One-On-One – Interview with Jana Sanchez, executive director of LaunchNo.CO

Each month, BizWest asks a business leader to participate in a question and answer feature to help shed light on a business topic, an industry or add insight to a field of endeavor. This month, Jana Sanchez, executive director of LaunchNo.CO, talks about startups and innovation in Northern Colorado.

BizWest: How does LaunchNo.CO differ from other organizations in Northern Colorado that work with startups and small businesses?

Jana Sanchez: LaunchNo.CO is unique in that we are industry and type agnostic with the businesses we help, and that we have a larger geographic footprint than most of the providers already out there. It’s important to note that while we provide services and run PitchNo.CO, our primary focus is to help be the on ramp for entrepreneurs to find the right resources at the right time to help their businesses grow, whomever may be running those services. So we send companies to Innosphere, or the SBDC, or the Workforce Center, or wherever for their unique needs. And we do it for any business under five years old in Larimer or Weld county.

BizWest: What are the biggest barriers to success as you see them for small business in this region?

Sanchez: The first is the need for a community of support. Starting a business is HARD. Doing it alone, in your basement, without support and feedback, is monumentally harder. Providing entrepreneurs and small business owners with the opportunity to connect, share, and learn from each other in a way that also helps provide access to resources they may not know exist for them, helps make it a little easier. There are days you just need someone else who knows what you’re going through. 

The other biggest barrier is for startups more specifically, and that’s access to capital. I have investors who tell me all the time they are completely surprised with the kinds of companies we are building in Northern Colorado. They simply don’t know the amazing things we’re doing in the region. It’s the reason we started PitchNo.CO —  so we could show off the depth of talent and companies we have and really shine a spotlight on them. It’s making a difference in the perception of the region.

BizWest: Tell us a story about how LaunchNo.CO efforts made a difference in the life of a client business.

Sanchez: There are so many! I’ll take our most recent PitchNo.CO winner, Jennifer Henderson of TiLT (formerly Career Allies), which helps companies manage parental leave. Jennifer’s company also just recently won the Bravo IQ Award. Jennifer and I met when she was pitching for the first time at Longmont Startup week in July of 2018. We helped connect her with mentors and support to really solidify her pitch, and then invited her to participate in PitchNo.CO. PitchNo.CO provided almost 20 different experts to give feedback on her business plan, and then she won $18,000 in services to help move her business forward. She was also competing in the Monfort Business Challenge, and came multiple times to our 1 Million Cups meetup for practice and feedback. She took third there, behind another PitchNo.CO company, Laborjack. Now our job is to help connect her to as many people as possible who can help her finish raising her round and growing her business.

BizWest: Tell us about PitchNo.CO — lessons learned and what’s ahead.

Sanchez: Our biggest lesson with PitchNo.CO has been how truly valuable it is for business owners to receive genuine, expert feedback on their business plan so they can thrive. Time after time we have participants tell us they’ve walked away with something that’s going to help them make a step change in their business. And despite it being a competition, our participants really get to know and support each other throughout the process.

We’re running our third PitchNo.CO again during Fort Collins Startup Week in February. Applications will open Oct. 1. Also on the back burner for later in 2020, InvestNo.CO is coming. We’ll have more on that at Startup Week, but it’s going to be exciting!

BizWest: How might people get involved in helping small businesses and startup businesses succeed?

Sanchez: Start by showing up. Make time to attend 1 Million Cups on a Wednesday morning, or even a single day of Startup Week. Or any of the dozens of meetups that support entrepreneurs and small business. Get to know the community and how your skills and knowledge might fit in. Reach out to organizers and volunteer. There are opportunities to mentor with multiple groups that fit your expertise. But everything begins with showing up and participating in the community.

BizWest: Anything else that readers of BizWest should know about your organization or about the business climate here?

Sanchez: Keep an eye out this fall for our resource guide! We’re working on cataloguing all of the resources available to people starting companies in Northern Colorado in one place. We want to provide a clear on ramp and path for founders and owners to follow as they begin the adventure of entrepreneurship, tailored to the specific type of company they’re starting.

And PitchNo.CO applications for our 2020 competition will open Oct. 1! Any company operating in Larimer or Weld county that is less than five years old and has made less than $500,000 in revenue can apply.

Each month, BizWest asks a business leader to participate in a question and answer feature to help shed light on a business topic, an industry or add insight to a field of endeavor. This month, Jana Sanchez, executive director of LaunchNo.CO, talks about startups and innovation in Northern Colorado.

BizWest: How does LaunchNo.CO differ from other organizations in Northern Colorado that work with startups and small businesses?

Jana Sanchez: LaunchNo.CO is unique in that we are industry and type agnostic with the businesses we help, and that we have a larger geographic footprint than most of the providers already out there. It’s important to note that while we provide services and run PitchNo.CO, our primary focus is to help be the on ramp for entrepreneurs to find the right resources at the right time to help their businesses grow, whomever may be running those services. So we send companies to Innosphere, or the SBDC, or the Workforce Center, or wherever for their unique needs. And we do it for any business under five years old in Larimer or Weld county.

BizWest: What are the biggest barriers to success as you see them for small business in this region?

Sanchez: The first is the need for a community of support. Starting a business is HARD. Doing it alone, in your basement, without support and feedback, is monumentally harder. Providing entrepreneurs and small business owners with the opportunity to connect,…