As the business community continued to struggle under the negative effects of the COVID-19 crisis, the City of Colorado Springs and Exponential Impact (XI) partnered to bring financial relief and mentoring to small business in low- and middle-income neighborhoods.
Launched in the spring of 2021, the Survive and Thrive 2.0 program provided 23 businesses across seven industries with an average grant of about $15,000, which the City financially supported through Federal CARES Act dollars.
Aleta Rhone, owner of Rhone River Wellness Clinic, believes that Survive and Thrive was a blessing and a miracle for her business. A minority and women owned massage therapeutic clinic with three employees that provide services for the VA to support the large veteran population in Colorado Springs along with standard patients, the Clinic found itself in a difficult position during Covid.
“I had been frustrated trying everything to keep the business going just because of the pandemic,” Rhone said. “Things were slow and I had a patient who said she could connect me with this program. And I ended up loving Survive and Thrive.”
The funds from the program were allowed to be used to help pay employees and cover rent, utilities, and other maintenance costs during what was for many businesses their most challenging time. Ninety-one percent of the businesses were minority, women or veteran owned.
Targeted at new businesses with fewer than five employees, these micro-enterprises received community support through a two-month mentorship program covering financial foundations, bookkeeping, marketing, and storytelling. Designed to work in tandem, the funding and workgroups helped ensure the small businesses not only received immediate financial relief but were set up for long-term success.
“The program did a very good job of trying to educate us and give us tools to make sure we actually did survive and thrive,” Rhone said. “It's one of those things where having that structure a little bit about how to successfully run a business was helpful. People had been through a similar process, and they would talk to you about how you should approach it.”
Executive Director of XI Natasha Main called Survive and Thrive partnership in action at its finest.
"The public-private collaboration between XI and the City allowed for increased support to business owners that struggled to receive federal support,” Main said. “It was not only an opportunity for businesses to recover, but also an opportunity to build trust and networks across the City. Through relationships that were built in the program, businesses supported each other and made strategies to not just survive but grow in resilience."