CO.STARTERS Core is an eleven-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)

Program Information

Program Format

This 11-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

Our second regional, virtual cohort begins on Tuesday, March 15th, 2022 and runs each Tuesday evening on Zoom from 6-9pm for 11 weeks. The last evening will be Tuesday, May 24th.

The application deadline has been extended!

The application deadline for this cohort is Friday, March 4, 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 of March 15th. 

Program Policies

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 7 of the 10 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. 
  • Session 11 is the celebration event. Each participant has the option to share their business pitch. 
  • 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 3 excused absences. A participant who accumulates 4 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 10, 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 10, 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 eleven-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

Honors Faculty, Longwood University Cormier Honors College for Citizen Scholars

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

Program Administrators

Lauren Mathena

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

Rebecca Stimson

SOVA Innovation Hub Community Manager

CO.STARTERS Core Spring 2022 Cohort Members

Course materials and fieldwork can be found on the Canvas learning management system.

The Virtual Fall 2022 Cohort application will be coming soon.

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated.

Get Started Workshop

We also encourage you to attend a free Get Started Workshop in conjunction with your application. The workshop is a one-day, three-hour, online training that will give you a preview of the full eleven-week program. 

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