Colorado’s NextCycle business incubator looks to kick-start new projects in the state

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Dive Brief:

  • Next cycle ColoradoIt is an accelerator program designed to help businesses and entrepreneurs to reuse, recycle and grow their composting operations. Accepting applications for the fifth year of the program.
  • The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environmental Protection administers the program, which offers a boot camp and pitch competition with cash prizes. Business consulting support is provided by Resource Recycling Systems and other industry experts.
  • Businesses, charities, universities, tribal entities and others can apply until December 1st. Applicants can be based throughout the US, but projects must occur within the state and directly support the recycling or composting markets in Colorado.

Dive Insight:

Colorado is working toward a statewide municipal solid waste facility. 35% conversion goal by 2026 and 45% by 2036. Next Cycle sees businesses recycling and composting as a key element in achieving their goals.

Next Cycle is “really geared toward entrepreneurs and startups,” says Kendra Appleman-Estvedt, CDHE’s program manager. “It helps to build their business skills, to create that business model for those who are trying to find their foothold. It also helps them with their messaging, how to communicate with investors, how to help their teams sell their products and projects.

It has a continuous cycle model. It inspired similar programs. in Michigan and Washington. Program leaders in those states say the business incubator model is a way to build investments and partnerships in recycling and composting systems to get projects done more quickly, and to create better connections between state environmental agencies, municipalities, recyclers and end markets.

In Colorado, so far 34 groups have participated in the program, which is funded by CDHE’s. Resource Recycling Economic Opportunity Grant Program. Next Cycle doesn’t award grant money directly to participants, but it spends about $222,000 in each round to pay for the program’s boot camp, RRS mentoring and other program features, Appleman-Estvedt said. Some entrepreneurs who go through the NextCycle program can apply for RREO grants.

Vartega, a carbon fiber recycling company in the Denver metro area, was one of the first businesses in the Next Cycle program. Company founder Andrew Maxey said the program helped the company gain a foothold in an already niche recycling market.

“We are very early in our development and have been working with partners on several concept projects,” he said. The program helped them “explore the market, do some customer discovery and understand where our technology and business can make a bigger impact.” That was important at the time because we were figuring out which technologies to commercialize. Those strategies helped the company expand into a new facility and enhance its business offerings, he said.

Previous cycle participants often return to the program as mentors, Appleman-Estvedt said.

Compost Queen founder Jamie Blanchard-Poling built strong relationships with other composting businesses in the state when she joined the program a few years ago. Instead of seeing their individual projects as competition, business owners traded tips and tricks to help each of their businesses save money and improve their operations in the long run, he said. Compost Queen offers organic hauling and processing in Northern Colorado.

“We got together a lot to discuss how our jobs were the same, how they were different. We compared everything, like the details of hauling and shipping and processing. It’s a really fun community thing, and we still keep in touch to this day,” she says.

Blanchard-Poling now serves as a consultant to NextCycle and makes presentations to other composting businesses in the program. Small, local composting businesses like hers are in demand, she said, because Colorado has a mix of urban and rural communities and a land mix that can affect composting processes and collection methods. Next Cycle “It’s starting to get a lot more applications for this exact business, and it’s good to see me as an expert in this field.”



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