If you’ve never heard of SpringBoard
, you’ve likely encountered at least one of the 27 businesses whose founders have graduated from the nine-week business development course. Sweet Peace Bakery
, Brazee Street Studios
and Chocolats Latour
are just a few of the successful companies launched by the nearly 200 entrepreneurs who have completed the program.
Building on the success of its current program, which was launched in 2011 by the Creative Enterprise arm of ArtWorks
, SpringBoard is changing its curriculum and its name. Starting with the next session that begins March 19, the SpringBoard program will become CO.STARTERS
The new curriculum will walk aspiring and seasoned entrepreneurs through the Lean Business modeling methods used by high-growth startups in a simple and intuitive way. Rather than treating a small business like a large corporation and writing a detailed business plan, program participants will be encouraged to build and test small models first. As a result, the entrepreneurs will receive real-time customer feedback, update their models to meet customer needs and avoid building a business based on incorrect assumptions.
And gone is the formal pitch night. In its place are ongoing presentations that help participants to determine next steps collaboratively.
“Cincinnati is brimming with creative energy. We want to offer the most innovative startup practices to help creative entrepreneurs succeed,” says ArtWorks CEO and artistic director Tamara Harkavy. “That’s why we have transitioned to an enhanced course offering."
The program will continue to bring in guest speakers from more than 70 local businesses to give participants advice on the financial, accounting, legal and branding aspects of launching a startup business. Class sizes will still be limited to 15 entrepreneurs per session so that there’s plenty of opportunities for one-on-one consultations with instructors and volunteers. "Whether a graduate of SpringBoard, or now CO.STARTERS, all will be a part of a collaborative, supportive community and remain connected to the city’s network of business resources,” Harkavy says.
The Lean Business Model
The new program concept, which builds businesses using a customer-based model vs. a linear, traditional business plan, was inspired by the Lean Startup methodology developed by The New York Times best-selling author and IDEO fellow, Eric Ries.
CO.STARTERS also leverages the Business Model Canvas
designed by Steve Blank, a Silicon Valley serial-entrepreneur and academician recognized for developing the Customer Development methodology, which launched the Lean Startup movement. The Lean Startup movement provides a scientific approach to creating and managing startups and getting a desired product into customers' hands faster.
The Company Lab
, a Chattanooga-based organization, formulated the CO.STARTERS curriculum in close collaboration with ArtWorks in Cincinnati and D:hive
. CO.STARTERS is now rolling out in other communities across the nation, providing past ArtWorks SpringBoard graduates and future CO.STARTERS entrepreneurs with a national network of support and exchange—which prompted the name change from SpringBoard to CO.STARTERS.
"SpringBoard has been crucial in helping ArtWorks' Creative Enterprise division build a reputation as a leader in training and promoting creative entrepreneurs. Since we introduced SpringBoard in June
2011, we've built a captive audience of graduates, business partners, funders and organizations," says Caitlin Behle, Creative Enterprise Manager for ArtWorks. "The true strength of the SpringBoard brand is not tied to a name, a curriculum or even a particular class; it's in the community we've built. Though the program may
have a new name and an upgraded curriculum, the community ArtWorks has built, the businesses we've helped transform and the partnerships we've developed will remain the same."
Whether you graduated from SpringBoard or CO.STARTERS, you’re an ArtWorks Starter—the name for a graduate of CO.STARTERS. "The network of experts from our business community and graduates trained in our program are still key to our program's success," Behle says. "However, you are also a part of the nationwide CO.STARTERS community."
CO.STARTERS is currently used in 15 locations throughout the U.S, with 1,350 graduates, 1,068 active businesses, 2,752 jobs created and $165 million in economic impact. More than 50 percent of the program's graduates are women.
The ArtWorks Mission
Founded in 1996, ArtWorks
trains and employs local youth and talent to create art and community impact. ArtWorks’ vision is to be the creative and economic engine that unites citizens to transform the Cincinnati region through public art, including murals, art therapy and creative enterprise initiatives. ArtWorks has hired more than 2,500 area youth and 650 professional artists, and has trained nearly 200 creative entrepreneurs.
CO.STARTERS is offered through ArtWorks' Creative Enterprise division, which trains and promotes creative entrepreneurs through education, mentorships, access to capital and community connections.
Applications for the spring session of ArtWorks CO.STARTERS will be accepted from now through February 21. The next session, which will require a $300 course fee, will be held March 18 through May 13 on Tuesdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at ArtWorks, 20 E. Central Pkwy.
Sarah Whitman is Soapbox Cincinnati's managing editor.