Motivation, bonding, and satisfaction were all words used by students in Mrs. Dana Knott’s classroom this semester. This spring students participated in the CO.STARTERS Generator program offered through RISE Collaborative. 

The program provided an opportunity for Amelia County High School students to grow their entrepreneurial mindsets and propose real startups in Amelia county. With the guidance and leadership of Mrs. Knott, and support from Jacob Dolence, faculty at Longwood University, the students participated in a 10-week journey that led to four teams pitching their inspiring ideas for prize funds.

In teams of 3 to 6 individuals, the students worked their way through the CO.STARTERS Canvas, which is a tool to turn ideas into business models ( The students learned the entrepreneurship mindset by answering questions about who their potential customers might be, what problems they could solve, and how to generate revenue to sustain operations. They also delved into interpersonal “soft skills” such as leadership, building a team, talking to customers, and managing time. 

Differing from the traditional business or entrepreneurship curriculum, students were asked to go beyond the hypothetical. Outside of the classroom, teams conducted customer interviews with real potential customers. They learned how to ask questions and test their assumptions by collecting evidence. 

Looking towards the future

It was evident that these students care about the future of the place they live. Their ideas solved problems in their community around public parks, healthy and active lifestyles, mental health, and entertainment. They worked together to think creatively and proposed solutions such as a new community park, a training facility for athletes, a drive-in movie theater, and a mindfulness room at the high school. The students all drew prototypes, talked with stakeholders, and developed professional pitches. 

The program culminated in the student teams pitching for prize money to make their ideas a reality. The virtual pitch event was hosted on Zoom using two-way video. Other members of the RISE Collaborative team, Lauren Mathena (Mid-Atlantic Broadband) and Brandon Hennessey (Longwood SBDC) served as judges, asking the students pertinent questions and ultimately deciding on a winner.

The judges awarded $1,000 to the team that pitched a mindfulness room, as well as a $500 seed fund for Mrs. Knott’s classroom. When asked about the experience, students had positive feedback. One student said it was a “Great way of bonding, creating a group community project, and learning entrepreneurship.” 

Another student said, “This program gave us motivation and satisfaction since our ideas can actually be implemented”.

One thing is for certain when students come together to solve problems utilizing entrepreneurial mindsets: no challenge is too large.

Prize funding for the Spring 2022 Generator Student Idea Summit was generously sponsored by Benchmark Community Bank.

Bring Generator to Your School

The Generator program is free and available to all teachers in GO Virginia Region 3. The program facilitators are happy to work with individual teachers to best shape the program to their needs. To learn more check out