|CO.STARTERS is a business development
program through ArtWorks.
ArtWorksCincinnati.org is a non-profit organization located Over-The-Rhine that focuses on transforming the Greater Cincinnati region through public art, such as their award-winning mural program, art therapy, and creative enterprise initiatives. The Artworks’ business development program for entrepreneurs, SpringBoard, has recently evolved into CO.STARTERS.
ArtWorks launched the SpringBoard program in June 2011, drawing inspiration from a successful program by the same name located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Caitlin Behle, the Creative Enterprise Manager at ArtWorks says the program seemed like the next logical step in ArtWork’s mission. “We had already been connecting artists to apprenticeships and temporary employment through our public art initiatives, but we recognized a need for more training and resources for creatives,” says Behle. “We introduced the SpringBoard program so that creatives could walk away with the knowledge, resources and community support to create a successful business.”
ArtWorks saw an overwhelming response right away. In only 2.5 years they have trained nearly 200 entrepreneurs and helped launch 27 new businesses and nonprofits. “We recognized right away that the CO.STARTERS curriculum was really strong and innovative,” Behle adds, “and because it was built on the foundations that made SpringBoard successful, we knew we had to bring it to Cincinnati.”
The new and improved CO.STARTERS curriculum is uniquely crafted to infuse the class with knowledge from local professionals and help aspiring entrepreneurs turn business ideas into action. The aspects that are really great about SpringBoard still exist in CO.STARTERS, such as the collaborative environment and ability to interact with business professionals.
More than 70 professionals and small business owners from the Cincinnati area volunteer their time as guest presenters. “Being a business owner can get lonely, so being able to discuss personal trials and tribulations with others going through the same experience is a huge benefit,” says Behle, “I’m an artist, but I’m not business-savvy – this class is meant for those kind of people. It breaks down scary business terms and makes them easy to apply.” Course participants also receive the benefit of small class enrollment, capping off at 15 entrepreneurs per session.
CO.STARTERS is a 9-week long program that meets once a week from 6-9 p.m. at ArtWorks’ administrative offices located at 20 E. Central Parkway. The class is facilitated by a veteran entrepreneur responsible for guiding participants through the course and serves as a resource. Entrepreneurs receive real-time customer feedback, update their models to meet customer needs, and avoid building a business based on incorrect assumptions.
Each week, the class works through a different aspect of a business model. The first few weeks focus in-depth on the customer and crafting their message. The next few weeks focus on “the numbers” – revenue, pricing, cash flow, costs – as well as strengthening the business structure. The class is also anchored by Q&A-style talks and presentations from small business owners and professionals each week such as attorneys, accountants, marketing experts and lenders who donate their time each week to share their expertise and experiences.
The first CO.STARTERS course kicked off in January and will be wrapping up in a couple of weeks. The community—both graduates and the larger creative community—has really embraced the new program. ArtWorks has gained its footing and is honing in on what they look for in applicants. Behle describes this criteria in saying, “We want to create a class that incorporates both established businesses and start-up concepts. We are an art’s organization, so we’re looking for creative and innovative entrepreneurs.”
CO.STARTERS will be accepting applications for their June 2014 summer sessions from April 21 to May 9 at 5 p.m. The total course fee is $300 which includes course materials, 3-hour long sessions with a course facilitator and access to community events, networking opportunities and small business resources. There is a non-refundable deposit of $50 required to reserve a seat. To apply online or learn more about ArtWorks’ CO.STARTERS program, visit ArtWorksCincinnati.org.