Last Thursday, January 7, a new business development program called Co.Starters officially launched in Fargo. After a successful trial run in the fall, the nine-week program is back in full swing and accepting sign-ups.
The program walks anyone with an idea for a business through the basic steps of turning that into a reality. It covers processes like evaluating your customer demographic, validating your idea, and assessing your competition.
They do so using a canvas developed by Co.Starters founder Enoch Elwell and program strategist, Rebekah Marr. The purpose, Elwell said, is to condense the lean startup idea into an accessible format.
Co.Starters is a relatively new program, started in 2013 by Elwell in Chattanooga, TN. Elwell said he first realized the need for a program like Co.Starters after attending business school.
“I thought the biggest thing that kept creatives from success was that they didn’t know business. But that wasn’t the case,” Elwell said. “The issue was that the biggest resources out there weren’t compatible with creative minded people. There was a relational and community disconnect between the business world and the creative world.”
Co.Starters emerged as a program built specifically for creative-minded entrepreneurs – the non MBA people, he said.
“My thought behind it all is that every community has awesome people who have great ideas,” he said. “My goal was to find out, how can I find the best resources to help regular people pursue their businesses?”
With that goal in mind, the program Elwell and his team have developed has seen rapid success. Since launching in 2013, Co.Starters programs are currently being facilitated in over 60 cities – including a few in New Zealand, where Co.Starters made their first international debut in 2015.
Fargo joined that list last year, after Elwell met Joe Burgum and Simone Wei at a Social Tilt conference organized by Greg Tehven. Burgum and Wei were in the preliminary stages of launching Folkways, an organization focused on building the creative culture in Fargo-Moorhead.
“After meeting the founder of Co.Starters (Elwell), we were energized by the impact that it would have on our community,” Wei said. “With so many people with strong passions around a variety of ideas, we felt that it could add a link to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The EDC was already looking at the Co.Starters curriculum, so we were able to form a partnership to get it started.”
Elwell, who came to Fargo during the Co.Starters facilitator training last Fall, said he is excited to see how Co.Starters can augment the growth already happening in Fargo’s startup scene.
“From what I’ve seen and heard, I feel like you’ve got a lot of positive momentum,” Elwell said. “I think you guys [Fargo] fundamentally get the idea that the way to change is changing the perception. You can try to change all of the structures and systems, or you can inspire the people to become greater, and the structures and systems will follow.”
Where a program like Co.Starters can be particularly valuable, he pointed out, is taking that momentum and putting it to action.
“My concern is when you have big vision but no follow-through. People get tired of that.” he said. “The unique role that Co.Starters can play in Fargo is making a channel for a whole lot of activity to follow that vision. It’s the idea that anyone can hop in and move it forward, and plug in to this new community that’s talked about all the time. I’m excited how Co.Starters fits into the Fargo story.”
Co.Starters is held every Tuesday night at the Prairie Den and will be facilitated by Brian Brasch, an entrepreneur and inventor, and James Whirlwind Soldier, an experienced team manager at dogIDs. Check it out here.