Episode 1: Supporting Communities of Starters with Jose Alfaro

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On the first episode of the Start Dakota podcast, Startup Sioux Falls’ executive director, Brienne Maner, sits down with Jose Alfaro, CEO of CO.STARTERS

The Startup Sioux Falls team first met Alfaro in May 2022 for a CO.STARTERS community training as part of the newly-launched SBA Community Navigator pilot program. Working with Alfaro and the rest of his crew has proven to be a valuable and encouraging experience for our team here in Sioux Falls, as we continue to navigate the needs of founders and starters in our community.

To kick off the conversation, Brienne asks Jose about his own path to CO.STARTERS—he started in sales, was later promoted to COO and took on the role of CEO just three months ago. 

Jose shares his perspective on the “why” behind CO.STARTERS.

“CO.STARTERS built programs and frameworks to help individuals understand entrepreneurship in a different way, but also we redefined what entrepreneurship is,” he says.

“We call our entrepreneurs starters because you just start anything, right? You start a project, you start a nonprofit, you start a business, a side hustle, whatever it is, that is creating impact in the community.”

That concept of entrepreneurs as “starters” resonates deeply with our team.

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“As an organization, we have completely transformed how we talk about entrepreneurship in this community. There were so many small businesses and creatives that felt like they didn't have a place in the ecosystem. So, to pivot from ‘entrepreneurship’ … to call them ‘founders’ or ‘starters’ and start talking about inclusivity of industry has been transformational for the city,” says Brienne.

Jose and Brienne discuss the growth that CO.STARTERS has experienced, both at the organization-level with more and more cities adopting the program, and here in Sioux Falls, where we are beginning to reach out to and build relationships with local underserved communities through the SBA Community Navigators grant. 

Growth like this is exciting, but it also brings with it a fair amount of challenges. Jose closes the conversation by sharing a few nuggets of advice for creating a successful community of starters. 

“Stop trying to be like everybody else,” he says. “Because you'll never be Silicon Valley. You'll never be Austin. You'll never be St. Louis. You'll never be Boston. You are you. You’re Sioux Falls. Don't be Chattanooga, be Sioux Falls. What is Sioux Falls? What is Sioux Falls’ energy? Find it.”

Tune in to the full conversation to hear these takeaways and many more.

Watch the video version on Youtube, or listen on your favorite podcast platform—Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music or Anchor. 

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Show Notes:

This project is made possible through a partnership with Startup Sioux Falls and grant funding provided through the Community Navigator Pilot Program, powered by the SBA. More information can be found here.