Beginning in 2008 in Chattanooga, Tennessee as part of a five-year revitalization effort called CreateHere, we recognized a growing need to provide business support to artists, creatives, and others who didn’t fit traditional models. In response, we adapted existing business planning resources to serve groups of people interested in launching or refining creative businesses.
We set out to create something intentionally and completely new—something with a new mindset not focused on scarcity or exclusion, but on need and value. While providing this kind of business support was incredibly valuable, the connection and community resulting from the program were often the most beneficial aspects.
Through our early work with creative entrepreneurs we found that business support combined with community building led to significant transformation and unlocked potential. We wondered, how could we make this happen everywhere?
Over the first four years in Chattanooga, more than 1,000 people went through the program. The local work grew to support not only small businesses, but also high-growth startups.
More than a program.
CO.STARTERS launched nationally in 2013, packaging the best of our learnings from years of small business support and melding it with the most effective high-growth startup methods—all grounded in a community context.
Today the CO.STARTERS network consists of communities all over the country and spreading around the world, with thousands participating in its programs annually.
From the beginning, CO.STARTERS has pioneered a community-based approach to economic development—known today as entrepreneurial ecosystem building.
As our world continues to change, we continue to seek—as a team, a company, and a network—to discover and to shape the future of economic growth and entrepreneurial communities.