CO.STARTERS Mitchell Graduates First Cohort of Entrepreneurs
This July, the first cohort of Mitchell, South Dakota-based CO.STARTERS accelerator program graduated from the incubator program. Eleven participants, spanning a variety of industries, participated in the ten-week core program, which was facilitated by Dr. Ryan Van Zee of Mitchell Technical College and Laura Klock, owner of Farm Life Creamery in Ethan, South Dakota.
A variety of partners came together to make this possible, including Accelerate Mitchell, which itself is a collaboration between the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce and Development Corporation, Mitchell Technical College (MTC), Dakota Wesleyan University (DWU), and Mitchell Main Street & Beyond. Together with Accelerate Mitchell, Startup Sioux Falls and Dakota Resources partnered in this initiative. This program is made possible because of a $1 million grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Dakota Resources is proud to partner with Startup Sioux Falls as the rural spoke in the Community Navigator Pilot Program, allowing their CO.STARTERS program to better reach underserved communities.
According to Paula Jensen, Dakota Resources Vice President of Program Development and Community Coach, “An entrepreneur support system — training, networks, resources, mentors — is one building block in Dakota Resources’ Community and Economic Development Blueprint, but the fact is, entrepreneurs are the catalyst for multiple economic drivers such as job growth, specialized trade, and placemaking. Through our partnership in the Community Navigator Pilot Program, the Mitchell Area Chamber and Development Corporation has recognized that a strong entrepreneur support system should be a focus in growing their local economy and creating a thriving rural region.”
As they completed the program, each of the 11 participants in the Mitchell cohort received a one-year membership to the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as an opportunity to participate in a local resource fair, planned for this fall.
One participant, Kendra Cersosimo, who owns Kendra Cersosimo Creative, a graphic design, social media and digital marketing company, was interested in the program to fill in “the gaps,” she said, in her education background.
“I have both a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design and a Masters degree in Management, but neither fully prepared me for owning a business,” Cersosimo said. “The [CO.STARTERS] opportunity seemed too good not to apply for. I knew the program would connect me with other like-minded individuals, provide me with business knowledge and resources, and that it was free to participants, so to me that was a win-win-win.”
Throughout the program’s ten-week curriculum, Cersosimo and her fellow CO.STARTERS cohort members heard from guest speakers, many of whom are local business owners and entrepreneurs themselves. In addition, Cersosimo found endless value in lessons on everything from understanding customers to financial modeling and growth plans, all of which she says helped her to feel more confident and competent as a business owner.
“Through the program, I better understood the power of connections – especially as a one-woman, online service-based business,” Cersosimo said. “Each Tuesday was a new opportunity to join ten other business owners and two incredible instructors to share your weekly wins, obstacles, and ideas. Together, we shared feedback, navigated entrepreneurship, and solidified a sturdy foundation for each of our different businesses. Sometimes entrepreneurship can feel lonely, but with CO.STARTERS, it definitely did not feel that way.”
TAKE ACTION: Dakota Resources is partnering with regional economic development organizations in five rural South Dakota communities. Visit our Community Coaching program page to learn more about the communities we are working with and what the program entails.