Boulder County is giving away money.
Not a loan but a grant, which means it’s yours to spend and never pay back. And if that wasn’t enough, they will also give you a free education.
Because Boulder is awesome? Yes, that’s true, but no. Because I’m awesome? Yes, also true, but no. Boulder County is giving away money and education because they can.
Boulder County has created some amazing programs for its residents but most people wouldn’t know where to look or that these programs even exist.
Being the system hacker that I am, I deep dove into one of these amazing programs and figured out how to maximize its benefits. You can do it too. *Provided you’re not too rich.
Boulder County and Foothills United Way are giving away a piece of their pie.
It’s spelled PIE and is short for Personal Investment Enterprise. Its sole purpose is to help people achieve their own personal asset goals in the forms of home ownership, post-secondary education or small business capitalization. The PIE Program wants you to succeed and they really mean it.
I first found out about the PIE program through Workforce Boulder County. (If you don’t know about the workshops and services offered by Workforce, you’re missing out.)
I was taking one of their FREE classes in my journey towards self discovery and the need for a career change when an instructor mentioned the PIE program. A funds matching grant to help me start a new business? Yes, please!
Who qualifies for PIE?
Straight up, this is a funds matching grant for people with low income. But that income limit may not be as low as you’d think. For 2018, the income limit for a single parent with one child is $39,617. As a self employed, single mother I easily met that requirement. (One of the times I’m happy to have low income!) Their other requirement, is that you must live in Boulder or Broomfield County. That’s basically it folks. There are, of course, a few other requirements but these are the biggest ones to consider. Take a look at their brochure to see if you qualify!
1. APPLY – pick one program to enroll into
I chose business development. I wanted to start a new business, but I didn’t quite know what that would look like. My idea was unusual and I wasn’t sure they would approve it.
I wanted to start a lifestyle blog and I wasn’t sure Boulder County would approve such a non-traditional business proposal. Basically, I was asking that they invest in a blog that is all about me.
I was honestly shocked when they said yes. They not only approved it but they did it with open arms and with genuine enthusiasm. How do you like them apples?!
*The video below gives you a good idea of what Boulder County was investing in. (Remember, they said yes.)
2. Save – start saving
This is the motivation behind this funds matching grant. They want to create a culture of savings with their clients. They will give you money but you have to save your money too.
The PIE matching grant pays 4:1. They want you to save $1,000 before they will give you $4,000. When you’re done saving, you’ll have $5,000 to spend on your down payment for a home, business start-up costs or tuition.
If you put the maximum of $167/month into your savings account, you’ll be able to start spending money in as little as 6 months. As long as you put in a minimum of $33/month, you’ll remain in the program.
Sounds fairly doable, right? It is. So very easy. I completed my savings in 9 months.
Saving isn’t everything. What good would it do if they just gave you money and sent you on your way… the whole teach a woman to fish proverb.
They need to educate you in your chosen path and they have amazing classes to help you achieve your goals.
3. Learn – enroll in education classes
Because I enrolled in business development, I was required to take business classes, develop a business plan and attend 4, 2-hour money management classes.
These classes were WONDERFUL! It didn’t matter that I’d had my own business for the previous 17 years. The gift of education and the acquisition of knowledge is beneficial to everyone and anyone. There are always new things to learn and synthesize.
The business classes are held within the SBDC, Small Business Development Center of Boulder. If you don’t know about them, you need to get acquainted. The benefits of the SBDC are immeasurable.
The SBDC also offers classes all over the Front Range. I absolutely love what they do and I love the classes that they offer. You owe it to yourself to check them out.
Being a member of the PIE programs means you have access to ALL of the SBDC’s classes for FREE.
It’s a hidden perk of the program. So far, I’ve taken almost every class that they offer! Why wouldn’t I want to learn about Marketing/Branding, Startup Essentials, Social Media and SEO, Taxes, Selling and more?
Most classes are already affordable at $45 but having them available for free makes them invaluable. Thank you SBDC!
PIE also wants to make sure you’re educated in how the world of finance works in regards to your personal life, business life or the world of home finance.
Every class I took was worthwhile and interesting. Being the ever diligent student, I took all the classes, because, why not? I love learning and they had plenty to teach.
Remember, these workshops, just like all the classes and services supplied by Workforce are free to anyone; whether you live in Boulder, out of state, or even another country.
4. Spend – Buy what you need
This was actually the hardest part for me. I’m not saying it wasn’t fun because it was REALLY fun to spend that money, but isolating my needs and researching what I needed was intense.
Starting a lifestyle blog is not a common business plan at the SBDC or within the PIE program. I had lots of advisors but it still took me well over 6 months of research to figure out how to do it on my $5000 budget.
My business plan included spending money on:
- MacBook Air and insurance
- BookBook case from twelvesouth case
- iPhone 8
- OtterBox case
- Popsocket and screen protectors
- Year of business level web-hosting from WordPress
- Full branding: business cards, email templates and icons from 99DESIGNS
- Consulting services from UniqueThink
- Analytics service from Elementive
- Tintype headshots from Tim Brown Photography
- AV presentation equipment from Staples
In the end I hacked my business grant and maximized that $5000 by getting additional products and services:
- Additional iPhone 8
- Samsung Galaxy Tablet
- Hour long consultations with a tax lawyer and an analytics company
- Scholarships for classes at Boulder Digital Arts
- Free classes at SBDC
As you can see from my list, you really do get to say what you need and they will buy it for you. Obviously, there is a process of approval but for the most part, what you say goes. It’s like writing your holiday gift list and knowing you’re going to get everything you asked for.
Take a moment and think about everything I just told you.
Let all of this sink in. Boulder County paid for me to start my own lifestyle blog while giving me a business education.
And just in case you think you’re on your own once they give you your money, think again. The PIE Program and The SBDC have business counselors to help you along the way for your first 3 years. Anytime you need help, just ask. Like I said before, they want you to succeed.