RBTC Co.Starters graduate fourth class

Published 3:48 pm Tuesday, May 2, 2023

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The 2023 RBTC Co.Starters graduates are from L-R: Curtis Maxwell, Aleatra Kemp, and Freddie Charleston. Other graduates not pictured are: Gloria Allen, Latonya Allen, and Patrease Whitfield. The graduation ceremony was held last Friday, April 28.

Last Friday, April 28 saw the graduation of the fourth Co.Starters class sponsored by the RBTC (Rural Business Training Center). Classes lasted for 10 weeks where they learned skills and techniques on how to start a new business or grow an already existing business.

Co.Starters Core is a 10-week, cohort-based program that equips entrepreneurs of all kinds with the insights, relationships, and tools needed to turn ideas into action. Over ten sessions, participants develop and fine-tune their ideas and leave the program with a deeper understanding of creating a sustainable venture.

Six graduates received certificates: Gloria Allen, Latonya Allen, Freddie Charleston, Aleatra Kemp, Curtis Maxwell, and Patrease Whitfield. Three of the six graduates, Jonathan Marshall and Rhonda Watters were unable to attend.

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The main speaker for this year’s graduation was CEO of Co.Starters Jose Alfaro who attended via ZOOM. At last year’s graduation, Alfaro said Co.Starters began by trying to find easier ways of getting information to those who wanted to start a business. He stressed that no one can build a business alone and that “having interaction with peers” is the most important aspect of training.

His message this year was about what opportunities Co. Starters provide not just to those who own a business, but to the people who interact with the businesses. He said that Co.Starters provides entrepreneurship programs, provides a framework and structure for new businesses. The programs train business leaders in the community to facilitate these programs and be mentors who are supportive of new ideas.

“We create community and we empower individuals to see their potential,” said Alfaro.

But Alfaro said that the most important thing for Co.Starters is its mission to equip and empower individuals and communities to thrive through entrepreneurship.

“Entrepreneurship is the vehicle, but our main goal and our heart behind everything that we do and everybody in our team is to help you and your community thrive. And that work just means a lot,” said Alfaro. “Whether you’re a city leader, a community leader, a business owner, an alumni, a graduate or a family member. The work that’s being done here has something bigger.  And you may think, oh no, they’re just graduated from a program but that’s just the first step. That’s the first step to something bigger.”

During the presentation of certificates, graduates were allowed to speak for a few minutes on what they learned during their time in the 10-week program. Each graduate had very different businesses from each other, but they all settled on one thing and that was how the program laid out the process of building a business and how it opened their eyes to the fact that there is always more to learn.

The first graduate, Freddie Charleston, said the class helped him realize that he “wasn’t as smart as he thought he was” when he began his business.

“What I like about this organization is that if you have even just the tip of an idea about what you want to do this program can help you grow. It can help you to get your idea off the ground and running because they take you from A to Z,” said Charleston.