With the pandemic winding down, many people are considering starting their own business for the first time.

Meanwhile, existing business owners are exploring how they can capture new revenue by expanding their products, services and markets.

A new program presented by SOVA Innovation Hub, the Longwood Small Business Development Center, and GO Virginia Region 3 will provide help for these entrepreneurs, fueling more economic growth for the region.

Applications are currently being accepted for CO.STARTERS Core, a 10-week, cohort-based program that will be delivered virtually via Zoom. CO.STARTERS walks people with creative business ideas through lean, effective business modeling methods in a simple and intuitive way while connecting them to a supportive community of peers and mentors. After completing the program, participants will have the insights, relationships and tools needed to turn their business ideas into action.

“The CO.STARTERS program is a proven model that has helped people in rural communities across the country learn business fundamentals in the context of their particular idea,” said Lauren Mathena of the SOVA Innovation Hub. “We are hopeful to see applicants with a range of ideas, in-cluding manufacturing, technology, agriculture, and forestry innovations.”

Rather than writing a detailed business plan, CO.STARTERS participants are encouraged to build and test small models first. In the process, participants receive real-time customer feedback, update their models to meet customer needs, and avoid creating businesses based on incorrect assumptions. The CO.STARTERS program draws from the experience of successful entrepreneurs from around the world and has served more than 200 communities across the United States, New Zealand and Australia. CO.STARTERS is new to Southern Virginia and will be facilitated by Longwood SBDC consultants, who have been certified in the CO.STARTERS model and are knowledgeable of the regional economy.

“Coming out of the pandemic, we are seeing an increase in interest and activity around new business starts and existing business pivots,” said Sheri McGuire of the Longwood Small Business Development Center. “The CO.STARTERS program will harness that energy, build capacity in new local business leaders, and forge connections that will result in community collaborations. This is an excellent opportunity for the businesses that participate and for our local economy.”

The virtual program will kick off Aug. 18 and will run for 10 weeks on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m. To be eligible for the program, individuals need to have a business idea that could be launched in Southern Virginia. In order to participate in the program, participants must have high-speed internet access and a device that will allow them to share video and see speaker presentations. Those without access to high-speed internet at home are encouraged to contact their local library or community center to explore available resources for internet access.

“Small business is the backbone of local economies in our region, and the CO.STARTERS program will result in an increase in our numbers of businesses, jobs, and success,” said Bryan David, GO Virginia Region 3 program director. “The return on investment - in terms of both program funding and in the time of our participants- will be significant.”

To learn more and to apply to the program, visit sbdc-longwood.com/costarters. The application deadline is Aug. 6. Questions about the program can be directed to sbdc@longwood.edu or (434) 395-2086.