By Jennifer Brice

DENVER (CBS4) – The City of Denver launched a new training academy for local startup businesses. It kicked off Wednesday at The Commons on Champa Street.

CBS4’s Jennifer Brice went inside the academy and found out why small businesses will be vying to get in.

(credit: CBS)

Six small business owners of startups, such as the startup Maria Empanada on South Broadway, are now part of the first inaugural JumpStart Academy with Denver’s Office of Economic Development (OED). They get the support of the city to take their businesses to the next level.

Maria Empanada, a bakery, started in a kitchen, grew to a garage, and now is a thriving business.

Owner Lorena Cantarovici is from Argentina. Her empanadas are quickly becoming a delicious staple in Denver, which is why the city invited her to join the Jumpstart Academy. Cantarovici is thrilled to be part of it.

“Having the support of your city and talking to other business owners is a huge help to learn every single day about doing the right things,” she said.

CBS4’s Jennifer Brice interviews Lorena Cantarovici (credit: CBS)

Denver’s OED will connect small business owners to each other, free of charge, along with whatever kind of support service they need to grow. The six firms selected for the inaugural class of JumpStart Academy have all graduated from regional business incubators and accelerators, and each firm has demonstrated exciting potential to garner capital investment and add jobs.

The inaugural class includes ECS Consulting, HyprLoco, LockState, Maria Empanada, Sugarwish, and TurtleWise.

OED Executive Director Paul Washington says the companies engage in a six-month curriculum.

“To understand what resources they need, whether it’s mentoring, marketing, customer acquisition or financial support,” Washington said.

CBS4’s Jennifer Brice interviews Paul Washington (credit: CBS)

Washington says small businesses represent 38 percent of all companies in Denver. Small businesses also employ 42 percent of the employment base.

Washington knows that successful businesses create a vibrant, healthy city. They pay taxes. They employee people and are civically engaged, according to Washington.

“The benefit to Denver is we want to grow our own Fortune 500 community and that starts with helping support a vibrant small businesses for growth,” he said.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

The chosen six firms can now tap into city contacts, more capital, and each other to learn and grow.

Cantarovici has opened a second location in the Tech Center. She hopes to expand into a third very soon and believes the JumpStart Academy can help in many ways.

“It is fantastic that I can hear from someone (other businesses owners) that may already have a problem and I can say, ‘Oh … I want to learn about that.'”

The JumpStart Academy is a six-month curriculum. Once completed, more entrepreneurs will be invited.

LINK: JumpStart Academy

Jennifer Brice is a reporter with CBS4 focusing on crime and courts. Follow her on Facebook or on Twitter @CBS4Jenn.

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