Co-Starters program culminates with business pitch competition Tuesday

Nine weeks of business education culminated at the Coffee Company Tuesday evening as seven class members from Co-Starters gave pitches on their upcoming or current business ideas.

Elizabethton City Planner Jon Hartman said the turnout for the program was much higher than anticipated, saying Erwin’s introduction to the program last year produced two people.

“It is good to see people starting these businesses,” Hartman said. “I saw a lot of growth here.”

The pitches were the “ninth” week of an eight-week series of courses dedicated to teaching participants about the ins and outs of starting and running a small business.

Gail Street, co-owner of the Doe River Trading Post in Hampton, said she signed up for the series to learn how to network and keep track of the financial books.

“It was very nerve-wracking,” Street said about presenting her business to the group. “I had zero knowledge about running a small business.”

She said one of the biggest lessons she received from the program was the importance of networking.

“I got to meet other business owners. […] Everyone is willing to give to each other,” she said.

Street said she came back to Elizabethton a few years ago and said the downtown was nothing like she remembered it. She said the streets, which used to have people walking down it next to local businesses all the time, were now half-empty.

Hartman said this dedication to upcoming and current businesses is vital to Elizabethton’s economic future.

“It is important for the economic viability of our economy to support our businesses,” he said. “If we fail to do that, we will lose jobs and revenue.”

The presentations Tuesday also came with a competition. The audience voted on their favorite business pitches, with the winner receiving a one-year membership to the Elizabethton Chamber of Commerce, one hour of legal assistance with LaPorte & Norris and one hour of accounting assistance at Margaret W. Moses.

Street gave her presentation on the Doe River Trading Post and won the competition.

“We are going to make the business grow,” she said.

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