CO.STARTERS Core is an 8-week, cohort-based program that equips entrepreneurs of all kinds with the insights, relationships, and tools needed to turn business ideas into action.

Who is CO.STARTERS for?

You! The only real prerequisites to joining the program are

Having an idea

Being willing to question, shape and fine-tune that idea
Being willing to talk about the idea with others

How does it work?

Participants enter into a facilitator-led, collaborative process with a small and supportive group of 10-15 like-minded peers. Working together, participants develop and fine-tune their ideas, critically examining every part and determining next steps through real-time feedback from people in the community, using a simplified version of the Business Model Canvas.

CO.STARTERS Canvas (click to view larger)

What will I learn?


Week 1

Entrepreneurial Self Assessments/Intros/Basics

Week 2

Knowing Your Customer

Week 3

Refining the Idea/Solution

Week 4

Building Blocks – Distribution, Pricing, Revenue

Week 5

The Bottom Line – Startup Costs, Operating Costs, Breakeven

Week 6

Financial Modeling – Cash Flow, Projections, Capital

Week 7

Marketing and Messaging – Growing a Customer Base

Week 8

Planning for Growth – Goals and Presentation Prep

Program Information

Program Format

The 8-Week cohort will be delivered in a virtual format, using Zoom. Participants will need access to high speed internet and a personal device (ex. computer or tablet) with the ability to share video. The ability to share video and view the speaker’s shared screen is critical to getting the most out of this program.

Important Program Dates

Winter 2023 Cohort

8 Weeks

January 10th – February 28th, 2023

Tuesdays 6-9pm on Zoom

Application Opens: August 15, 2022

Deadline to Apply: December 13, 2022



The cohort is open to anyone in Southern Virginia interested in starting or growing a business in our region. Eligible localities include: Halifax County, Mecklenburg County, Brunswick County, Lunenburg County, Charlotte County, Prince Edward County, Cumberland County, Buckingham County, Nottoway County, Amelia County, Pittsylvania County, Henry County, Patrick County, Danville, and Martinsville.

An online application is required to participate in the program. Once you apply, we will follow up with you with any questions we have and we’ll let you know if you are accepted into the program by two weeks before the program start date. 

Program Policies

All participants who are accepted into the cohort must agree to and sign an attendance & fieldwork policy agreement. The attendance & fieldwork policies for the CO.STARTERS Core program are below.


CO.STARTERS Core is an 8 week, comprehensive cohort style business planning program. Each of the 8 training sessions covers a specific topic. Part of the value of this program is the strong network that will develop among participants. For these reasons, maximizing your attendance and engagement in the program is essential to maximizing your readiness to move from idea to action. 

To complete the program, each participant must: 

  • Attend a minimum of 6 of the 8 training sessions, including attending session 1.
  • Demonstrate engagement in the sessions and complete weekly fieldwork as assigned.


  • Session 1 is mandatory.  This session is important for understanding the expectations of the program and meeting your fellow CO.STARTERS cohort participants. 
  • We understand that absences will occur. Our policy on absences is reflected below:
    • Excused Absences: An excused absence occurs when a participant misses a session (for any reason) but notifies the program administrator in advance. A participant may have a maximum of 2 excused absences. A participant who accumulates 3 or more total absences (including excused and unexcused) will be removed from the cohort. 
    • Unexcused Absences: An unexcused absence means that you did not notify the program administrator before the session. A participant who accumulates 2 consecutive unexcused absences will be removed from the cohort. A participant who accumulates a total of 3 or more unexcused absences will be removed from the cohort. 


  • Each week, complete the fieldwork, prior to the next session. 
  • Prior to the start of sessions 2 through 8, submit a selfie video with your reflections from the prior week. These should be short (3 minutes maximum).
  • At the start of sessions 2 through 8, provide an updated customer count.


The CO.STARTERS approach enables entrepreneurs to rapidly uncover flaws in their concepts and find viable models more quickly. Participants leave the program with a deeper understanding of how to create a sustainable business, articulate their models, and repeat the process with the next great idea.


All applicants who are accepted into the program will receive a full scholarship, thanks to the support from our funding partners. The value of the program is $500 per person which includes the 8-week training and all course materials.

Program Facilitators

Our CO.STARTERS certified facilitators are passionate about teaching entrepreneurship and business model development skills to current and upcoming business owners in our region.

Sheri McGuire

Longwood SBDC Executive Director and Associate VP for Community and Economic Development at Longwood University

Brandon Hennessey

Director of Research, Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Longwood University

Katherine Beale

Longwood SBDC Consultant

Jacob Dolence

Director, Educational Innovation and Entrepreneurial Ecosystems at Longwood University

Hope Harris-Gayles

Longwood SBDC Marketing Consultant

Lin Hite

Longwood SBDC Director – South Boston Office

Andrew King

Director of the Flemming Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Hampden-Sydney College

Michael Scales

Longwood SBDC Western Region Business Analyst

Lauren Mathena

Director of Economic Development and Community Engagement, Mid-Atlantic Broadband (MBC)


The Virtual Winter 2023 Cohort application will be coming soon.

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated.


We also encourage you to attend a free CO.STARTERS Workshop along with your application. The workshop is a one-day, three-hour, online training that will give you a preview of the full 8-week program. 

“CO.STARTERS is a huge investment in self — one that’s very necessary, especially if you want to become an entrepreneur. Everything is relevant. You’re going to use all of the information that they give you.”

Carl Bassfield, Owner of In-depth Productions and CO.STARTERS Completer

Who will you hear from as a participant of CO.STARTERS?

Hit play on our CO.STARTERS YouTube playlist to hear from a few speakers that have spoken to previous RISE Collaborative CO.STARTERS cohorts.

Presented by

Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, George Mason University, and local host institutions.  The Virginia SBDC is nationally accredited by America’s SBDC.
This project was also funded in part by GO Virginia, a state-funded initiative administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) that strengthens and diversifies Virginia’s economy and fosters the creation of higher wage jobs in strategic industries.

Supported by


Communities Served

Leaders Trained

Starters Supported