CO.STARTERS Summit Highlights Deepened Support for Entrepreneurial Leaders

Grassroots entrepreneurial leaders from across the U.S. came together October 2–4 for the fifth CO.STARTERS Summit, held in the organization’s hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The event was an opportunity for communities supported by the growing entrepreneurial network to connect in an intimate setting to celebrate five years of growth and to collaborate on a vision for the next five years and beyond.

Celebrating Five Years

Since its early work with creative entrepreneurs beginning in 2008 and relaunch as a scalable program and brand in 2013, CO.STARTERS has equipped more than 630 leaders across 190+ communities, impacting more than 10,000 starters. Of these, more than 8,000 went through CO.STARTERS foundational business development program; 85% of participants from 2014–18 reported that they are still working in their venture. 

CO.STARTERS credits this success to the growing community of passionate and highly engaged individual entrepreneurial leaders and ”ecosystem builders” across the network who are actively implementing the frameworks and tools in their local context and sharing their learnings to continually make the resources more effective.

Growing the Future

CO.STARTERS Founder and Director of Vision, Enoch Elwell, shared his vision for not only continuing to pioneer the future of economic development and community building, but to equip leaders with, practical, emotional, and strategic support to ensure a smoother and more successful passage for those to come on the ecosystem building journey. 

At the 2019 Summit CO.STARTERS announced six major areas they will be focusing on for 2020 and beyond to provide deeper and more holistic support to members, including a major update to CO.STARTERS Core—their foundational curriculum for starters—to make it even more accessible and flexible; a partnership with technology platform Startup Space to power connections and measure impact; and a new Ambassador membership model that will expand access to CO.STARTERS offerings to individuals, not just organizations. Learn more about these projects.

“We Are Not OK”

Ecosystem building is difficult work, and burnout is a common challenge. There’s often too much to do, conflicting priorities, and often not enough support for the people who are dedicated to supporting new entrepreneurs. Consistent with the vision for, practical, emotional, and strategic support outlined above, Summit presentations included sessions about self care, vulnerable growth, and burnout, closing with a talk entitled “We Are Not OK,” by Shelley Prevost, a psychologist, investor, and startup founder who focuses on giving psychological support to founders as they navigate the mental and emotional challenges of starting a company. Find resources on burnout from Shelley Prevost.

From Program to Network

In the last five years, the CO.STARTERS brand has grown from a grassroots program, to a company, to a global community of like-minded individuals and community builders working to provide holistic support to starters and power thriving ecosystems. 

The hallmarks of CO.STARTERS offerings are their effectiveness across a wide range of non-traditional founders—from youth, to aspiring creatives, to established small businesses, to older entrepreneurs—and their accessibility as turnkey, comprehensive solutions packaged for easy implementation by a wide range of providers, from local chambers to arts nonprofits to accelerators.

As the company and community have grown, the philosophy and vision of CO.STARTERS have remained the same: empowering individuals within the context of community, equipping them with simple, effective tools to ensure a path forward for every starter. 

To learn more about opportunities with CO.STARTERS reach out to [email protected].