Small Business, Big Impact: The Entrepreneur Development Forum



Gallatin residents with bright business ideas now have a way to bring their dreams to life. 

It’s called the Entrepreneur Development Forum and it’s a 10-week training 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 business.   

The first forum will debut in early 2018 with additional forums planned for later in the year.   

Participants in each Entrepreneur Forum will complete a nine-week training program, meeting for three hours each week at Gallatin’s business incubator located at 106 Public Square in Historic Downtown. The program wraps up with a funding pitch session when entrepreneurs present their business plans to a panel of public and private investors for a chance to win a cash award of up to $3,500.   

Program organizers have licensed the training materials from a Chattanooga-based firm called Co.Starters that focuses exclusively on the start-up and growth of lifestyle small businesses. The program is currently in use in more than 55 cities across the U.S. “We chose Co.Starters because they have a demonstrated track record of success helping individuals seed and grow their business,” said K. Clay Haynes, the Gallatin-area developer coordinating the launch of the Entrepreneur Development Forum. “After two years, 87 percent of the businesses launched using the Co.Starters program are still in operation, averaging almost $250,000 in annual revenue and employing between two and five employees. That’s an impressive success rate.”  

According to Haynes, entrepreneurs must meet three basic qualifications to participate: 

  1. Have a business idea that they would like to grow in Gallatin. 

  1. Be willing to share their idea with a group of their peers to refine the concept. 

  1. Commit to the full 10-week program.  

For participants who complete the 10-week program, the training is free of charge, thanks to a grant from the State of Tennessee’s Main Street Program. “If you accessed Entrepreneur Development Forum at a business incubator in Nashville, it would cost $1,000,” adds Haynes. Program partners include the State of Tennessee Community Development, Co.Starters, Greater Gallatin Main Street Program, the Gallatin Area Chamber of Commerce, and the City of Gallatin.    

For Haynes, entrepreneurship is the secret to community vitality. “The economic model of our grandfathers' generation, the one where they worked for a single company for 40 years and got a gold watch, is no longer valid,” says Haynes. “Stimulating Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs to grow in Gallatin is truly the next generation economic development strategy because it creates local jobs that are rooted in the community. Jobs created this way tend to stay put and the entire community benefits.”  

For more information or to apply for the next Entrepreneur Development Forum, visit