Top Entrepreneur Finalist: Helen Young Hayes

Helen Young Hayes, 59, founded Activate in 2016 after a long and storied career as a fund manager and chief investment officer. “I spent 20 years on Wall Street, most of that at Janus, and retired from the financial industry,” she says.

Then, after a 10-plus-year hiatus, she started Activate, a registered nonprofit, to help “end poverty for Coloradans.”

Now 11 employees, Activate takes a different approach to human resources that’s rooted in Hayes’ life story. Her parents immigrated to the U.S. as refugees from China. “In one generation, they were able to rebuild and take advantage of everything that is so wonderful about the U.S.,” Hayes says. “I feel I am a product of the American dream — I am the American dream.”

Growing up in Starkville, Mississippi — where Hayes’ school desegregated when she was in third grade — “left a big desire in me to help bridge the gap for people who are living outside of the mainstream of society and the economy,” she says. “I wanted to make the American dream more of a reality for more Americans. It seems un-American to me that poverty should be a life sentence.”

Hayes says Activate’s approach benefits both employers and employees. “We’re going to help find [employers] great talent that they’re normally going to overlook in traditional HR hiring practices,” she says.

Often immigrants, candidates are “hungry, humble and smart, but tended to be overlooked in the marketplace,” Hayes says. “We pick people who, on average, are making less than $13,000 a year. Their income typically triples to $45,000 a year.”

Activate has placed 175 people in full-time jobs since late 2016, and Hayes hopes to place 200 in 2022 and more than 1,000 in its next five years.

While she was grateful for her career in finance, Hayes says, “I have to say that it really pales in comparison to the satisfaction of changing a life, changing a family, changing many lives, changing many families.”


Activate Workforce Solutions
Activate Workforce Solutions is made up of purposeful and pragmatic recruiters and coaches that activate the potential of talented individuals. It is an employer-centric and people-focused recruiting and coaching firm, creating equitable paths for people seeking careers and employers seeking talent.


What can nonprofits expect in 2021?

BKD CPAs & Advisors recently released its 2021 State of the Nonprofit Sector Report. The nonprofit wellness study was created to identify how nonprofit organizations are responding and surviving amid the COVID-19 global pandemic. The findings show that a majority of nonprofits have increased their services, yet reduced staffing. The study highlights how many nonprofits are coping under added pressure, both financially and operationally. “The goal of this study is to highlight how organizations are adapting to the pandemic and what effect it’s having on their ability to provide programs and services. Its essential funders, elected officials and community leaders understand the current condition of nonprofit organizations as they consider the scale of necessary intervention,” said Senior Managing Consultant Dan Prater. The survey comprised 18 questions or scenarios, including general questions about organization location, size, area of focus and questions about the COVID-19 crisis. BKD received responses from 319 organizations between September 23 and October 23, 2020. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, nonprofits across the country have helped to propel our communities forward and respond to increasing demands. It’s our desire this report would offer leaders insights to help stabilize their organizations and continue meeting the needs of those they serve,” said National Industry Partner Tondeé Lutterman. BKD CPAs & Advisors can help nonprofits with accounting and auditing needs. Their team offers many service offerings in nonprofit consulting, strategic planning and much more. Visit BKD’s website to learn more about BKD’s nonprofit services. Download a free copy of the study, which can help nonprofits plan for what’s ahead in 2021.

Nonprofits and PPP loans: what every organizational leader needs to know

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has provided nearly 4.9 million loans to American businesses. It is estimated that 40 percent of eligible nonprofits received one of these lifelines.

If you run one of the nonprofits that received 3.7 percent of all loans made under this program, there are several points you need to be aware of and some of them are time-sensitive.

Determining Forgivable PPP Loan Amounts

One of the most critical aspects of the PPP loan forgiveness is understanding what loan amounts are eligible for forgiveness both in payroll and non-payroll expenses.

Forgivable payroll expenses includes:

  • Compensation (not exceeding $46,154 per employee), including:
    • Gross salary, gross wages, gross commissions, and gross tips,
    • Vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave (unless the nonprofit was reimbursed under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act)
    • Allowance for separation or dismissal
  • Employer contributions for employee group health care coverage and employee retirement plans
  • State and local taxes assessed on the compensation of employees

Forgivable non-payroll expenses includes mortgage interest payments, rent or lease payments, and utility payments for the business incurred or in place prior to February 15, 2020

While the income tax treatment of forgivable expenses is not a concern for nonprofits, organizations still need to ensure they account for these funds properly.

Accounting Options for Nonprofit PPP Loan Forgiveness

Determining how to apply for a PPP loan and how to best use those funds may have been challenging. However, ensuring that you account for your loan and loan forgiveness appropriately can also be confusing and time-consuming.

Non-authoritative technical practice aids and current industry discussions show that nonprofits can use either the debt model under ASC 470 or the grant model under ASC 958-605. You can determine which option is best for your nonprofit. Neither one is recommended over another.

The Debt Model

It doesn’t matter if your nonprofit anticipates repaying its PPP loan or believes that it represents a grant that will be forgiven. You are allowed to account for the loan as a financial liability, according to FASB ASC 470.

You can also accrue interest under FASB ASC 835-30. The nonprofit wouldn’t acquire additional interest at a market rate. When governmental agencies prescribe interest rates, they are excluded from the scope of the FASB ASC 835-30 guidance on imputing interest, for instance, government-guaranteed obligations.

Using the debt model, if some or all the PPP loan is forgiven, that income would be recognized when your nonprofit is “legally released,” meaning that the SBA forgives its debt.

The Grant Model

If your nonprofit doesn’t use the debt model, it should account for such PPP loans under FASB ASC 958-605 as a conditional contribution. However, to do so, it must:

  • Expect that it will meet the PPP’s eligibility criteria
  • Determine that the PPP loan represents a grant that is expected to be forgiven

The nonprofit must initially record the cash inflow from the PPP loan as a refundable advance. It’s not recognized until and unless the conditions are met or explicitly waived if it’s conditional.

Once the release conditions are substantially met or explicitly waived, the nonprofit can reduce the refundable advance and record it as a contribution.

Proper Accounting and Reporting is Crucial

There’s no doubt that PPP loan has certainly been the lifeline that many nonprofits needed to continue business in the COVID landscape. However, it has created uncertainty and confusion regarding proper accounting and reporting. Management needs to evaluate which accounting treatment is most appropriate for their nonprofit entity’s unique circumstances and what is most suitable for reporting financial statements.

It’s essential to note that you should expect an audit if your PPP loan exceeds $2 million. Incorrectly reporting or accounting for your nonprofit PPP loan or its forgiveness could come with severe consequences, such as years of IRS audits, the loss of 501(c)(3) status, and significant tax penalties and interest.

To ensure that you don’t risk your business to such fates, it’s highly recommended that you have a business attorney on your side. They can help you understand your options and reporting requirements so that you can fully receive the benefits the PPP is meant to provide for nonprofits.

John Snow and Chris Tzortzis of Hackstaff & Snow, LLC, are top Denver business attorneys with expertise spanning various industries. Specializing in renewable energy project development, commercial law, corporate law, and nonprofit tax advice, John Snow and Chris Tzortzis offer an in-depth understanding and knowledge of general nonprofit rules and regulations and are a trusted resource for business owners throughout Colorado.

Top Company 2020: Nonprofit

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In its 33rd year, ColoradoBiz‘s Top Company honors the Colorado companies that have drive, determination, a vision and a plan and are ultimately making the state a better place to live and work. These three companies – one winner and two finalists –represent the 2020 Top Companies in Nonprofit. 


Focus Points Family Resource Center


Focus Points Family Resource Center is celebrating its 25th year empowering families through programs including early childhood education, economic opportunity, adult education and community development.

“Our commitment to meeting the evolving needs of our community has manifested in a two-generation approach, which means we are working with guardians and children simultaneously, providing each with relevant programming to enrich their lives,” Executive Director Jules Kelty says. “Our goal is to foster self-sufficiency and economic stability. Research indicates that if a child witnesses a parent successfully completing an education program, they are much more likely to pursue secondary education.”

Its Comal Heritage Food Incubator, a lunch restaurant and training program, provides skills in culinary arts and business to immigrants and refugees from countries such as Mexico, El Salvador, Syria, Iraq and Ethiopia. Participants honor their culinary traditions while learning about entrepreneurship and professional food services. The successful social enterprise has paid $650,000 into the community directly through earn-while-you-learn stipends, with a local economic impact of $2.5 million.

Focus Points offers award-winning PAT (Parents As Teachers) and HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters) early education, as well as high-quality, curriculum-based child care to more than 200 children while parents participate in Focus Points programs. Adult education includes six levels of low-cost English Language Acquisition as well as GED support.

Focus Points recently launched Huerta — orchard, in Spanish — as a food-centered community space with greenhouses, retail and a commercial kitchen for classes. Huerta’s training program participants will earn wages as they learn and work toward such entrepreneurial endeavors as a florist shop or urban farming-centered business.


Aspen Academy

Greenwood Village 

Over the past 15 years, Aspen Academy has become one of the fastest-growing independent schools in the nation.

Its Aspen Entrepreneurial Institute is a year-long program focused on personal financial literacy, business financial literacy and entrepreneurship for students pre-K through eighth-grade. The program establishes financial management habits and skills; develops an entrepreneurial mindset, vision and practice; and creates mastery of understanding for students and faculty. The Aspen Youth Leadership Institute is a comprehensive and sequenced leadership curriculum program designed to help re-establish a culture of effective personal and community leadership.

Bear’s Student Enterprises allows seventh- and eighth-grade students to operate a campus store, café and broadcast network that produces bi-weekly newscasts, infomercials and news magazine segments.

Aspen Academy supports more than 25 local, state, national and international organizations through a robust and integrated service learning program. Since 2008, the school’s 78,000-square-foot building has been renovated and expanded, adding 14 outdoor labs and classrooms and 10 teaching gardens.



YouthRoots guides high school students through a three-step philanthropic process, helping to build leadership skills and support charitable giving. One YouthBoard started in Denver a decade ago has grown to 11 in two states, serving 547 high school students who have raised more than $246,000 for 81 nonprofits, serving thousands of at-risk youth.

Participants build key non-cognitive skills including confidence, critical thinking, self-awareness and teamwork. Additionally, participants leave the program with awareness of community needs, business and fundraising skills, financial literacy and knowledge of how to invest in their strengths and passions.

YouthRoots partners with community foundations and schools to reach as many high school students as possible.

Top Company Awards 2022

The outpouring of applications for this year’s Top Company awards is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of enterprises that do business in the state. Applications for the 35th annual awards numbered in the hundreds, and it was particularly encouraging to see so many companies rebounding from two years of COVID restrictions, with most posting revenue and employee gains approaching – and in some cases, exceeding — pre-pandemic numbers.

This year’s Top Company winners and finalists represent 13 industry categories, plus a startup category for companies in business less than four years. Entrants were judged on three criteria: outstanding achievement, financial performance and community involvement. The judging panel was made up of ColoradoBiz magazine’s editorial board and two representatives from the business community.

To be eligible for consideration, companies must be based in Colorado or show significant business presence in the state. For more information on the Top Company application process, go to and click on the “Nominate” tab. To learn more about this year’s Top Company winners and finalists, read on.


Top Company 2022 Winners:


ARCHITECTURE & INTERIOR DESIGN — Shears Adkins Rockmore Architects | Denver

CONSTRUCTION & ENGINEERING — Ward Electric Co. | Longmont

CONSUMER BUSINESS — Alpine Buick GMC | Littleton

FINANCIAL SERVICES — Canvas Credit Union | Lone Tree

MANUFACTURING — Growing Spaces | Pagosa Springs

PROFESSIONAL SERVICES — National Valuation Consultants | Centennial

REAL ESTATE — Bray & Company | Grand Junction


STARTUPS — Fulfilld Intelligent Warehouse Software | Denver

NONPROFIT — We Don’t Waste | Denver

ENERGY — NexGen Resources Corp | Greenwood Village

TOURISM & HOSPITALITY — Travelers Haven | Denver

AEROSPACE — Barber-Nichols | Arvada