What: theCO is a regional innovation hub focused on building a culture of opportunity. The organization is a pipeline to attract and retain the next generation of community leaders. theCI has three primary areas of focus: entrepreneur support, STEM education and community placemaking.
Mission: theCO provides the resources needed to start and grow a thriving business. Resources include coworking space, tools to prototype, workshops, expert advisors and more. The organization acts as the front door for entrepreneurs, who came come to theCO to determine the best next steps for their business. In addition, theCO’s initiative, Soul Collective, focuses on elevating Black businesses through unity in commerce, education, and social entertainment.
— Lizzie Emmons joined theCO’s staff in March 2023 as the Community and Projects Manager of theCO. She is a native West Tennessean from Dyersburg, Tennessee. Lizzie is a passionate advocate for the arts and culture sector with experience in arts administration, event coordination, graphic design, education, therapy, music performance and visual arts.
— Through an initiative called, Our Jackson Home, theCO celebrates the people and the stories of the city. OJH’s team of volunteer contributors share through a blog, journal and podcasts. In highlighting local artists, entrepreneurs, and more, the organization creates a space for local talent to be seen and appreciated, often fostering connections and opportunities for those involved.
— Out of a desire to create a network for and connection to future tech talent, theCO created the Dev Catalyst program to be online and industry-current. After several years of running the program in high schools regionally and statewide, theCO has seen alumni find themselves in the tech careers [of their dreams].
Failing Forward with theCO, as told by CO.STARTER graduate Samantha Wood, owner of Samantha Wood Art:
A few years ago, I made a scary decision: I was going to become a full-time artist. I was already devoting any free time I had to painting, and I’d sold a good portion of my work.
As I transitioned from the security of a salaried teaching position, I built my plan. First — focus on painting. Second — find the best ways to promote and sell my art.
Within the first year, I learned just how tough it is to sell original paintings. Even with great promotion, it takes time to build a following as an artist.
Wanting to stay focused on my art, I looked for related avenues: high-quality prints of original paintings, an annual art calendar, and a variety of merchandise — from tote bags to coffee mugs — featuring selected works.
And I’m still adding to the list, currently developing plans for teaching private art classes and licensing my art to retail companies.
To any entrepreneur looking to creatively grow their business, I would say that as someone making your own way, you already have a creative mind.
You know how to put all the pieces together to build a business. Not everyone can do this; take a minute and let that sink in!
Have confidence in what you’ve started, and in your ability to rework your plan and redirect your energies when needed.
The same creativity that helped establish your business can guide your vision in new ways as you go, making further success much easier to come by.