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Mile High United Way Empowers Community Entrepreneurs

Jessica Acosta, Founder of Environmental Consulting Services

Jessica is no stranger to hard work. She spent more than 11 years in the construction business, starting out as an administrative clerk and making her way up to project manager for a general contractor. After experiencing just about every facet of the construction industry, she decided to pursue her dream of owning a business.

She took as many business classes as she could while holding down a full time job, but the biggest hurdle Jessica faced was gaining the initial capital needed to start her company. While attending a business boot camp at Mi Casa Resource Center, she met a representative for the Individual Development Account (IDA) program, part of Mile High United Way’s Adult-Self Sufficiency initiative. The IDA program enabled her to start saving for her start-up by matching every dollar she saved with four dollars (up to $5,000). “Before IDA, I was working on a borrowed laptop in Starbucks,” Jessica laughed, “that was my first office.” IDA also provided basic financial education classes along with the accountability of keeping up with her savings goals.

Though Jessica had a business plan before enrolling in the IDA program, the classes she received through Mile High United Way helped her draft a detailed action plan. Her participation in the IDA program connected her to resources she had previously been unaware of, such as the Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute (RMMFI) and the South Metro Denver Small Business Development Center (SBDC) where she took more comprehensive classes.

Having been involved in a number of construction projects around the Denver area , Jessica decided to focus her business’s efforts on overseeing the environmental impact of such projects. Her company, Environmental Consulting Services, helps contractors draft stormwater management plans, comply with Clean Water Act guidelines and various permitting processes involved with keeping a construction project environmentally sound.

Three years after graduating from the Mile High United Way IDA program, Jessica’s business has grown to five employees, and she was recently named a finalist in the Denver Business Journal’s “Outstanding Women in Business” in the Small Business Category. With her roots firmly planted in Denver – she graduated from West High School and the University of Denver with a BA in Communications – Jessica looks forward to keeping the city environmentally friendly and furthering the reach of her business by moving into the oil and gas industry.

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