CO.STARTERS is a ten-week business development program that helps aspiring entrepreneurs put ideas into action, and turn a passion into a sustainable and thriving small business.


A project of The Company Lab (CO.LAB) in Chattanooga, the CO.STARTERS program lasts ten weeks, convening one evening a week for three hours. Unlike BUILD Basics, which uses a traditional business plan method, CO.STARTERS helps entrepreneurs focus on an idea and prepare it visually through a business model canvas plan. Facilitators are experienced entrepreneurs who are well connected in the business community. Guest speakers share the challenges they faced while starting and growing their businesses, and business professionals from leading accounting and law firms offer their support to program participants.

Throughout this business model discovery process, participants identify and test business assumptions through customer interactions, develop a functioning business model, learn valuable management and marketing skills, and receive constructive feedback from advisor, peers, and former grads. At the end, you’ll have the tools, framework, and momentum you need to make your vision a reality–and the best part is you won’t be in it alone.

Your Commitment to CO.STARTERS

To get the most out of CO.STARTERS, you will need to participate in all ten sessions, engage regularly with the CO.STARTERS materials, share insights and connections with your peers, and complete targeted “fieldwork” activities weekly between group sessions. In addition to the three hours per week in class, you should expect to spend another three hours on your fieldwork. You will need to be dedicated during the program and give an adequate amount of time to it.

Program Fees

CO.STARTERS enrollment is a flat fee of $250. The course fee includes curriculum, facilitation, access to a virtual community platform, plus you become a BUILD Institute alumni with all the resources that entails. Spaces are limited, so full payment is required to save a seat. This fee is non-refundable.


If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, or a seasoned entrepreneur looking to launch a new product or service, CO.STARTERS is for you. The only real prerequisites are: having a business idea you’re ready, willing and excited to share and work on; and a willingness to study, shape and fine-tune that idea in a supportive, collaborative and welcoming environment. If you’re creative and community-minded, and you’re serious about turning your passion into a sustainable small business, we’re looking for you.

Approachable – Uses simple, easy to understand language and addresses the full spectrum of adult learning styles
Collaborative – Brings people together to learn from one another, creating a strong network of support for startups Community
Centered – Helps you and your business benefit from our welcoming community of creative entrepreneurs
Practical – Offers a tangible process for identifying, testing, and adapting business assumptions to create a viable startup, and provides practical steps to launch, rather than theoretical concepts
Customer Focused – Assumes customers should be the primary concern in every aspect of creating a business
Inclusive – Helps shape passions into viable and sustainable business models, whether you’re a graphic designer, a jewelry maker, or the next big software success story


During CO.STARTERS, you’ll develop and fine-tune your business idea, building models based on your assumptions, tweaking your next steps through real-time customer feedback, learning valuable management and marketing skills and receiving constructive feedback from advisers, peers and local businesses. By honing your business and updating your approach based on real feedback and customer demand, you’ll gain the skills you need to develop a viable business model.


The Sessions > A Step-by-Step Journey to Business Ownership

SESSION 1: Knowing Yourself

Dig into what’s driving you and understand what it will take to achieve your dream.

SESSION 2: Knowing Your Customer

Pinpoint what your customer wants and how to adapt to their needs.

SESSION 3: Finding the Right Solution

Test your solution by starting small and making adjustments as needed.

SESSION 4: Getting the Relationship Right

Build customer relationships through your messaging & marketing.

SESSION 5: Building Blocks

Figure out your logistics and how you’ll make money.

SESSION 6: Structures & Systems

Understand the legal and accounting systems you’ll need to support your business.

SESSION 7: Discovering the Bottom Line

Determine your costs and whether your business model is financially viable.

SESSION 8: Financial Modeling

Go deeper into the financials and identify sources of capital.

SESSION 9: Planning for Growth

Build momentum and leave with a strategy for achieving your goals.

SESSION 10: Celebration!

Reflect on what you’ve accomplished and celebrate all you’ve achieved.