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UWA & CO.STARTERS graduate first class of entrepreneurs in region

First cohort of participants in CO.STARTERS partnership gain problem-solving, financial stability, customer service, and other tools

The University of West Alabama’s Division of Economic & Workforce Development, in partnership with CO.STARTERS of Chattanooga, Tennessee, recently graduated its first class of REBUILD, an entrepreneurial training class to assist small businesses in recovery, rebuilding and growing their firms.

This program is the first of its kind in rural Alabama, completed virtually over a ten-week period. Six small business owners and entrepreneurs in Hale, Marengo, Sumter and Clarke counties graduated. The inaugural cohort included: Aqutia Bennett (Hale County); Yvonne Walker (Marengo County); Carolyn Walker (Sumter County); Jerry Harper (Marengo County); Deborah Rankins (Clarke County); and LaQuita McCalpine (Hale County).

The live-facilitated virtual program was designed to help refocus and stabilize small businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19 as well as assist in building a long-term growth plan. The interactive program also allowed participants to work with each other thus building a support system for future development.

“Faced with fear of the unknown during a pandemic, the UWA/CO.STARTERS Rebuild program saved the day,” said Carolyn Walker, a Sumter County resident and owner of Catch 22 Ministries. “The time and effort put into the program was worth it. Small business owners should take advantage of this opportunity.”

Topics taught were creative problem-solving, financial stability strategies, understanding the customer base, refocusing marketing strategies, and other tools to support success techniques for sustain growth and profitability.

“The UWA CO.STARTERS Rebuild program gave me the business tools, resources, and strategies to fine-tune my independent publishing business,” said Clarke County business owner Deborah Rankins. “Along with our knowledgeable facilitator and the support from my teammates, the course stimulated my entrepreneurial spirit and gave me a better understanding of my customer and the importance of valuing my business and myself.”

CO.STARTERS is a national entrepreneurial firm that includes a national growth network designed to help people and communities thrive through entrepreneurship. CO.STARTERS has served more than 12,000 small businesses and 200 communities with their unique training and modeling techniques.

UWA and CO.STARTERS will announce new online virtual entrepreneurial training programs in the near future at or

In addition, watch for news coming soon about the Alabama Virtual Summit on Rural Innovation and Entrepreneurship scheduled for Friday, October 23.

For more information, visit or call 1.833.UWA.WORK.