For the past nine years, Southwest Colorado Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurs has been helping companies grow in the region. The organization takes businesses through a six-month program with local mentors that provide expertise in their area of specialty.
SCAPE focuses on companies located in Southwest Colorado and northwest New Mexico that have the potential for national interest. It offers services to local businesses and helps with their expansion, but it focuses on businesses with a broader reach because of investor compatibility.
“For example, at a local coffee shop they just sell to people who walk in the door. But the companies we have, like EsoTerra, they make and sell their cider locally but can still distribute their products nationwide, giving them a larger customer base,” said SCAPE Director Elizabeth Marsh.
The companies are coached by SCAPE mentors, and at the end of the six-month program, the companies pitch their ideas to investors.
SCAPE takes applications once a year for the program. Marsh said the program receives about 50 applications per year. While it only accepts a few companies, Marsh offers resources and connections to businesses that weren’t accepted that may better suit the needs of their brand.
“When we look at applications, we ask if it’s something that will benefit the area? We also ask do we have mentors and if it’s something our investors would get behind?” she said.
An example of the program’s success was Andrew McKee with Tectonic Components bike pedals. Marsh said McKee came to SCAPE with a new idea for a bike pedal and the organization helped him raise the investment funding for his first production run. Marsh explained how McKee was able to get his product on the mountain bike website Pinkbike and sold 30% of his pedals in the first week.
The SCAPE 2022 cohort class includes companies like Farm to Summit, PJ’s Fine Bamboo Rods and Sasquatch Expedition Campers.
“This is our biggest cohort this year,” said SCAPE Community Manager Brittany Cupp. “We have nine companies and it is the most geographically spread out we’ve been. We have companies from Durango, Cortez, Silverton and Farmington. We have a pretty big reach of people that were supportive in the region.”
SCAPE has put $30 million behind local businesses over the last nine years and has worked with more than 43 businesses. The organization also helped companies like EsoTerra and Iron IQ receive the OEDIT Advanced Industries grant for $250,000.
“A lot of startup capital is focused in metropolitan areas or on the West Coast in areas like San Francisco or even Boulder,” Cupp said. “For rural entrepreneurs to pull it off is pretty unique. We’re an organization that works in rural communities and we’ve been a shining star for them.”
Cupp said SCAPE is different because it helps businesses get support rather than just funding. She finds that businesses struggle to attract investors because they do not have guidance and investors do not want to take risks if a company seems unprepared.
The organization will host and sponsor several community events over the summer for local startups to make connections and ask for advice.
The next event be will be the Western Slope Startup Week beginning Wednesday at EsoTerra and Outdoorsy Outpost. The week is filled with entrepreneurial events where different businesses can receive free advice and make connections. Guest speakers at the event will include Erin Neer with MUNIRevs, Elizabeth Philbrick with EsoTerra Ciderworks and Lea Novak with Outdoorsy.
“It will be a great way for people to learn about SCAPE, but then also learn from some female founders and how they grew their businesses from Durango,” Marsh said.