Zeal launches accelerator program for entrepreneurs

Dec. 1, 2020

The Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship is taking applications for the first cohort of its new accelerator program.

Zeal is offering the Co.Starters program, a 10-week experience designed to provide structure, support and resources for entrepreneurs to execute on their business ideas.

The inaugural cohort will be conducted virtually, beginning Jan. 12, 2021, and will be facilitated by local business owner Eric Weisser of Weisser Distributing.

Zeal used to host its own accelerator events, which were well received, but had put them on hiatus. Co.Starters is a proven, structured program discovered by Zeal while working to fill that gap in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, executive director Brienne Maner said.

“The Co.Starters Core accelerator program is designed for entrepreneurs in the ideation phase, which means they have identified a problem, opportunity or gap in the marketplace and need structure, support and resources to execute on their business idea,” she said.

“It’s also designed for more established growth-stage startups looking to scale up.”

There are typically 10 to 16 participants in a cohort, and it’s important that the participants vary in their experience and background because part of the success of the program comes from the relationships made within the cohort, Maner said.

“We’ve had so many people reach out to us over the past few months who have great ideas and business models but are stuck and not sure what the next step should be. During times of economic uncertainty, many entrepreneurs want to make sure they don’t waste time, energy and money into something that is not viable or lucrative.”

Through an accelerator, entrepreneurs will be able to determine next steps with a minimal amount of time and financial investment, she added.

“Oftentimes, the next step is to connect with business mentors in specific areas of operation or find incubation space, and for some, the next step is to abandon the idea, and that’s OK. It’s about getting the clarity you need to make these important and bold moves for your future,” Maner said. “This is precisely why the Zeal Center of Entrepreneurship exists, and we’re thrilled to be able to further solidify our importance and relevance in the business community.”

How it works

Entrepreneurs must apply by midnight Dec. 11 and will be notified by Dec. 18 if accepted. The program fee for Co.Starters is $300, including all necessary materials. Limited scholarships might be available depending on financial need.

Beginning in January, Co.Starters participants will gather via Zoom with the hope that in-person meetings will become possible at a later date. The virtual aspect also will offer some flexibility to entrepreneurs who may have day jobs or other responsibilities.

Weekly program sessions will run from 6 to 9 p.m., and they will feature guest speakers and presenters curated to that week’s topic. Weisser has been certified by Co.Starters through three days of training, and he will lead all 10 sessions:

  • Knowing Yourself
  • Knowing Your Customer
  • Finding the Right Solution
  • Getting the Relationship Right
  • Building Blocks
  • Structures and  Systems
  • Discovering the Bottom Line
  • Financial Modeling
  • Planning for Growth
  • Graduation/Pitch Night

Click here to learn more and submit your application.

Room to grow

Co.Starters is a robust platform, offering programs and resources beyond the accelerator that could be beneficial to the Sioux Falls ecosystem, Maner added. Subsidiary programs could serve markets such as middle and high school students, women or new Americans.

“It’s also important to point out that though you may not identify as an entrepreneur, it’s likely that the accelerator program is right for you,” she said.

“Whether you’re a student at an area university, a tenured employee, an artist or creative, a farmer, a scientist, a nonprofit/social services professional, a stay-at-home mom – if you have a passion to create and distribute a new product or service into the marketplace, that means you are entrepreneurial, and we want to talk to you.”

Zeal also wants to engage the area business and education communities, she added.

“You can get involved as a sponsor, a facilitator, a mentor or simply a champion/promoter of the program to encourage more entrepreneurs to engage with Zeal. If you find what we are doing at all interesting and relevant to your core mission, please reach out to us at info@realzeal.org.”

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Zeal launches accelerator program for entrepreneurs

The Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship is taking applications for the first cohort of its new accelerator program.

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