Entrepreneurial Policy Academy

Where rural entrepreneurs can learn the basics of policy engagement. 


Testimony from 2020 Cohort

“Overall I believe the experience was very valuable … I really hope this is a jumping off point, and not the end of my participation and opportunity to talk with movers and shakers around the state.”

—Emily Hisel, CEO, Copper Key Tiny Homes



The Entrepreneurial Policy Academy (EPA) sought to educate and encourage rural entrepreneurs on how to engage in and advocate for stronger legislative policies. The academy empowered these entrepreneurs to realize their ability to provide direct input to local, state, federal, and international policymakers and standards-setters.

The second and most recent EPA was held over two days in August, 2021. Eight rural entrepreneurs and leaders attended a series of free 30-minute classes covering topics related to technology policy and advocacy. The Academy was followed by a live policy forum hosted by the Telluride Foundation where entrepreneurs presented their concepts and policy recommendations to state and federal legislative and agency representatives.

The EPA is funded and made possible by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation as part of its national Start Us Up campaign. To learn more, read their brief on America’s New Business Plan.




Policy 101: Organizers

How Policy Can Work For You: Organizers

The Power of Showing Up: Sean Brooks

  • This module will explore a variety of different public engagement practices and their value to government agencies, discuss effective strategies for engaging with these processes, and help attendees develop a basic agenda for investigating public processes that are relevant to their interests.

Executive Engagement

Engaging with Executive Branch Personnel: Scott Martinez

  • This module will provide insight into the mindset of Executive Branch bureaucrats charged with implementing public policies affecting business; and, provide three practical ways for entrepreneurs to engage bureaucrats without having to change laws or policies.  

Navigating and Influencing the CO Rulemaking Process: Tammi L. McCoy

  • This module will explore how to determine if there is a relevant rule and where to find it; identifying the department and agency responsible for adopting and enforcing; and ways to pursue avenues to challenge or change rules.

Amplifying Rural Entrepreneurs’ Voices to Effectively Influence Government Change: Rick Curtsinger

  • This module will explore writing letters and/or agency comments, talking with lawmakers and their staff; creating effective key messages; traversing coalition partnerships.

Harnessing the Entrepreneurial Spirit for State Policy Change: Debra Brown

  • This module will teach attendees how to best communicate with legislators by developing an “elevator pitch” to explain why a legislative issue matters to them. The workshop will also integrate a case study of a state policy win, stemming from rural Colorado advocacy efforts.  

Fundamentals of Lobbying Strategy: Chris Lewis

  • This module will explore effective lobbying and advocacy, demonstrating fundamental concepts using simple graphics and lessons from over a decade of experience in federal technology policy advocacy.

Intro to Testifying: Tarah Wheeler 

  • This module will explore how to present to local and state lawmakers in order to lobby for entrepreneurial rights and policies.


2020 Academy Recap

The first Policy Academy was hosted in 2020 with a series of events and activities. A regionally-focused roundtable convened virtually on Thursday, September 24, 2020, providing Academy candidates insight into the work of policy advocacy. The Academy was hosted in November 2020 and included presentations by top policy experts:

The academy was followed by a roundtable with leaders in local, state, and federal law and politics, including:

  • Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator
  • Don Coram, Colorado State Senate, 6th District
  • Shane Fuhrman, Mayor, Town of Silverton
  • Sue Hansen, Commissioner District 2
  • John Hickenlooper, U.S. Senator
  • Betsy Markey, Executive Director, Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade
  • Jared Polis, Colorado Governor
  • Phil Weiser, Colorado Attorney General

At the roundtable, the entrepreneurs were able to present on their endeavors and the impacts of past and future policy decisions.


About the Hosts

This project was a joint undertaking by Silicon Flatirons, Startup Colorado, and Telluride Foundation Venture Network, and is made possible by America’s New Business Plan Grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Telluride Foundation also hosts the Venture Network.

Silicon Flatirons is a research center at the University of Colorado Law School, catalyzing innovation through an interdisciplinary, diverse, and inclusive stance on law, policy, and entrepreneurship in the digital age. Through our initiatives, the Center positively impacts thought leadership and inclusive collaboration, disseminates new knowledge to our community, and educates the next generation of experts.

Startup Colorado is a statewide grassroots initiative with a mission to bridge the distance for rural entrepreneurs and create a density of resources where they do not exist.  The culture of creativity, resourcefulness, and innovation is what makes rural Colorado an incredible place to live. It’s also why rural communities are creating some of the most exciting business opportunities in the state. From the Western Slope to the Eastern Plains, Startup Colorado works to cultivate the growth of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial communities by helping startups tap into educational, financial, and collaborative resources.  To learn more about Startup Colorado, join the FREE peer-to-peer network for entrepreneurs, funders, mentors, and business support agents at StartupColorado.org.

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