SOAR, SOAR Innovation to host CO.STARTERS cohorts in Hazard, Morehead, and Pikeville

PIKEVILLE, Ky, HAZARD, Ky., and MOREHEAD, Ky. – Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), SOAR Innovation, and the Cabinet for Economic Development’s KY Innovation Office have announced that they will be hosting a nationally-recognized entrepreneurship program in June at locations in Hazard, Morehead, and Pikeville.

CO.STARTERS is a nine-week, cohort-based program that equips aspiring entrepreneurs with the insights, relationships, and tools needed to turn business ideas into action and turn a passion into a sustainable and thriving endeavors. The unique part about CO.STARTERS is that it is facilitated by local entrepreneurs and is catered for start-ups or existing small businesses aspiring for scalability.  Cohorts will meet one night a week during the nine-week period.

Trained local facilitators will lead the training sessions, which are scheduled to begin in mid-June at three locations in partnering communities including Hazard, Morehead, and Pikeville.  Facilitators for the Hazard cohort are Sandy Campbell, of Pete’s Auto and Towing and Happy Coffee; Kimberly Cunagin, Cunagin Landscaping and Pressure Washing; and Colby Fugate, business and innovation champion at SOAR Innovation. Facilitators for the Morehead cohort are Thomas Richards, Owingsville Banking Company; Mark Murphy, Innovation LaunchPad and Morehead State University Small Business Development Center; and Brandy Esham, business and innovation champion at SOAR Innovation. Facilitators for the Pikeville cohort are Payton May, Bit Source; Tony Mullins, BT Media Group and BT World Travels; Ryan Jones, director of SOAR Innovation; Jeffery Justice, business and innovation champion at SOAR Innovation.  Other facilitators include Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR, and Jason Rainey, deputy executive director of the Kentucky Office of Entrepreneurship. 

SOAR Innovation, a partnership with the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development’s KY Innovation Office, works in 44 Appalachia Kentucky counties to provide services to innovation-led or innovation capable small businesses, start-ups, and entrepreneurs.

“The CO.STARTERS model is one that empowers communities to collaborate and own the vast opportunities that comes with being a thriving ecosystem for start-ups and small businesses,” said Ryan Jones, director of SOAR Innovation. “This is a program that is engaging, and we believe this can have a ripple effect in providing support and networking opportunities throughout the region.”

Rainey expressed his excitement about the cross-collaboration occurring across the state. 

“We’re excited to see this type of collaboration as a direct result of our efforts at the KY Office of Entrepreneurship to reinvigorate innovation and start-up activity across the state,” said Rainey,  “Real momentum grows when we can partner at this level with local partners who are leading the way.”

To be considered for one of the three cohorts, please register at  Seating is limited at each cohort and those selected will be contacted.

For more information on SOAR Innovation or the CO.STARTERS program, call (606) 766-1160 or email