q Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute helps people with social and economic mobility - Denver Foundation

Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute helps people with social and economic mobility


August 7, 2023

When Kimberlee Ward started meditating, she used candles to create a relaxing ambiance. She realized just how special that was and wanted to share it with more people in her community.

Even though her background was in higher education and human services, she was determined to start her own business making candles. Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute (RMMFI) was her perfect start.

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RMMFI’s goal is to help entrepreneurs grow into business owners who can successfully shift and adapt to changing environments in their businesses and their lives.

They do that by building genuine relationships and deep trust with entrepreneurs, providing individualized tools and access to capital, education, mentorship, technical assistance, and community connections.

After completing the program, Ward (pictured on the left) was able to grow her business, Eternal Balance Candles.

“It’s a candle company focused on self-care and getting people to intentionally think about how they spend their days,” said Ward. “To make sure they’re really taking care of themselves.”

RMMFI has three big outcomes they want to see in the community: ownership of self, wealth, and community health. They have developed programming that captures the journey of the entrepreneur from idea to launching a thriving business.

“As the entrepreneur builds capacity in their business and in themselves, we’re able to invest in them with the capital needed to really grow them to the next level,” said Jessica Sveen, CEO of RMMFI.

In 2016, The Denver Foundation offered RMMFI a program-related investment that allowed them to grow their loan program. Every dollar invested into the organization creates $3.98 back into the community.

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“Just recently, RMMFI surpassed the $1 million lent into the community. It’s an amazing accomplishment and milestone for the organization and we could not have done it without the investment into our loan fund from The Denver Foundation,” said Sveen.

The Denver Foundation believes that economic opportunity is achievable when communities have the tools and resources to build wealth, increase assets, and create local and just economies. That is why The Denver Foundation supports RMMFI’s commitment to investing in our future generations.

This nonprofit has been a grantee of the foundation and its donors since 2010, and a Community Grants Program grantee for the last two years.

“The business is only as strong as the person behind it, and by centering the entrepreneur, we have built a program that creates an ecosystem for that business,” said Sveen. Ward wants to get to a point where her business is growing and she could eventually hire people.

“I think it’s important to uplift, and I truly believe if I empower women and they empower me, my business is going to grow,” said Ward.

RMMFI has more than 380 entrepreneurs that have graduated from their program since 2008. “It really reminds us of why we are here and why we exist,” said Sveen. “To provide that accessible pathway for people to really pursue their dreams, knowing that they have a supportive net and community behind them.”

Photos courtesy: Armando Geneyro