CU mentorship program launched to help local entrepreneurs navigate Covid

The value of mentorship to Boulder’s small businesses

By Tatyana Sharpton Apr 28 2020

Covid-19 caused Boulder clean energy marketing consultant Emily Long to lose close to half her business, including a major contract this spring for an event. Like many, she has experienced some real highs and lows.

She found help navigating these challenges with help from a new program from CU’s Leeds School of Business, COVenture Forward, which connects local mentors with entrepreneurs who need help facing the unique, daunting challenges many businesses now face.

Emily Long

With COVenture, once a qualified mentee completes the application, the organization emails the mentee a list of mentors with information about their areas of expertise and contact info. From there, the mentee reaches out directly and coordinates a time to connect.

Susan Strong

Emily heard about the COventure Forward program through an email newsletter she received through one of CU’s programs and ended up connecting with mentor Susan Strong, an experienced executive and executive director of Boulder’s entrepreneur network Social and Advisory Group for Entrepreneurs (SAGE).

“I just recently talked to Susan for the first time,” said Emily. “We had an amazing conversation; she had so many resources at fingertips and was extremely friendly and open and caring — the characteristics I value. It feels like one more step in the right direction for making choices that are risky. Going off on my own and having some direction.”

Just  this week Emily got a new contract for this summer and she felt like the clouds opened up above her with the sun shining through. Having somebody to talk to that has experienced downcycles like the one we see now can help an independent business owner navigate these roller coaster moments.

Jared Muenks. Source:

Jared Muenks, who owns virtual, holistic health company Freestyle that connects a network of physical, mental, spiritual and social health professionals to pass-buyers who can schedule classes and sessions with them, covered by the flat fee of the membership (One of its local facilities includes Body Dynamics at 2760 29th Street), has worked with one COventure mentor for about five years.

Rich Kopcho

Jared has worked with mentor Rich Kopcho, who has experience in computer storage, hardware and software,  manufacturing and U.S. marketing coordinator for Techstars Global Startup Weekend, since a sophomore at CU, and has recently reached out for perspective on shifting during Covid-19.

With coronavirus shutting down many fitness facilities and other businesses Freestyle works with in the holistic arena, with Rich’s guidance, Freestyle pivoted to an in-depth network development phase, and paused some marketing plans.

“These are unusual times,” says Rich. “You’ve got to think how to maintain business under these conditions. What do you do when a pandemic hits? Some won’t survive. One of the reasons the university reached out to us [mentors] is because we’ve been through several of these significant downturns.”

Any startup, high-growth venture or small business located in Colorado can apply for mentorship through CU’s COventure Forward program. As of April 28, the program reported nearly 60 mentors and 41 businesses and entrepreneurs statewide.