By LAINE GRIFFIN
Daily News-Record 12/24/19
As the new year approaches, Harrisonburg city staff are beginning a new program to help residents start or expand entrepreneurship.
The city’s Economic Development Department has partnered with Co.Starters and will hold a nine-week course, called Launch Harrisonburg, to help people develop and fine-tune ideas to build successful businesses, according to a press release.
“The ultimate goal of this program is to get businesses launched, ideally in Harrisonburg,” said Peirce Macgill, Harrisonburg’s assistant director of economic development. “We want to take somebody who has an idea and has always had a dream and take them through the steps to get that business off the ground.”
The Co.Starters model is a national program that is used to jump-start entrepreneurial ideas and provide a foundation for people to start business ideas.
The city will buy the Chattanooga-based company’s template and materials to build the local class.
Two local entrepreneurs were picked by Co.Starters to go through a training process and will be the facilitators of the classes, which begin Feb. 4.
The facilitators will be Andy Vanhook, cofounder of Appeal Production, and Tisha Mc-Coy-Ntiamoah, founder of PrePOPsterous.
“It’s Co.Starters’ program, but we are just putting our local stamp on it,” Macgill said. “It’s a new year for new dreams.”
The city is accepting applications until Jan. 13.
Application questions revolve around applicants’ business ideas.
“We want to have a wide range of ideas so we can make sure to give everyone creative and strong suggestions and help them build their business,” Macgill said.
Macgill said the city got the idea from the city of Lynchburg, which has been doing Co.Starters classes for two years.
“We get a lot of ideas from Lynchburg, who said has been a very successful program that has helped many people,” Macgill said. “They said it was a competitive application process for people to get into the class.”
Although the application only takes five to 10 minutes to fill out, Macgill said he expects it to be a competitive process.
There are 12 spots available, and both Harrisonburg and Rockingham County residents can apply.
“Lynchburg had a wide range of people take place in the classes, but mostly got people in the retail and food range, including handmade crafts and bakeries,” he said.
The cost to take part in Launch Harrisonburg is $195 for city residents and $275 for non-residents. It costs the city $12,000 and is part of its department budget.
“Entrepreneurship has become a big component with economic development,” Macgill said. “Now, it’s more about growing what you have and your own thing, so we are always looking to help people in the city with that.”
Macgill said the city is capping the number of participants at 12 because it will bring a “good collaborative spirit.”
The classes will be held every Tuesday from 6 to 9 p.m. in City Hall, 409 S. Main St., in the bottom floor rooms one and two.
Macgill said the city plans to hold the program again in 2020, and in the future continue to hold classes twice a year.
“We want to continually give local residents help with their business ideas because there are many people who have new ideas for their current business or for a new business altogether,” he said.
For more information, visit//harrisonburgdevelopment.com/launch-harrisonburg/.