Initiative Aims to Boost Underserved Communities’ Access to Technology, Devices and Training

(Photo provided by Larimer Small Business Development Center)

Santa has come down the chimney early this year for 100 local entrepreneurs and small business owners across northern Colorado. The Larimer Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is giving out free Chromebooks through a partnership with Human-I-T—a nonprofit that creates equitable access to economic opportunity for communities left on the wrong side of the digital divide.

The Larimer SBDC, housed at Front Range Community College, is distributing the computers to its small business clients and local entrepreneurs—with a focus on underserved groups and clients in rural areas of the county. The Chromebooks were donated by businesses that want to keep their electronics out of landfills, then refurbished by Human-I-T.

“Entrepreneurs who don’t have access to technology clearly don’t get the same opportunities as those who do,” said Hope Hartman, Executive Director of the Larimer SBDC. “By providing these devices, we’re helping them to more effectively start, run and grow their local businesses.”

“This initiative is just one way we’re working to increase digital empowerment for local small businesses.”

Helping Companies Succeed

“Our new (to us) Chromebook and IT classes will help us keep connected to our clients and friends through newsletters, client photos, and social media fun,” says Jennifer Strange, founder and operator of Saddles 2 Paddles (S2P) in Wellington.

Her business provides horseback riding lessons, stand-up paddle board/inflatable kayak lessons, and rentals. “This technology is all a part of operating a successful business,” she points out.

Strange says the consulting and training her small company has received through the Larimer SBDC—and the Chromebook and education program through Human-I-T—have been key in providing S2P the tools it needs to accomplish its mission.

This program is “making business owners’ dreams come true,” she adds. “That enables us to get people outside, spread joy and make other people’s dreams come true!”

Who Gets the Laptops?

 

Recipients are picking up their new computers from the SBDC office at FRCC starting this week. The Chromebooks are being distributed to:

  • SBDC clients (small businesses and entrepreneurs in targeted areas of Larimer County)
  • Home-based childcare businesses that participated in the Larimer SBDC’s recent program in English and Spanish
  • Estes Park Hispanic Business Alliance members
  • FRCC students who are entrepreneurs (or considering becoming one)
  • Multicultural Business & Entrepreneur Center—a partner group organized by The City of Fort Collins whose primary clients are Latinx

Keeping Electronics Out of Landfills

Human-I-T provides the free devices by refurbishing and refreshing donated ones. This helps to reduce electronic waste—and empowers businesses and organizations to do good by diverting their old electronics from landfills.

The organization also provides internet access, digital skills training and tech support to targeted local communities.

More to Come

The current round of laptops have already been assigned to specific recipients, but the SBDC hopes to continue the partnership moving forward. “This is an evolving initiative with new community partners coming into the fold,” said Hartman.

Local partners like the SBDC have begun meeting with the City of Fort Collins to assess how they can work together to support initiatives like Larimer County’s Digital Roots program, which helps local job seekers boost their digital skills.

“We see these Chromebooks as just one of the ways to decrease the digital divide through digital empowerment, specifically for small business owners,” she added. “The SBDC can get the computers to a specific market niche that aligns with our mission of helping local entrepreneurs, especially those who have been historically underserved.”

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