Authors like Cormac McCarthy and J.D. Vance have used the written word to shine a spotlight on Appalachia. Politicians like Bobby Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson made Eastern Kentucky a focus of their effort to reduce poverty in America.

Now, Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) is helping the region rethink its approach to economic development by empowering, training, and supporting local entrepreneurs.

Established in 2013, SOAR is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded as a network and platform for innovators, entrepreneurs, and community leaders who believe Eastern Kentucky and the Appalachian region have a bright future.


Some of the nation’s most innovative economic developers and ecosystem builders recently gathered for Restart 2020, a three-day virtual event designed to help attendees formulate a strategy for 2021 that includes entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial training as an essential component of job creation and economic recovery.

The event began with a “debate” that compared and contrasted traditional economic development and ecosystem development.

The conclusion?

Both traditional economic development and ecosystem building are essential to meeting the needs of recovering and rapidly changing local economies.

“When you look at the…


CO.STARTERS is a Small Business Too: Part IV

By Jose Alfaro, CO.STARTERS COO

Perhaps the single most common question we hear from entrepreneurs is, “How can I improve my marketing?”

By now, you’ve probably read thirty Medium pieces and Forbes articles about how marketing is really about storytelling, and storytelling is really about branding, and branding is really about image, and well, you get the picture. And while that’s true, these approaches to marketing often leave out one very important consideration when creating a marketing strategy.

What Do Customers Want?

Marketing just means the way you talk to your customers and the people you want to gain as customers. And, as cliche…


The near mythical narrative surrounding a presidential administration’s first one hundred days began with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In fact, FDR brought the term “first 100 days” into the public’s consciousness during a radio address on July 24, 1933. Regardless of how anyone views his politics, FDR began his first presidential term with an impactful series of laws and regulations that saved the nation’s banks and created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. …


CO.STARTERS is a Small Business Too: Part III

By Jose Alfaro, CO.STARTERS COO

After-and only after-you talk to a number of your customers, it’s time to form a plan.

As a business, your job is to offer your customer solutions to their problems. So you need to ensure that whatever solution you create is going to actually solve the problem.

The value of experimentation.

Where does this certainty come from? Like any kind of knowledge, the perfect pivot solution won’t come from a shower-moment of ingenuity, but from trial and error. …


Here’s the bad news: This election will leave scars, and we have a lot of things that need to be fixed. The past few years have left a lot of people, locally and nationally, asking “What’s next?”

Here’s what’s next:

1. We build strong communities at the local level.

Strong communities are created at the local level, not via the federal government.

That’s the way it has always been. Entrepreneurs, business owners, ecosystem builders, educators, parents, community leaders, and concerned citizens solve problems. Over the years CO.STARTERS has seen groups of people with wildly divergent points of view come together to create new economic opportunities and stronger communities. That…


After nearly a decade of solely focusing on products and strategies to support new entrepreneurs, we at CO.STARTERS have expanded our focus to include existing businesses. This shift has been a long time coming, but it was certainly accelerated by the economic effects of COVID-19.

Adaptation is a learnable skill.

The chief mission of our Rebuild program is to teach entrepreneurs how to adapt to changing circumstances, changing customers, and changing problems. Businesses that are unable to change have short lifespans. A massive force like Coronavirus can really put a business’s adaptability to the test.

While some psychological metrics might…


What is design thinking, anyway?

Hopefully by now you’ve read our recap of Shelley Prevost’s stellar talk on how to get yourself calm. As she explained, it’s imperative to reach a place of calm before you shoot for creativity. But how do you actually make creativity happen in order to solve your problems-and ultimately, your customer’s?

To answer this question that dogs entrepreneurs, we spoke with Eric Brown, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer at Whiteboard . Whiteboard is a creative consulting agency that helps brands transform their digital media presence and corporate culture.

Eric is an expert in design thinking, which is a bit of…


Spread only good things and shop masks made by our very own CO.STARTERS graduates.

Masks are everyone’s new accessory and a proactive way to protect yourself and those around you. In the spirit of spreading positivity while helping reduce the bad, here is a simple and small way you can support small businesses who are working hard to pivot and address the current need. Browse this list of socially conscious CO.STARTERS graduate businesses and find a unique mask for you or a loved one.

Shop Six of Our Favorite Masks from CO.STARTERS Graduates


What do you get when you cross an entrepreneur, an angel investor, and a psychologist?

You get our latest guest in our Straight Talk With Starters series—Dr. Shelley Prevost of The Big Self School . Though Shelley has worn lots of hats over the years, from tech startup founder to Director of Happiness at a venture capital firm, she’s landed (for the moment) as an entrepreneur psychologist.

You may have heard of adolescent psychologists, family psychologists, forensic psychologists, and even psychologists for 20–30 year olds , but an entrepreneur psychologist, really? Yes, really. Almost half of all entrepreneurs are affected by mental illness, shows. …

CO.STARTERS

We equip individuals and communities to thrive through entrepreneurship by equipping them with strategy, tools, and relationships. // costarters.co

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