Brandon Hennessey
Longwood Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

Lauren Mathena 
SOVA Innovation Hub

Registration opens for CO.STARTERS Business Bootcamp 

RISE Collaborative offers free business training program for aspiring & existing entrepreneurs

SOUTH BOSTON, Va. (October 25, 2022) – RISE Collaborative has opened registration for the Winter 2023 CO.STARTERS Business Bootcamp. 

The entrepreneur training program is a free, eight-week course designed to help area entrepreneurs and new business owners launch and grow their companies. Participants who complete the course will gain access to mentors, resources, and knowledge to start or scale a business. They will also be eligible for the Southern Virginia Business Pitch Competition planned for March 2023.

Hosted as a joint effort between RISE Collaborative, the SOVA Innovation Hub, and the Longwood Small Business Development Center (SBDC), the CO.STARTERS Business Bootcamp program is offered at no cost thanks to the collaboration among regional economic development organizations. The CO.STARTERS program has assisted in the launch or growth of 19 new businesses and 11 entrepreneurs in the pre-startup phase in the Southern Virginia region since hosting its inaugural cohort in 2021. 

The Winter 2023 CO.STARTERS Business Bootcamp cohort will take place from Jan. 10 through Feb. 28, 2023. Registration at will close on Dec. 13, 2022. Paper applications will be available at the SOVA Innovation Hub at 715 Wilborn Avenue, South Boston, VA 24592 Monday through Friday from 8:30-5 p.m. and at any Longwood SBDC office location. A limited number of seats are available and will be awarded based on entrepreneur readiness, feasibility, and scalability of business venture(s) represented in the applications.

Want to launch your idea or grow your business?

Apply for CO.STARTERS Winter 2023!

The virtual format for the 2023 program will include online group sessions every Tuesday from 6-9 p.m. Each weekly session will be led by a team of business experts who are certified in the nationally-known CO.STARTERS curriculum. Weekly topics include all aspects of business ownership, including market research, business plan development, financial forecasting, business formation, and marketing. Between sessions, participants are encouraged to complete fieldwork assignments, including customer interviews. Participants will also be introduced to mentors who can help them on their business journey. The total time commitment is 10 hours per week, including the weekly 3-hour online meeting.

The Winter 2023 CO.STARTERS Business Bootcamp is the fourth cohort of CO.STARTERS presented by RISE Collaborative, which is is designed to grow the regional economy by serving business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in the following localities in Southern Virginia: Amelia, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Halifax, Lunenburg, Henry, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Patrick, Pittsylvania and Prince Edward counties and the Cities of Danville and Martinsville.

“There are other really great programs like this in Danville, Martinsville, Lynchburg, and Richmond. We created this program for the rural communities that are in Southern Virginia in between those cities,” said Lauren Mathena, Director of Economic Development & Community Engagement for the SOVA Innovation Hub and Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation. 

“This CO.STARTERS Business Bootcamp is offered to bring a business training experience that connects you with peers, no matter your business type or background. It is offered online, so if you can get wifi, you can join this training and really accelerate your entrepreneurial success.” 

“Since our first cohort in 2021, the CO.STARTERS Bootcamp has directly contributed to the launch of multiple new businesses in Southern Virginia and the expansion of several economic ecosystems in the Commonwealth,” said Brandon Hennessey, Director of Innovation, Research and Entrepreneurship at the Longwood SBDC.

“The success of the program lies in the peer-to-peer interaction and networking among the entrepreneurs and the local business development experts the program brings together. We are adding improvements to the winter 2023 program to further increase the value to entrepreneurs. We want every minute of the training to be helpful to the entrepreneurs.”

Among regional businesses launched and grown from previous cohorts – including the inaugural Blackstone cohort held in partnership with Downtown Blackstone, Inc. and the Longwood SBDC – are In-Depth Productions (Blackstone, Va.), Taa Daa the Bakery (Blackstone, Va.), RV Mom in Pink (Blackstone, Va.), Beyond the Plant (Blackstone, Va.), and Jade Owl Creative (Farmville Va.).

“CO.STARTERS is a huge investment in self — one that’s very necessary, especially if you want to become an entrepreneur,” said Carl Bassfield, whose In-Depth Productions photography studio in downtown Blackstone now employs multiple individuals and subcontractors. “Everything is relevant. You’re going to use all of the information that they give you.” 

“I didn’t realize that I had good ideas or that my ideas were valid until I started taking the classes,” said Ally Barfield, who creates handmade resin products through her RV Mom in Pink studio in Blackstone. “I didn’t know anything about starting a business. The program gave me the tools I needed to make an actual business work. The instructors helped me figure out the financial side of it like pricing products, balancing a checkbook, and figuring out taxes.”

Going through a cohort-style intensive business education program helped me strategically construct my business plan in a supportive environment with peers who were also ‘figuring it out,’” said Natalie Hodge, CEO of Rudy’s Girl Media and writer, producer and creator of entrepreneurship reality series “Hometown Hustle.” “The non-judgmental space which combined presentations from subject matter experts and collaboration with other entrepreneurs gave me just what I needed to level up my company. I’ve experienced exponential growth this year as a result.”

The CO.STARTERS Business Bootcamp is ideal for individuals who are new business owners or who have started businesses in the past three years. The program is also open to individuals just getting started, who have not yet opened their business, or who plan to take over a business as part of another business owner’s succession planning. All types of businesses are encouraged to apply, including agriculture, professional services, manufacturing, technology, and any businesses that impact the regional economy. The CO.STARTERS Business Bootcamp is designed for individuals aged 18 and older.

For students and educators, RISE Collaborative also offers additional programs focused on teaching the entrepreneurship mindset and skills. Programs include the CO.STARTERS Generator for middle school, high school and college students; District C Coaching Institute for high school educators; and the Collegiate Business Plan Competition for students who are from the region or who are enrolled in higher education in the region. 

“Having a whole menu of RISE Collaborative programs and events is great because it lets people from different places, ages, and interests find their way to entrepreneurship training and skills,” said Mathena. “If you know your ‘why’ and what problem you’re out to solve, RISE Collaborative can help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.” 

Individuals who have questions about the CO.STARTERS Business Bootcamp or any of the RISE Collaborative programs can contact or call the SOVA Innovation Hub at (434) 570-1305.

Detailed program information and online registration is available online at