Today we’re chatting with Anyssa Juarez, project manager with Denver Housing Authority/West Denver Renaissance Collaborative. YellowDog worked closely with Anyssa to launch the West Denver Marketplaces Gift Card in 2023. We sat down to catch up on all things community-building and collaboration.
YellowDog: Let’s start from the beginning. What is your role at DHA, and who do you serve as an organization?
YD: What is West Denver Marketplaces, and how does it fit in with DHA and WDRC?
AJ: West Denver Marketplaces is a collective program designed to support local small businesses. It is a project of the West Denver Small Business Coalition, which is a group convened by WDRC to connect community development organizations in southwest Denver.
West Denver Marketplaces came about because many small businesses in the area expressed the need for financial and marketing support, including a collective website.
Many of these businesses do not have their own website, so the West Denver Marketplaces site acts as a landing page to promote them.
The West Denver Marketplaces Gift Card is an additional element of that, promoting additional financing and local spending in the area. People want to support local, BIPOC-owned, family-owned businesses. West Denver Marketplaces shows them how, and the gift card is a tangible mechanism to actually go out and do it.
YD: YellowDog was lucky enough to help bring the gift card into the world. Can you tell me a little bit about how you selected YellowDog and what that collaboration looked like?
AJ: We coordinated with the West Denver Small Business Coalition to determine who was going to apply for what funding so that instead of competing with each other, we could compound our impact. WDRC’s focus became marketing while other partners sought out the resources to execute other elements of our vision. We knew that in order to have our best chances of winning grant funding, we needed to identify a marketer first. We were able to work with YellowDog to come up with a very clear strategic plan, identify the different stakeholders and strategies and roll out this program effectively.
YD: What was your favorite part of the whole project and launching the gift card?
AJ: I have two favorite parts. One is the launch party–the big celebration, everything that we’d been working towards. It was so fun to have all the different collaborators and advocates come together in one room along with some of the small businesses–that just felt really special.
I also have the privilege of being among the first to read the incredible stories that my colleague Esther Rivera brings back from the community, which we then share on the WDM website and social media.
YD: Is there anything that you really hope people know about West Denver Marketplaces?
AJ: First, that the gift card is just one piece of the West Denver Marketplaces project. Second, so many people ask us how they can support small businesses and locally owned shops, and West Denver Marketplaces is the answer. Anyone can visit the site and find the locally owned businesses they can go out and support.
YD: Who have been the biggest champions of the project?
AJ: There are so many! Alongside the West Denver Small Business Coalition and WDRC, I have to credit BuCu West, West Colfax BID, Sun Valley Kitchen and Community Center, Far East Center and District 3 Councilwoman Jamie Torres.
Mi Casa Resource Center, NEWSED and Mile High United Way have also supported the program with financing and other resources, and we certainly could not have done any of this without the Denver Department of Economic Development and Opportunity (DEDO) and the support of DHA. Third Principle created our website, and then there’s you guys! YellowDog is also a huge champion of this program.
YD: It’s a great program that we are so glad we get to support! What is your dream vision for the gift card over the next year?
AJ: I want it to have a better holding in the community. Right now it’s still a very new concept. My hope is that it could really become that community gift card–a recognized, useful, central part of the community.
I also hope that we can support businesses from both the supply side and demand side. I want west Denver businesses to know that they come to this website to find support and access services. On the flip side, individuals can also come and see where and how they can direct their support.
YD: This all sounds amazing! How can readers get involved?
AJ: Visit the West Denver Marketplace’s website! Support our partners and local businesses. All of those champions that I listed–they all work so tirelessly to be able to support the businesses and community. Going to their websites or community events, where a lot of times you’ll meet them and be able to talk with them, is a way that you can get to know truly how special this community is and get to know how all of us collaborate to support the community as a whole.
And keep the gift card in mind as a great gift!
YD: Thanks, Anyssa! It’s been great to catch up and learn even more about you and your amazing work with DHA and WDRC. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for the West Denver Marketplaces Gift Card!
Check out West Denver Marketplaces:
@WestDenverMarketplaces on Instagram
West Denver Marketplaces on Facebook.
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