Portfolio Partner Profile
Colorado Enterprise Fund
Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) is a non-profit Community Development Financial Institution small business lender committed to helping entrepreneurs start and grow small businesses by providing access to capital to low-income, minorities, women, veterans, and underserved areas across Colorado. CEF helps borrowers that do not meet traditional financing guidelines for various reasons including limited collateral, lower credit scores, or if their business is a startup.
The organization provides flexible, low-barrier loans for working capital, equipment, inventory, business purchases, property improvements, etc. CEF loans up to $1 million ($50,000 on average) including Small Business Administration microloans along with loan solutions for specific groups and industries such as black entrepreneurs, veterans, and healthy food access.
The organization has provided over 40,000 hours of free business coaching to borrowers through their Business Navigation Services. The business navigators help borrowers with areas such as business planning, marketing and sales, as well as accounting.
CEF has been dedicated to creating impact through building small businesses, driving community development, and creating jobs for over 45 years. Additionally, CEF has deployed over $246 million in capital to over 7,500 businesses to help create and/or retain over 31,700 jobs in Colorado.
Featured Impact Story
CUJI Foods (CUJI LLC) is a family business founded in early 2022 by Daniella Ferrantelli, Andres, and Ricardo Melendez. The store is a beautiful marketplace of South American specialty items offering the highest quality products from countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, and more. Their first location is in Boulder, CO.
The loan from CEF allowed CUJI LLC to purchase equipment and inventory, as well as allocate some of the funds towards working capital. In the short-term, they hope to open a second location in Denver and two additional stores by the end of 2023 in Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. Ultimately, CUJI LLC seeks to become the first stop for purchasing Hispanic food products in Colorado and expand further to North America.
Photo credit: CUJI Foods
Convivio Cafe is a woman and immigrant-owned, fully bilingual, Guatemala-inspired cafe. Located in Denver, CO, the business offers culturally rooted food and drinks including farmer-roasted coffee. They have been in business since 2000 and recently opened the doors of their brick-and-mortar location on November 1, 2022.
CEF’s Business Navigators program was instrumental in walking alongside and coaching the Convivio Cafe team through the process of opening the storefront. The program members served as a ‘sounding board’ and provided feedback, as well as asked questions and pointed the Convivio team in the right direction.
Photo credit: Convivio Cafe
“Everyone does something that we do, but there are very few stores that do everything we do.”
In 2016, Jimmy Funkhouser decided to quit his 10-year corporate career and follow his dream of opening an outdoor gear shop. Four short months after making that decision, and with the help of a loan from CEF, Jimmy opened FERAL Mountain Co.
At first glance, FERAL might look like any other outdoor store. Look closer and you'll see how Jimmy has built more than that. FERAL is focused on community, sustainability, and, of course, the outdoors. Through its used gear program, and repair and restoration services, FERAL encourages outdoor enthusiasts to repair or sell their gear before buying new - helping to reduce waste and making gear more affordable and accessible for all.
Like any small business owner, Jimmy has faced challenges with his small business. In 2018, the store was forced out of its original location when their landlord decided to redevelop the Tennyson Street property. After raising $100k from the community via crowdfunding, FERAL reopened in a building down the street, keeping the business alive and even expanding its footprint. With the COVID-19 business closures, Jimmy faced the threat of shutting his doors for good yet again. However, he was determined not to let that happen and sought out funding via the SBA Paycheck Protection Program. "The PPP loan through CEF saved our business," he tells. Jimmy's determination and commitment to his community have paid off and the FERAL team is happy to continue making experiencing the outdoors more inclusive for all through their mission, "Create adventure."
FERAL | www.liveferal.com
Location: Denver | Started: 2016
Type: Retail | Use of Funds: Working Capital
“Everything I worked for was going to be gone in a matter of three months and I was living on a prayer.”
When Marisa Beaver first started her demolition, excavation, sewer, and water company, Sewer Experts, they had a backlog of contracts. But even with this backlog of work, payments were slow to come in and Marisa struggled with having the cash flow to sustain the company. She knew she needed to seek out financial support, fast. Marisa took out a loan thinking the high interest that went along with it was inevitable. Then, after projects were put on hold and winter hit, further slowing business, she realized she was facing a dire situation - Marisa had put her house as collateral on the loan and was one payment away from losing it and her entire company.
"I turned to a friend and he encouraged me to find something other than a shark loan... I spent all night calling place after place when someone in Ohio directed me to CEF," Marisa tells. After securing a loan with CEF, Marisa was able to pay off her other loan. She recounts, "I was able to breathe for the first time in six months."
In addition to her first loan, Marisa also received two Paycheck Protection Program loans through CEF. "Because of them, I was able to start another company and hire four people during the pandemic," she explains. With the faith of a mustard seed, Marisa continues to defy the odds in this male-dominated industry. Sewer Experts recently landed an on-call Denver Housing Authority contract and was also featured on the cover of a national magazine, Dig Different. Marisa tells of an accomplishment even more important to her though, stating, "The biggest win is we are able to provide for ten employees and their families and I am so blessed to be able to help do that."
Sewer Experts Inc. | www.sewerex.com
Location: Commerce City | Started: 2019
Type: Construction | Use of Funds: Working Capital
“Economic growth is driven by small business."
College friends Jeremy Priest and Mark Johnson launched the Knotty Tie Company to create a way for people to design their own ties in an eco-friendly process using 100% organic fabric and old-world craftsmanship. With increased demand for Knotty Tie products, Jeremy and Mark needed more working capital to cover costs for expanded manufacturing, related training, and staffing. They contacted Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) in 2013 about a loan to buy new equipment and supplies to increase production capacity and returned in 2015 for more financing to get textile printing and color analysis equipment to reduce production costs and create custom products more rapidly in-house.
“We were so glad we found CEF at the appropriate time for our business,” recalled Jeremy, a Navy veteran and CEF VALOR loan recipient. “CEF helped us grow our business before outside investors were interested, on terms that were very favorable given our mediocre credit, lack of collateral and nascent business model - all while preserving our ownership to share with employees.”
Since partnering with CEF, Knotty Tie sales have more than tripled. Along with their success, Jeremy and Mark are constantly assessing their operations including hiring and retaining skilled staff. A major focus of their business mission is partnering with the African Community Center to find trained crafts people.
“Economic growth is driven by small business,” Jeremy said. “CEF plays an instrumental role in ensuring that all segments of Colorado's society can participate and create opportunities for themselves, their families and communities.”