Denver Launches Family Business Preservation Program

In May, Denver Economic Development and Opportunity announced a new program for family-owned microbusinesses in Denver. Widespread commercial investment in Denver real estate has left family owned and operated businesses vulnerable. Many have already closed their doors in the last two decades. The complete transformation of RiNo/Five Points since the early 2000s has made it unrecognizable to Denver residents who once called it home. It’s a cautionary tale for other neighborhoods working to preserve their sense of place and community. Without proper support, small, family-owned businesses might lack the resources needed to achieve longevity. 

The Family Business Preservation Program hopes to provide that support. 

Challenges For Family-Owned Businesses in Denver

Mural by So-Gnar Creative Division on East Colfax.

Mural by So-Gnar Creative Division on East Colfax. Photo courtesy of Vision Zero on Facebook

A micro-business is typically defined as a business with less than 10 employees. Family-owned restaurants, stores and companies that offer services fall into this category. Denver is a rapidly gentrifying city, leaving small, family-owned businesses vulnerable to disinvestment and displacement. Family-owned businesses in Denver are woven into the very fiber of the city; protecting them protects entire communities, cultures and histories. 

“Our city’s small, family-owned microbusinesses are part of what makes up the unique culture and character of our neighborhoods. It is essential that we support these business owners and preserve the opportunity for generational wealth-building that they create,” said Denver Economic Development and Opportunity Executive Director Jen Morris in a statement.

Family Business Preservation Program

Following feedback from Denver small business owners, Denver Economic Development and Opportunity (DEDO) and Center For Community Wealth Building (CCWB) identified a set of needs, including securing business succession, maintaining stability and acquiring economic security. Family Business Preservation Program was created by DEDO and CCWB with a $100,000 grant from the National League of Cities.

Eligible businesses for the Family Business Preservation Program must have an annual revenue of less than $500,000. The program will prioritize applicants who have family members age 16 or older with an interest in learning about business operations and businesses with owners who are likely to retire in the next five to ten years.

The program looks to prioritize applicants from 10 neighborhoods evaluated as most vulnerable to displacement: Elyria-Swansea, Globeville, NE Park Hill, East Colfax, Montbello, Sun Valley, Valverde, Villa Park, West Colfax and Westwood.

“We believe this program represents three critically needed elements. First, that its concept and delivery is through a culturally responsive, culturally appropriate lens. Second, we can bring forth a strong array of existing business support resources and connections. Third, support must include succession planning, with keeping businesses within their origin families being a leading goal,” said Yessica X. Holguin, CCWB Executive Director, in a statement.

Helping Family-Owned Businesses Thrive

window sign says "yes, we're open"

Photo by Tim Mossholder via Unsplash

Program participants will receive guidance on how to sustain multigenerational longevity. Together, family members will build long-term business plans that account for the business’ original vision.

Through the program, DEDO and CCWB hope to secure successful multigenerational business ownership, therefore strengthening economic stability and protecting local businesses cherished by their community. Rather than focus on new developers, the Family Business Preservation Program is dedicated to growing the community wealth of longtime Denver residents. 

Applications for the first cohort of businesses closed on May 31, and are currently under review. DEDO and CCWB expect to select a first cohort of 20 businesses.