Our equity statement and commitment to create a more equitable Colorado
Our equity statement is our commitment to diverse small-business owners, including Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color (BIPOC), women, veteran, and rural small-business owners, is unwavering: we will be bold in identifying areas in the small-business ecosystem that have been systemically underserved; we will work to confront and dismantle barriers that have been roadblocks to economic prosperity, and we will work collaboratively to reimagine and reinvent thriving conditions that lead us to lasting change for Colorado communities and beyond. Energize Colorado is dedicated to lifting up diverse and underserved communities through a range of initiatives designed for immediate and long-lasting impact.
During the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the immediate impact on minority communities in our state was evident. As Energize Colorado began its operations, we recognized the importance of setting an equity agenda that would address the historical and COVID-19 related inequities and frame a response coupled with establishing a long-term roadmap.
Energize Colorado is shaping the evolution of Colorado’s small business ecosystem by advancing resiliency and promoting equity. Powered by a collection of spirited and innovative volunteers, we work with our partners in the small business ecosystem to identify, serve and uplift our small business owners. One of our signature programs is the Energize Colorado GAP Fund. The first phase of the GAP fund was supported by the Coronavirus Aid Recovery and Economic Stimulus (CARES) Act. In alignment with the CARES Act distribution requirements, the Energize Colorado Gap Fund prioritized minority-owned businesses.
Our equity statement outlines our commitment to diverse small business owners, including Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color (BIPOC), women, veteran, and rural small business owners, is unwavering: we will be bold in identifying areas in the small business ecosystem that have been systemically underserved; we will work to confront and dismantle barriers that have been roadblocks to economic prosperity, and we will work collaboratively to reimagine and reinvent thriving conditions that lead us to lasting change for Colorado communities and beyond. Energize Colorado is dedicated to lifting up diverse and underserved communities through a range of initiatives designed for immediate and long-lasting impact.
At the heart of our programs is a drive to guard against inequities that hamper the growth and prosperity of minority-owned and diverse-led businesses, and to create opportunities for all.
We are committed to improving access to capital, providing mentorship and training opportunities, and connections to ecosystem partners that will help minority small business owners fortify the foundation of their businesses and to prepare for investment, growth and scale.
To start in this work, we first seek to shed a spotlight on all entrepreneurs of Color to motivate partner organizations to fully invest in them.
Equity Statement for BIPOC-Owned Small Business
Throughout Colorado and beyond, small businesses are a source of vibrant economic activity–creating jobs, economic stability and products and services that meet the needs of the local consumer. Particularly within Black and Brown communities, small business ownership creates pathways to economic freedom and wealth-building. However, many disparities continue to exist. For example, the Black population of the US makes up 13% of the total population but only 2% of small business ownership, according to the latest census data. In contrast, White Americans make up 60% of the US population and own 82% of small businesses. These types of disparities persist due to the inequitable access to capital and lack of holistic support provided to Black and Brown small business owners.
Energize Colorado is committed to understanding the specific challenges facing BIPOC small business owners. Working with partners, we are creating new pathways to racial equity that will lead to economic resilience and innovation in Black and Brown communities. All businesses are not created equal and all businesses do not have the benefits that privilege affords. A cross-cultural team of innovative thinkers will continue to design and implement specific programs that accelerate activities which effect lasting change and the greatest positive impact possible.
Working to dismantle systemic ills and using our voice and influence to fight inequities is intense and important work. As a group of spirited Innovators, we learn and iterate quickly. However, we approach equity with a learning mindset AND a healthy dose of humility. We work quickly in our response to hear, and very deliberately in our response to listen and collectively build solutions that strengthen those most underserved in our small business ecosystem. In a demonstration of our commitment to equity, Energize Colorado has taken specific actions in our first year of operating as a non-profit:
- Engaged Equity Consultants, a Colorado-based BIPOC owned small business, to develop and deliver awareness conversations that were available to all of our staff, partners, and volunteers; Phase 2 of that work is in process.
- Prioritized minority-owned businesses as vendors to provide specific services to Energize Colorado
- Analyzed GAP Fund recipient data to ensure transparency with funds distribution
- Launched partnership with Make Startups to bring entrepreneurship training to underserved entrepreneurs in rural Colorado
Equity Statement for Women-Owned Small Business
An overwhelming majority of women who are small business owners in the state of Colorado witnessed their revenue decline in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their businesses are particularly vulnerable due to many traditional obstacles. By creating a more inclusive environment to engage in the marketplace, Energize Colorado supports women-owned businesses by listening to specific challenges and successes, collecting and publishing survey data, cultivating community, and leveraging our vast network to make connections and expand access to capital. As we work to put COVID-19 behind us, we are also working to ensure Colorado’s small business ecosystem is more resilient and equitable for female-owned businesses
Equity Statement for Veteran-Owned Small Business
Historically, military veterans transitioning into civilian employment is a process much like going from employee to employer. However, veterans remain best poised to overcome challenges and have unknowingly utilized innovation in the military in the same way small business innovates. As a result, COVID-19 allowed veterans to leverage their readiness for crisis and access resources. Veterans received more Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans than their non-military counterparts and their PPP loans tended to be more sizable. Credit is due to veterans asking for help and to support programs that are available to provide help.
Energize Colorado celebrates the entrepreneurial tenacity of our military hero small=business owners. We are committed to continued program development to support our veteran-owned businesses and cheer them along towards thriving in a more resilient and equitable small business ecosystem for all.
Equity Statement for Rural-Owned Small Business
Small businesses are the backbone of rural communities. The needs of small businesses in and around more populated cities tend to overshadow the needs of Main Street small businesses in rural communities due to the lack of funding and underserved civic infrastructure. Additionally, the lack of access to broadband is a major issue that continues to hamper the ability for these businesses to gain new customers, develop new products and services, and to compete on a broader scale. Small businesses in rural communities are closing at an alarming rate, according to the Brookings Institute.
Energize Colorado will continue to illuminate the challenges facing the rural geography of our small business ecosystem. We are developing relationships with partners that have earned the trust of the rural small business community, continuing to raise the issue of the digital divide, and prioritizing investment for a more resilient and equitable Colorado.
Driven to advance resiliency and promote equity in our economic systems, we are committed to doing our part to effect the change our society needs, right now.
Black Lives Matter Statement
(published in August 2020 after the murder of George Floyd)
Energize Colorado stands together with the Black Community to remember and recognize victims of racism and end systems of oppression, in Colorado and beyond.
Preceded by decades of systemic racism, the impact of recent public health, economic and mental health crises have fallen disproportionately upon the Black Community and other Communities of Color.
In plain view, we see the appalling wealth and opportunity gaps faced by Black Americans, which continue to widen.
We recognize that longstanding systemic issues have created unnecessary barriers for Black and brown owners of small businesses, which are the backbone of our communities.
This is not just inequality and inequity—it is injustice.
Injustice can’t be fought with hashtags. It requires action. This is why we have been working to alter our programs to support and empower businesses and organizations led by and serving people of color.
Energize Colorado Stop Asian Hate Statement
(published in March 2021)
In response to the recent sharp increase in Anti-Asian racism, Energize Colorado voices its unequivocal support of the Asian American community and joins a chorus of other organizations calling for an end to Asian discrimination.
False narratives that fuel Asian-hate have impacted many Asian American small business owners in the loss of revenue, increased vandalism, threats and violence. This is on top of the other difficulties faced by small business owners due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pandemic is a recent occurrence, historically, Asian Americans have suffered through bigotry and racism prior to the United States Civil War. Even more specifically and within the past 100 years, Colorado was home to Japanese internment camps and racial targeting of Asian Americans. The consequences of this large-scale mistreatment is still felt today.
Asian Americans make a sound impact in the small business community. They owned more than 10 percent of all U.S. businesses in 2018. These businesses produced $863 billion in receipts and employed 5.1 million people, as reported by the Census Bureau. Asian American owned small businesses are incredibly important to the Colorado ecosystem, and we will continue to demonstrate our support for them through our programs and partnerships as we build towards a more resilient and equitable Colorado small business economy.
Equity for LGBTQIA+ Individuals
(published in November 2022 following the shooting at Club Q)
In a time of crisis, it is the small business owners that step up and lead, putting their own lives and livelihood on the line to defend their community and their home. Here in our state, we call it Coloradans helping Coloradans.
On Saturday night, Colorado was home to yet another shooting, this time taking place in a space for LGBTQIA+ people across Southern Colorado.
It was the brave actions of Richard Fierro, co-owner of Atrevida Brewing Co. in Colorado Springs that put a swift end to the shooting and saved so many lives. In 2020, we interviewed Richard and his wife and co-owner Jess Fierro as part of our Can Do Colorado campaign. As a veteran and Latina-owned business, the Fierros represent the values that inspire our work at Energize Colorado. At that time, they shared, “Here at Atrevida Beer Co., we are bringing diversity to your community. From the minute you walk in, to our beer menu, to our staff, there is a sharing of cultures.”
The road to healing is long, and we have much work to do for Colorado to be a safer and more welcoming space for LGBTQIA+ people and businesses. Our hearts ache with the friends and family of those who lost or are fighting for their lives due to this senseless act of violence.
We will continue to advocate within our communities and systems to create an environment of love and belonging for all people. We remain committed to fostering a culture across the state that enables everyone to be seen, heard and supported.
If you are looking for ways to support the community in Colorado Springs as they heal, we encourage you to support the Colorado Healing Fund.