In late December, seven entrepreneurs presented their business concepts in front of an audience at the Wilkinson Public Library. The showcase was the finale for the “Cómo Construir Un Negocio” (“How to Build a Business”) program launched in October by the Telluride Venture Network (TVN).
While the TVN typically hosts four business acceleration boot camps annually, this pilot program was the first of its kind focused on Latinx entrepreneurs.
“We’ve known the need existed for a program like this in our community. The program came together when we were able to secure funding from a generous donor and interpretation resources from members of the Collaborative Action for Immigrants,” Bonnie Watson, TVN’s managing director, explained in a news release.
When asked if there were any significant differences between this boot camp and others run by the TVN, Watson added, “No. The content covered the same business concepts explored in our other boot camps such as the Lean Canvas business model, financial planning, customer acquisition, unit economics and business legalities. The only difference was the length of the program. Instead of using a sprint two-week intensive format, it was delivered on Saturday afternoons over 10 weeks to accommodate a working person’s schedule.”
Among the cohort were an aspiring baker, house painter, seamstress, hair stylist and two restaurateurs. These entrepreneurs were paired with Spanish-speaking mentors, who they met with routinely for guidance and support. Mentors were chosen based on their own entrepreneurial experience — many have owned or run their own businesses — as well as their knowledge of the entrepreneur’s industry.
The cohort made significant progress during the program. While some participants were already business owners looking for ways to grow their business, others were firmly in the ideation phase. One participant who started with a dream of opening a restaurant refined her idea into a breakfast concept after determining there was a gap in healthy options available. She went on to develop a preliminary menu, take a food safety course, visit rental space and create financial projections.
The final showcase gave entrepreneurs a safe place to present and seek feedback about their business. An engaged audience asked questions and provided suggestions after each presentation. Additionally, audience members pledged to promote the businesses and spread the word to friends, family and colleagues.
A post-program participant survey revealed the boot camp to be a great success. Not only did participants meet fellow aspiring entrepreneurs on their journey, they also connected to many leaders in the wider Latinx community, developed lasting mentor relationships and polished their presentation skills. For those ready to launch their business, the showcase provided the opportunity to make an official “ask” to fund startup expenses either through grant monies or debt financing through the San Juan Regional Loan Fund.
The TVN plans to host a second business boot camp for Latinx entrepreneurs in 2022.
If you or someone you know is interested in this program, contact Watson at Bonnie@tellurideventurenetwork.com. Visit TVN’s website at tellurideventurenetwork.com to learn more about the resources available to local entrepreneurs.
Launched in 2013, TVN is a nationally recognized, award-winning entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports new, innovative and growing businesses. TVN is rooted in the innovation of the area that included Nicolas Tesla’s first AC power transmission to power the mines. TVN’s mission to diversify the regional economy has resulted in 50 graduating companies, dozens of new jobs, millions of investment dollars raised, 1,000-plus hours of mentoring and the birth of a few high-impact efforts such as the Telluride Venture Fund, a regional loan fund, and an active co-working space.