CO.STARTERS is a nine-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 nine weeks, convening one evening a week for three hours. Unlike Build Basics, which uses a traditional business plan method, Co.Starters help 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.
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.
Week 1: Knowing Yourself (Assumptions, Working Styles, Team Building, Obstacles)
Week 2: Knowing Your Customer (Problem, Solution, Benefit, Competition, Advantage, Customer)
Week 3: Getting the Relationship Right (Marketing & Message; Getting, Keeping & Growing Customers)
Week 4: Building the Model to Scale (Starting Small, Distribution, Revenue, Typical Sale, Price)
Week 5: Strengthening Your Structure (Business Structures, Licenses, IP, Hiring)
Week 6: Discovering the Bottom Line (Startup & Ongoing Needs, Fixed & Variable Costs, Break-Event Point)
Week 7: Accounting for Growth (Break-Even Point, Sales Projections, Cash Flow, Accounting)
Week 8: Planning for the Future (Raising Capital, Growth Plans, Goal Setting, Pitch Prep)
Week 9: Sharing your Story