Building Capacity in Colorado Communities

Pueblo Food Project Partnership

The Pueblo Food Project is a program that was modeled in collaboration with the established CSU venture programs created and facilitated by the CSU Institute for Entrepreneurship. Long term partnerships have been created between CSU Fort Collins, the Southern Colorado Innovation Link as well as the Pueblo Food Project. As part of this program, we have conducted the following activities:

  • Supported the development of a food accelerator program for food entrepreneurs.
  • Hosted educational workshops.
  • Supported market research for food entrepreneurs.
  • Created and facilitated connections in the food entrepreneurship space, including the creation of a mentorship program.
  • Curriculum building and course facilitation on entrepreneurial concepts such as design thinking methodology, customer discovery, market analysis, branding tool sets, and pitching best practices.
  • Compiled secondary data and developed content based on community conversations and task force groups to facilitate workforce and enterprise development planning and feasibility.

In total we had 22 participants participate in this program across 2 cohorts. Resulting in a continued partnership for future cohorts to utilize entrepreneurial curriculum.

In addition to our Pueblo Food Partnership Trainings, we also provided a training for entrepreneurs called Pivot Pueblo County. Our goals in working with Pivot Pueblo were to support the long-term stability of local businesses and organizations due to the challenges faced by the COVID-19 outbreak. Engaging content around changing consumer habits and new health requirements, has required many businesses to pivot their business model to adapt to the changing times. Overall, we had 3 cohorts, and 50 individuals interact with our Pivot Pueblo materials.

Region 10/Olathe Community Steering Committee

One Co-PI as well as a specialist from the Institute for Entrepreneurship served on the steering committee and provided other assistance with community discussions surrounding an innovation center and entrepreneurial programming.  As a part of this project, we explored the potential impact of an innovation center including economic opportunity, small business resources and potential projects an priorities for the region. Our team provided REDI built indicators which were used to inform a grant proposal submitted by the community with the USDA (which was funded). Facilitated the construction of a business incubator, with entrepreneurs being targeted especially in the Hispanic community. The noted Co-PI also served on Region 9’s economic development committee to glean more information about potential linkages with Region 10. The meetings also served to highlight possible gaps in Region 10’s own economic development planning.

Agritourism Website Development

Agritourism can be an important tool for producers to diversify their incomes and become more resilient, but regulations vary by County and regions and have large implications on the success of an operation. For this project we assisted in the creation of a one stop website where agritourism operators can learn of the specific relevant regulations in their specific County. This project originated at the request of Western slope producers, who currently lead the state agritourism association, who have encountered land use, zoning, licensing and other obstacles in opening or expanding value-added businesses based on a primary agricultural operation. And was conducted in collaboration with the Colorado Agritourism Association to develop, Colorado Agritourism Business Environment Resources, a new online resource library and tool to access information more easily on the business regulatory environment. This tool aligns with the Northwest region’s request for more business support for those exploring agritourism opportunities and will assist in business planning and development as well as provide new income sources for agricultural producers in the state. The site is now available at: https://coagritourismbiz.org/

Elevating Support for Colorado Entrepreneurs

We believe lasting economic benefits will also come from the mentoring that entrepreneurs involved in our programs were offered and continue to be provided through community and CSU Extension partnerships. The Pueblo Food Project Participants have been able to engage and meet regularly with mentors from Naturally Boulder and the Southern Colorado SBDC.  Each pair is working closely to help develop food products and food service businesses, while connecting members of Southern and Northern Colorado communities. Due to our partnership with the Pueblo Food Project, Colorado State University created a broader sponsorship of Naturally Boulder to allow participants access to mentor resources, Naturally Boulder events, and networks. The participants in the Pueblo Food Project are also being connected to local developments assisting in food product and service development in Pueblo County.

Many of the lasting economic benefits of our efforts will be felt in disadvantaged populations. For example, with our Pueblo Pivot Jumpstart and our Pueblo Food Project Programs we have been successful in recruiting and supporting individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. For example, 27% of those who signed up for the Pueblo Pivot Jumpstart Program indicated that they identified with the BIPOC population. For the Pueblo Food Project Program, 58% of participants identified themselves as a person with a disability.  We are starting to see longer-term impacts from some of our programs. For example, one of our Pueblo Food Project partners has been encouraged to apply for a planning grant from Opportunity Now for up to $50,000 that would help them continue to build capacity by creating a professional development and apprenticeship program for those in Pueblo who want to pursue culinary careers thorough their food hall.

Photo from the Colorado Collision Food Pitch

Finally, grant team members helped to launch the Colorado Collision Food Pitch Competition hosted at CSU Spur.  Business owners from across the state – including Sterling, Durango, Grand Junction, Pueblo, Hayden and the Front Range – participated in the competition. Each team competed for additional funding and the chance to further elevate their food ventures through partnerships of eight business resource centers and over 10 additional sponsors.

There will be lasting economic benefits of these programs.  A graduate of the Pueblo Food Project Entrepreneurship Development Program illustrates this in their quote about the lasting relationships that have been built through this program: “As I’m growing my business and I have questions, I now know who to ask. It’s the best feeling in the world to have someone who believes in you and supports you and is in your corner to help.”  Our team has been able to offer entrepreneurs market research reports as well as pitch and business mentorship. which has allowed Amber to compete and place in multiple pitch competitions. Please see the following Source Story for more details: https://source.colostate.edu/csu-pueblo-food-project-partnership/

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