitors, and workforce of the Telluride region.  The Telluride Foundation is a nonprofit, apolitical community foundation that makes grants to nonprofits, owns and operates programs that meet emerging and unmet community needs, and makes investments.  The Foundation approaches this work through the lens of its core values of inclusion, self-reliance, and innovation. Its work is funded through the generous support of individual donors as well as grants from state and national foundations.