The Colorado Small Business Profile for 2016, which is published by the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, reported 572,546 small businesses in Colorado that employ around 1 million people — roughly 48.8 percent of the private workforce.
Colorado has many hubs for small businesses, startups and supporting entrepreneurship in cities like Boulder and Denver. The 2015 Kauffman Index of Startup Activity, published by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, found that 350 out of every 100,000 adults in Colorado became entrepreneurs monthly during 2015.
Pueblo, however, does not yet have a strong platform for startups and entrepreneurship. Taylor Voss and Timothy Zercher, who both graduated from Colorado State University-Pueblo in May, are working to change that in a simple way: over coffee.
Voss, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business management with an emphasis in marketing, came up with the idea for the Pueblo Open Coffee Club after attending a similar-style meetup with Zercher, in Boulder.
“Boulder started their coffee club as a way to take the pulse of their startup community. After attending one of their meetups, I became convinced that this was an idea that could greatly benefit the Pueblo community,” Voss said.
On a national level, the 2016 Kauffman Index of Startup Activity found that the rate of new entrepreneurs translates to about 550,000 new business owners each month. However, startup activity levels overall are still low.
“Unfortunately our city has a much less developed culture and network. However, I think the potential to create a tight-knit startup community in Pueblo is stronger than Boulder or Denver simply because of our size and Pueblo’s culture of determination and hard work,” Zercher said. Zercher graduated with a master’s degree in business administration and minors in finance and an emphasis in international business.
The Colorado Business Economic Outlook for 2016, published by the University of Colorado-Boulder, stated that Pueblo County’s economic indicators are showing improvement.
Additionally, the 2016 Pueblo Economic Forum that hosted by the CSU-Pueblo Malik and Seeme Hasan School of Business and U.S. Bank Oct. 11, discussed that an overall goal is to foster and create an entrepreneurial ecosystem. There was also talk of creating a workspace center in Pueblo, with resources specifically designed for entrepreneurial individuals looking to create, invent and collaborate.
The Facebook page for the Pueblo Open Coffee Club extends an invitation to “all contrarian thinkers, big dreamers, and those who have no respect for the status quo.”
“Startup and entrepreneurial people are a special breed. I wrote the description with that in mind. Its purpose was to attract those unique individuals in the community who are hungry to make a difference,” Voss explained.
According to Voss, the reason startup and entrepreneurial communities like Boulder and Denver are thriving, is due to their “give before you get” culture. He believes that is an aspect that needs to be continually developed and nurtured in Pueblo for similar successes.
The coffee meetings will cover industry trends, current events and entrepreneurial opportunities. A moderator will be appointed.
“I think our challenges will likely be getting the right voices in the room. This is generally a challenge for discussion groups like this,” Zercher said.
However, Zercher expects the group discussions to flow naturally.
“The greatest success I foresee coming from this is a complete cultural shift in the attitude and thinking of our city. The greatest challenge is building that initial community of entrepreneurs,” Voss said.
Networking, collaboration and building opportunities for locals will consistently be underlying goals of the club.
The Pueblo Open Coffee Club is free to the public and will begin meeting Oct. 18 and continue every other Tuesday morning from 8-9 in the Southern Colorado Small Business Development Center at 121 West City Center Drive. Their group’s next meeting will take place Nov. 1.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/puebloocc.
Edited by: Theresa Wolf