By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
“Haere mai” is a Maori phrase meaning “welcome” that is commonly used in New Zealand.
In about a month, if everything goes according to plan, it’s a phrase that Enoch Elwell hopes to be hearing frequently.
We caught-up with the guru behind the “CO.STARTERS” program run out of Chattanooga’s CO.LAB earlier this week during the “Rural Development Conference” hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Murfreesboro.
“We have 53 locations across the U.S.,” Elwell told us of the program that began its nationwide launch in late 2013 and early 2014. We posted an article about the plans at the time.
Over the past 16 months, we have also posted numerous notices announcing “CO.STARTERS” classes across our readership region – Crossville; Cookeville; Huntsville, AL; Knoxville; and McMinnville.
On Wednesday night in Murfreesboro, we had the opportunity to not only chat with Elwell, but also two of his very satisfied collaborators from different parts of the state.
“I like its flexibility,” Carol Reed, Executive Director of the Northwest Tennessee Entrepreneur Center, said of the program. “It’s perfect for people to take.”
In the current fiscal year, 38 individuals from her accelerator region have participated in the program.
The Biz Foundry’s Jeff Brown noted that his organization is sponsoring “CO.STARTERS” classes currently underway in Crossville and McMinnville.
“I like the fact it is plug and play,” he said in describing the ease of offering the program.
As Elwell goes international with four or five sites in New Zealand, he also developing a curriculum for use in high schools.
“We’re doing a youth version,” he said. “We’re slimming down the content and focusing on ideas.”
The concept was pilot tested during a 24-hour launch event at Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga.
“You can make it (the youth version) anything from a half-day in length to a semester-long activity,” Elwell explained. “It’s completely modular.”
Ahead of the New Zealand trip, Elwell is slated to present “CO.STARTERS” later this month during “EntreFEST,” Iowa’s largest innovation conference.