A nationwide program for budding entrepreneurs is coming to Zephyrhills.
Co.Starters is a program aimed at teaching entrepreneurs how to start their companies and grow their business.
The Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce will begin offering the program next month.
Adopted by more than a dozen entrepreneurial organizations in cities around the country, the 10-week program applies lean business modeling methods popular among high-growth startups and businesses of all kinds.
SMARTstart Business incubator director Krista Covey, who oversees the Co.Starters program in Pasco County, was the featured speaker at The Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce Business Breakfast on April 6.
In Co.Starters, weekly sessions are led by a trained coach in a small, supportive group setting.
And, enterprise-level concepts are introduced in “bite-sized pieces.”
“Each week is a different topic,” she added. “We talk about taxes. We talk about legal entity selection. We talk about everything.”
The program demystifies business concepts.
It uses easy-to-understand language and takes away the feeling of intimidation that some people feel when they’re venturing into the entrepreneurial world, Covey said.
The program largely helps potential entrepreneurs decide whether they want to pursue turning their idea into a business.
That’s critical, considering only about 20 percent of all companies last five years or more, Covey said.
The program also is open to existing business owners, who may look to “rethink” their existing business model.
“Some of the best things you can do to serve entrepreneurs is get them around other entrepreneurs,” Covey explained. “Get them collaborating, working together, sharing ideas.”
In Zephyrhills, the 10-week program runs from May 4 through July 6.
Classes will be each Thursday, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at The Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce office, 38550 Fifth Ave.
The program costs $295. Registration is due by 4 p.m., on April 28.
Similar programs will be offered later this year in Dade City, Wesley Chapel, Trinity and Land O’ Lakes.
Besides Co.Starters, other countywide resources are available for entrepreneurs and established business owners, Covey said.
One is the Pasco Enterprise Network (PEN), a collaborative effort of nonprofit agencies committed to ensuring the success of small businesses, through consulting, counseling, education, and technical assistance.
Among the partners are local chambers of commerce and colleges — like Saint Leo University and Pasco-Hernando State College.
Those arenas, Covey said, are particularly useful for networking and hiring a workforce.
The Pasco County Library System, another PEN partner, can be a valuable aid for startups, providing a wide variety of market research tools, databases and trade journals.
Meanwhile, the SMARTstart Pasco Business Incubator — managed by Covey since 2013 — remains available for entrepreneurs.
Located at 37837 Meridian Ave., in Dade City, the mixed-use facility offers co-working space, dedicated desk space, meeting space, classrooms and private offices.
Covey stated entrepreneurs typically spend about two years in the incubator program.
The incubator offers microloans for small businesses, too.
Available up to an amount of $35,000 with a fixed interest rate, the term of loans may range from 12 months up to a maximum of 72 months.
Launched in 2012, about 30 borrowers have participated in the microloan program, creating over 170 jobs, Covey said.
“We’re very passionate about job creation and helping our businesses in Pasco be as successful as possible,” she said.
Published April 19, 2017