Zeal’s CO.STARTERS program helping young businesses get a kickstart

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – At the beginning of the year, The Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship launched their CO.STARTERS Program. Its goal is to connect small business owners with resources to help them work out the kinks of their ideas and start-up strong.

Professional writer Andrea Van Essen works primarily with businesses to tell their stories to attract clients.

“I always just knew that I wanted to be in a position where I would just be focused on writing and telling stories,” Van Essen said.

The story of her business began two years ago when she decided to become self-employed.

“It seemed simple enough. It seemed like, ‘well I write. People need writing. I’ll go find some clients,'” Van Essen said.

While she has a strong sense of sentence structure, she says it’s her business structure that really needed some improvement.

“As I kind of came up on this two-year mark, I was busy and I knew that if I wanted my business to be sustainable, I was going to need to make some changes and kind of backtrack a little into the plan and the structure of it all,” Van Essen said.

That’s when she found herself applying for the Zeal Center’s CO.STARTERS Accelerator Program. It’s what Executive Director Brienne Maner calls a ‘ten-week crash course in entrepreneurship.’

“We don’t want these start-ups to spend years thinking about an idea, kicking it down the road, possibly wasting time, money, and energy into something that either isn’t viable or just needs that kick-start,” Maner said.

It invites anyone, no matter what stage of your business you’re in, to sit down with like-minded people and learn what it takes to run one. They even feature special guests who have created successful, local operations.

“Each week we tackle a different subject matter: marketing, finance, business plan, that sort of thing,” Maner said.

Van Essen is currently in week 7 of the course.

“Just having people that know what you’re going through and can… kind of just be a sounding-board, and they understand. It’s been great to have that weekly, consistent thing and I’m definitely going to miss it when it’s over,” Van Essen said.

She says that despite each of her cohorts having different goals, one they have in common is a desire to grow.

Applications for the second round of cohorts open on February 22.

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