Fort Lewis College’s Center For Innovation Provides Support For Entrepreneurs

Starting and running a business can be a challenging endeavor on its own. Layer on a global pandemic and it can be downright terrifying.

Luckily for southwest Colorado, just a few weeks before COVID-19 closed many doors, Fort Lewis College (FLC) opened the Center for Innovation. The Center is a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs, providing co-working space, private offices, and event space for rent. It also houses the Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Startup Colorado, and Hawk Tank, the FLC’s business plan competition.

“Whatever phase your business is in—from starting with an idea to an already established business that’s ready to grow—we have the resources in-house to help,” says Kiki Hooton, coordinator of the Center for Innovation.

While the Center for Innovation had capacity limits during the pandemic, it still was able to make a positive impact on local businesses in Durango and the region. Through the center, the SBDC helped countless businesses navigate the first and second rounds of Paycheck Protection Program loan applications and Economic Injury Disaster Loan disbursement. The spacious location allowed many businesses to meet while keeping a safe distance, and it provided a space for consultants to have stable internet connection to meet over Zoom.

The Center also partnered with Southwest Colorado Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurs (SCAPE) and the Center on Rural Innovation. They provided upskilling resources like The Future is Digital Challenge, which provided free technical training on website development and marketing for those looking to pivot careers during COVID-19. The 2021 Hawk Tank was recorded at the center, which helped the business incubator competition reach a wider audience and include San Juan College and local high schools in this year’s competition.

“We’re really excited to be at a point where we can fully open our doors to the community,” Hooton says. To book space at the center or schedule a tour, go to innovation.fortlewis.edu. To support their efforts with a cash donation, text the code SOBA to 91999.

Learn more at innovation.fortlewis.edu.

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