As communities across Colorado learn how to co-exist with COVID, many small businesses continue to struggle. The Energize Colorado Gap Fund launched in August as a multi-year partnership with support from the State of Colorado and private funders, including Gates Family Foundation, to provide capital to drive local employment, spur economic resurgence, and yield a resilient and refreshed economy.

Map Showing Geographic Distribution of 547 Round 1 Awards from Energize Colorado Gap FundOn October 28, the first round of grants — totaling $6.7 million — were awarded to 547 small business owners. Decisions for the second round of funding — which will award an additional $19 million to 1,500 additional businesses, will be announced before December 30. The fund has raised a total of $32 million to date.

The Energize Colorado Gap Fund gives priority, but not exclusive, access to small business grants and loans for Colorado’s women-owned, minority-owned, veteran-owned and rural businesses. Many of these businesses have historically had limited access to capital. The pandemic has widened the gap.

Beyond the awarding of capital, the Gap Fund seeks to create an ongoing ecosystem to help small businesses in Colorado not only survive, but flourish. Outreach, building trust, adding value, and wrapping businesses in post-award support are the foundations of the Gap Fund ecosystem through the resources of Energize Colorado.

In this first round, the Gap Fund received more than 5,600 applications that in total requested $135 million in support. Of all applicants, 90 percent qualified as “priority businesses”, 34 percent were from BIPOC-owned businesses and 88 percent were from BIPOC- and women-owned businesses. About one in ten of these were awarded funds in Round 1, and remaining qualified businesses not selected in Round 1 were automatically pushed to Round 2 to be considered again for funding.

Of the 547 businesses awarded a total of $6.7 million in Round 1, 99 percent qualified as “priority businesses.” Of all awardees, 58 percent were BIPOC-owned businesses and 97 percent were from BIPOC- and women-owned businesses.

In addition to providing capital, Energize Colorado provides businesses with subsidized PPE, free and low-cost mental health support, and free professional services, including free legal advice and free business mentorship. To date, the Mentorship Initiative has served 886 businesses providing 272 with mentorship and guidance, 530 with Gap Fund support, and facilitated more than 1,200 connections to services outside of Energize Colorado.

The Gap Fund will continue to raise capital from foundations, individuals, and public sources through 2021 and beyond to help businesses — and the families and communities that rely upon them — recover.

Are you a funder, interested in contributing to the Gap Fund? Contact Sue Dorsey, Gates Family Foundation’s Senior Vice President for Finance, Administration and Impact Investing, who is a member of the Gap Fund’s Executive Committee.

Are you a small business owner, interested in applying? Learn more about the Energize Colorado Gap Fund.