Applications are now open for the first cohort of Zeal’s CO.STARTERS accelerator program

Eric Weisser, Co-Founder and CEO of Weisser Distributing

CO.STARTERS is a ten-week experience that walks a small group—typically 10-16 participants—through an effective program designed to provide structure, support and resources for entrepreneurs to execute on their business ideas. The program is also suitable for more established, growth-stage startups who are looking to scale up.

The inaugural cohort will be conducted virtually, beginning January 12, 2021, and it will be facilitated by local business owner, Eric Weisser, of Weisser Distributing.

Filling a gap in the startup ecosystem

As its name suggests, the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship exists to be a hub of resources for the Sioux Falls startup ecosystem. These resources include everything from office and co-working space, to individualized guidance and direction, as well as programs and events curated for a wide variety of entrepreneurial ventures. 

A few years ago, Zeal developed and hosted a few of its own accelerator events that were well-received by the community. However, the program went on hiatus for a time, leaving a clear gap in the ecosystem. As Zeal has been developing its five-year strategic plan under executive director, Brienne Maner, the need for an accelerator was paramount.

Maner and her team discovered the CO.STARTERS program which gives entrepreneurial organizations like Zeal the ability to host local accelerators based on a proven platform and structure. 

“After extensive market research sessions with startup communities across the country, our team learned that the CO.STARTERS platform was the program most consistently and successfully implemented,” Maner said. “There’s no need to reinvent a program when one already exists that has proven success in other communities for many years—CO.STARTERS provides all of the tools and support we need to launch efficiently and successfully.”

The team at Zeal has been planning and preparing to launch CO.STARTERS for months now, and they are committed to providing participants with the best possible experience. 

How is CO.STARTERS structured?

Beginning in January, CO.STARTERS participants will gather via Zoom with the hope that in-person meetings will become possible at a later date. 

However, Maner says she hopes the virtual aspect will offer some flexibility to entrepreneurs who may have day jobs or other responsibilities. 

Program sessions will run from 6-9 p.m. once a week, and they will feature guest speakers and presenters curated to that week’s topic. As previously mentioned, the inaugural cohort will be facilitated by Eric Weisser, a veteran entrepreneur within the Sioux Falls community. Weisser has been certified by CO.STARTERS through 3 days of rigorous training, and he will lead all ten sessions. 

The sessions are structured as follows:

  • Session 1: Knowing Yourself
  • Session 2: Knowing Your Customer
  • Session 3: Finding the Right Solution
  • Session 4: Getting The Relationship Right
  • Session 5: Building Blocks
  • Session 6: Structures & Systems
  • Session 7: Discovering the Bottom Line
  • Session 8: Financial Modeling
  • Session 9: Planning for Growth
  • Session 10: Graduation / Pitch Night

Additionally, Maner says CO.STARTERS is a robust platform, offering programs and resources beyond the accelerator that could be beneficial to the Sioux Falls ecosystem.


“We look forward to exploring subsidiary programs to serve specific markets such as middle school and high school students, New Americans, and women,” Maner said. “It’s also important to point out that though you may not identify as an entrepreneur, it’s likely that the accelerator program is right for you. Whether you’re a student at an area university, a tenured employee, an artist or creative, a farmer, a scientist, a non-profit/social services professional, or a stay-at-home mom—if you have a passion to create and distribute a new product or service into the marketplace, that means you are entrepreneurial and we want to talk to you.”

Don’t miss outapply to CO.STARTERS now!

If you think CO.STARTERS is the next right move for your business, now is the time to apply.

“We’ve had so many people reach out to us over the past few months who have great ideas and business models, but they are stuck and not sure what the next step should be,” Maner said. “During times of economic uncertainty, many entrepreneurs want to make sure they don’t waste time, energy and money into something that is not viable or lucrative.” 

If an entrepreneur is accepted, the program fee for CO.STARTERS is $300, including all necessary materials. Limited scholarships may be made available depending on financial need.

“This is why an accelerator program is so very important—with just a minimal amount of time and financial investment, you will quickly be able to determine what your next step should be,” Maner said. “It’s about getting the clarity you need to make these important and bold moves for your future. This is precisely why the Zeal Center of Entrepreneurship exists and we’re thrilled to be able to further solidify our importance and relevance in the business community.”

 Applications to the program are due by midnight on Friday, December 11, and accepted participants will be notified by December 18. 

To learn more and begin your application, click here.


Additionally, if you are part of the business or education community and are interested in getting involved as a sponsor, facilitator, mentor, or simply a champion of the program, Zeal encourages you to reach out at [email protected]