DENVER (CBS4)– A Colorado nonprofit is helping entrepreneurs in under-served communities achieve their business goals. One graduate is using her newfound knowledge to fight back against displacement in Denver’s Westwood neighborhood.
Seven entrepreneurs are graduating from the program; as a result, they’ll soon be eligible for a business loan up to $2,500.
Matilde Garcia, a graduate of the program, says the boot camp has been about more than just learning how to make money. She says it’s about bottling up her business skills in the form of homemade salsa.
“Mujeres Emprendedoras Cooperative” says the perfect salsa takes patience.
Four female entrepreneurs started the Denver co-op to combat displacement in their largely Latino Westwood neighborhood by providing a way for women to contribute to their households.
Garcia is one of the owners.
“We do catering, jewelry, and salsa,” Garcia said.
The co-op started with catering, but their salsa’s popularity quickly caught on.
“People started to ask, ‘How do we buy this salsa? We’ve never seen this kind of salsa.’”
She joined non-profit Rocky Mountain Microfinance Institute’s 12-week business boot camp to take their salsa distribution to the next level.
“We provide coaching, mentorship, classes, and technical assistance,” said Mary Kate Morr, RMMFI’s volunteer coordinator.
Morr is also Garcia’s mentor.
“Our overall goal is to increase economic mobility and social inclusion in the Denver metro area by finding these entrepreneurs that have that spark, that have the drive, that have a good business idea, but they lack the resources to turn that into a reality on their own.”
While peeling jalapenos is an important part of salsa making, Morr says Matilde’s biggest strength is her blend of leadership and entrepreneurial spark.
“She is driven, she is hardworking, and she is pushing herself to learn everything that she can,” Morr told CBS4’s Andrea Flores.
Matilde is now blending, bottling, and selling her salsa at the Westwood Food Co-op.
RMMFI says it’s Garcia’s vision of community empowerment that sets her recipe for success apart from the rest.
“For her it’s really about sharing that knowledge and that wealth with her community, which is really inspiring to be a part of,” Morr said.
Matilde hopes to start selling her salsas at local farmers markets and grocery stores. She also wants to take what she learned through the boot camp and start a YouTube channel where she can pass on her knowledge, and recipes, to people all over the world.