With the end of the pandemic, many people are considering starting their own business for the first time.
Meanwhile, existing business owners are exploring how they can capture new income by expanding their products, services, and markets.
A new program presented by SOVA Innovation Hub, the Longwood Small Business Development Center and GO Virginia Region 3 will support these entrepreneurs, fueling the region’s economic growth.
Applications are currently being accepted for CO.STARTERS Core, a 10-week cohort-based program that will be delivered virtually via Zoom. CO.STARTERS guides people with creative business ideas through light and effective business modeling methods in a simple and intuitive way while connecting them to a community of peer support and mentors. After completing the program, participants will have the knowledge, connections and tools to turn their business ideas into action.
âThe CO.STARTERS program is a proven model that has helped people in rural communities across the country learn the fundamentals of business in the context of their particular idea,â said Lauren Mathena of the SOVA Innovation Hub. “We hope to see applicants with a range of ideas, including innovations in manufacturing, technology, agriculture and forestry.”
Rather than writing a detailed business plan, CO.STARTERS participants are encouraged to create and test small models first. In the process, participants receive real-time customer feedback, update their models to meet customer needs, and avoid building businesses based on incorrect assumptions. The CO.STARTERS program draws on the experience of successful entrepreneurs around the world and has served more than 200 communities in the United States, New Zealand and Australia. CO.STARTERS is new to Southern Virginia and will be facilitated by consultants from Longwood SBDC, who have been certified in the CO.STARTERS model and are familiar with the regional economy.
âAs the pandemic exits, we see an increase in interest and activity around new business start-ups and existing business hubs,â said Sheri McGuire of the Longwood Small Business Development Center. âThe CO.STARTERS program will harness this energy, build the capacity of new local business leaders and forge connections that will result in community collaborations. This is an excellent opportunity for the companies that participate in it and for our local economy.
The virtual program will begin on August 18 and will last 10 weeks on Wednesday evenings from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. To be eligible for the program, individuals must have a business idea that could be started in South Virginia. To participate in the program, participants must have high-speed Internet access and a device that allows them to share videos and view speakers’ presentations. Those who do not have high speed Internet access at home are encouraged to contact their local library or community center to explore the resources available for Internet access.
âSmall businesses are the backbone of local economies in our region, and the CO.STARTERS program will lead to an increase in our number of businesses, jobs and success,â said Bryan David, GO Virginia program director. Region 3. âThe return on investment – in terms of program funding and our participants’ time – will be significant. “