Innovate Springfield will host an event on Wednesday, Oct. 30 from 6:30-9 p.m. where CO.STARTERS graduates will pitch their concepts to a room full of community leaders and supporters.

Innovate Springfield is completing its second CO.STARTERS cohort, a community-based entrepreneurship program that helps take an individual from a business idea to execution over a nine-week period.

Sarah Beth Ayers, coordinator of the business incubation program, said that being affiliated with University of Illinois Springfield has allowed Innovate Springfield access to this proprietary program. “There are currently 129 of these programs around the world, and the success rates are quite compelling. It provides a great value to the community,” Ayers said.

“We have an application process, and we only take on 10-12 starters for each cohort to make sure we can properly walk them through the process,” she explained. “Based on the applications we receive, we give priority to Innovate Springfield members. We also partner with Downtown Springfield, Inc. to provide five scholarships from US Bank.”

The first cohort, held last spring, had 10 participants evenly split between Innovate Springfield and DSI members. The nine graduates from the fall cohort represent seven Innovate Springfield members and two from DSI.

Ayers said the nine-week program has a different focus area each week, ranging from knowing your customers to building the model to accounting for growth, plus guest speakers who are experts in their respective areas.

“Our goal for celebration night is to push them out in front of everyone,” said Ayers, noting that each of the graduates has different goals. “Some of them are seeking investments; others don’t need that for growth, so they’re going to share their actions with the people in the room.”

The current graduates are: Brian Boucher, Brian J. Boucher; Stephanie Cullen, Stephanie Cullen Design; Gordon Davis, Whimsy Tea; LeAnn Divjak and Kelly Sholtis, Kathi, Kelly & Me; Jacqueline Gragg, Gragg Solutions Ltd., d/b/a; Laura Rabe, Cherrybrook Photography; Mary Senger, Coffee & Curios and Kevin Wasmer, Pedal Python.

The next CO.STARTERS cohort begins on March 4, 2020. Applications are currently being accepted at