RBTC Co.Starters graduates sixth class

Published 3:29 pm Tuesday, November 21, 2023

On Monday, Nov. 13, the sixth Co.Starters class sponsored by the RBTC (Rural Business Training Center) held graduation ceremonies. Classes lasted for 10 weeks and participants learned skills and techniques on how to start a new business or grow an already existing business.

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

Four graduates received certificates at graduation: Kayee Edwards, Joyce Hall, Reggie Jackson, and Angel Mathews.

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The guest speaker for this year’s graduation was Co.Starters CEO Jose Alfaro who attended via ZOOM. Alfaro said Co.Starters has reached nearly 28,000 people who have graduated from the program since its inception in 2010. The program has crossed into 30 states and empowers individuals to take their ideas and move forward with them.

“All entrepreneurship is individuals willing to serve others and find solutions to problems that they see. You’re problem solvers,” said Alfaro. “My encouragement to you as you graduate, is that the work does not stop here. Go back to what you learned, continue to meet with each other, keep in touch with your mentors. This is just the beginning for you.”

Demopolis Mayor Woody Collins said that some people think the city council is responsible for bringing corporate businesses to the area. But, Collins said, that is not what America was built on. America was “built on small businesses such as all of you.”

“Believe me, I know. I ran a small business for twenty-eight years and now it has passed on to a third generation. Patience and persistence are the key to a successful business because nothing happens without them,” said Collins. “This is the future of our country, our community, and our state. I applaud each and every one of you and if there is anything City Hall can do for you, don’t hesitate to ask. We’re there for any small business in this community and we will give you one hundred percent support.”

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.

Kayee Edwards receives his certificate from Aliquippa Allen. From L-R: Aliquippa Allen, Woody Collins, Connie Davis, Barbara Raymond, and Kayee Edwards. Photo by Andrea Burroughs.

The first graduate, Kayee Edwards, a Selma resident, aims to create a business called the Black Cap that sells hats. It is meant to be a galvanizing item for the community. Edwards said his thought process was that hats say a lot about the person wearing them. Hats are either functional or fashionable, and advertise what is on a person’s mind.

“The program has been a godsend. The Black Cap will be for any group of people, and hopefully, it will be successful,” said Edwards. “Starting in a small town is the key. Much like Demopolis, Selma needs much improvements as well.”

Joyce Hall receives her certificate from Aliquippa Allen. From L-R: Aliquippa Allen, Woody Collins, Connie Davis, Barbara Raymond, and Joyce Hall. Photo by Andrea Burroughs.

The next graduate, Joyce Hall, expressed her enjoyment over the ten week program and how each class was delivered. Hall’s business is a youth area called Monkey in the Middle where children in the community can go to have fun and to be in a safe environment rather than being somewhere they either don’t want to be or shouldn’t be.

Reggie Jackson receives his certificate from Aliquippa Allen. From L-R: Aliquippa Allen, Woody Collins, Connie Davis, Barbara Raymond, and Reggie Jackson. Photo by Andrea Burroughs.

Reggie Jackson spoke next and he said the classes helped him with the numbers involved in running a business. The classes help him learn how to keep up with accounting and keeping things in order.

Jackson and his wife have been selling organic sea moss for the last five years. Organic sea moss is a type of red algae or seaweed that is used for its medicinal properties and nutrient-dense qualities.

“I appreciate Aliquippa for putting in the time to give us the information we needed to press forward. I am very grateful for it,” said Jackson.

Angel Mathews receives her certificate from Aliquippa Allen. From L-R: Aliquippa Allen, Woody Collins, Connie Davis, Barbara Raymond, and Angel Mathews. Photo by Andrea Burroughs.

The last graduate was Angel Mathews. Mathews said she learned about the RBTC through her current boss who encouraged her to join the program and see what it had to offer her. She currently works at Dr. J’s House of BBQ and Soul Food, and one day hopes to take over the business.

Aliquippa Allen, the founder of the RBTC, closed out the graduation with a few inspiring words for her graduates.

“You go through this class to determine if running a business is for you. It’s not for everybody. You really have to have perseverance to be in business,” said Allen.

The next Co.Starters program begins on Feb. 20, 2024 and will run through Apr. 23, 2024.