August 18, 2020 


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 first-of-its-kind program in rural Alabama, completed virtually over a ten-week period,  graduated six small business owners and entrepreneurs located in Hale, Marengo, Sumter and Clarke counties.  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 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.”  

Among the many 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,” according to Clarke County business owner, Deborah Rankins. “Along with our knowledgeable facilitator and the support from my teammates, the course stimulated my entrepreneurial spirit, gave me a better understanding of my customer and the importance of valuing my business and myself.”  

CO.STARTERS is a national entrepreneurial firm based in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Through a national growth network designed to help people and communities thrive through entrepreneurship, CO.STARTERS has served over 12,000 small businesses and 200 communities with their unique training and modeling techniques. 

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



Through UWA, full CO.STARTERS REBUILD scholarships are provided for up to 20 businesses across the region (Sumter, Greene, Hale, Marengo, Pickens & Sumter counties).
This live-facilitated program will help you refocus your business, stabilize it, and build toward long-term recovery. Working with a dedicated group of like minded peers, you’ll cover valuable topics in a series of ten 2.5-hour sessions. You have until May 18th to apply.
Learn more about the program here.


Topics covered

•Understanding Your Customer

•Finding a New Solution

•Refocusing Your Marketing

•Streamlining Costs
•And so many others! 

Our partners: Sumter County chamber of commerce, Hale County chamber of commerce, Greene County chamber of commerce, Aliceville Area chamber of commerce and Demopolis Area chamber of commerce.