Denver-area microgrant program for entrepreneurs began in Buffalo, N.Y.

A new microgrant fund for entrepreneurs that started in Buffalo, N.Y., has opened a chapter in Denver and is accepting applications from people starting businesses and people who want to be part of the giving and mentoring program.

Co-founder Susan O’Rourke said the Good Neighbor Fund was started in Buffalo in January and takes its name from that city’s nickname, “the city of Good Neighbors.” The organization is structured like a giving circle, in which members pool their money and decide together how to distribute it.

O’Rourke and co-founder Jason Bartz decided to start a chapter in February in the Denver area, where O’Rourke moved to from Buffalo. O’Rourke and Bartz worked together at ACV Auctions, an online car auction for dealerships. O’Rourke said the company was Buffalo’s first unicorn, a startup that reached a valuation of $1 billion.

“Jason and I held various roles in that company. We saw the company grow and saw the start of community grow in Buffalo as well during that time,” O’Rourke said. ” We’ve always just wanted to give back to the community in some way, especially through entrepreneurship because I feel like it’s really difficult to take that leap of faith.”

Bartz said in a statement that people talk about “bootstrapping” when it comes to entrepreneurship. “But what if you don’t have bootstraps to pull yourself up by? The Good Neighbor Fund was created to be the jump-start and bridge the gap between ideation and larger organizations,” he said.

The obstacles to starting a business in Denver are different from those in Buffalo, O’Rourke said. “A lot of Silicon Valley people are coming out here and small businesses and entrepreneurs are kind of lost because the cost of living and doing business has just skyrocketed.”

The Good Neighbor Fund has 12 contributors, what the organization calls limited partners, who give $500 a year. The program will award grants of $1,000 a quarter.

“The idea was to give just four grants a year,” O’Rourke said. “Now, I think we’ll probably give out more because we have 12 people who’ve expressed interest.

“We want to make sure no money is left in the bank account at the end of the year,” she added.

The fund has also received donations, which O’Rourke said she hopes to use to create workshops. The grants come with no strings attached, but O’Rourke said the plan is to meet with the entrepreneurs on a regular basis to follow their progress and offer other resources, such as networking opportunities and possible mentoring.

The Good Neighbor Fund will also steer applicants to other programs that might be better fits for certain projects, O’Rourke said.

People can apply for the grants with a 60-second video pitch. O’Rourke said the fund wanted to make the process simple. The first grant will be awarded March 23.

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