ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball and Howard County’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) have opened applications for a fifth cohort of the highly successful “HoCo Higher” entrepreneur accelerator program. Conducted in partnership with M&T Bank, this eight-week bootcamp, which was launched in September of 2021, teaches early-stage and historically under-served entrepreneurs the essentials of business planning, operations, credit building, communication, and financial management. Top business mentors, coaches and subject-matter experts will lead the program at no cost to participants.
A vital part of Howard County, small businesses are the heartbeat of our community and the lifeblood of our local and national economy. This transformative program assists our local entrepreneurs in reaching new heights, building connections, and accessing important resources that will help guide their small business towards further success. I encourage small business owners to apply for this unique and exciting opportunity to learn best practices and set their business up for success.
Emerging and existing small business owners are invited to apply for this unique opportunity to get in financial shape and learn best practices from top business mentors, coaches and subject-matter experts at no cost to participants. Enrollment is based on a competitive application process. The eight-week program begins on Wednesday, October 4th and will meet weekly on Wednesdays from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Maryland Innovation Center, located at the Kenneth S. Ulman Innovation Hub in Columbia.
Applications can be found online here, and to be eligible to apply, applicants must meet the following minimum requirements:
- At least two years in business operations, and
- Be a Howard County-based business and in good standing.
Entrepreneurs selected for the program will follow a curriculum curated by M&T Bank. The curriculum will include lessons on legal business formation, getting certifications, developing business plans, managing business and personal finances, sourcing capital, pricing strategies, risk management and business insurance, marketing strategies, and more.
“In partnership with Howard County, M&T bank is thrilled to offer the HoCo Higher Business Accelerator Program, which provides local entrepreneurs with the resources to help their businesses thrive,” said Jim Peterson, Vice President and Small Business Ambassador, M&T Bank. “The program’s curriculum was designed to offer small business owners mentorship opportunities to enhance their chances of success in a competitive business landscape, drive local economic growth and help build generational wealth.”
"We at the Maryland Innovation Center are excited to expand the HoCo Higher program into the award-winning BRITE series,” Chuck Bubeck, Executive Director, Maryland Innovation Center. Through BRITE, we've served nearly 1,000 participants through mentorship, entrepreneurship training, and professional development. We are proud to support Howard County's continued investment in growing current and future business leaders."
Since the program’s launch in 2021, more than 70 businesses have graduated from the first four cohorts. County Executive Calvin Ball's team and M&T Bank have provided more than $400,000 in grant funding for HoCo Higher. Participants have the opportunity to enter a “shark-tank” style pitch competition and win prize money.
“My experience in the HoCo Higher program was nothing short of transformational. I was able to learn directly from subject matter experts who covered critical business topics ranging from financial analysis, doing business with the state, marketing and branding, and pitching your business,” said Stephen Conti, Owner of Tocar Spa and HoCo Higher Cohort #1 participant and 1st Place Pitch Winner. “I was successfully able to take the lessons learned during the program and apply them directly into a three-minute grant winning pitch. Presenting the vision I have for Tocar Spa to the judges and my fellow entrepreneurs was an amazing opportunity. Not only did it help sharpen my business focus, it afforded me the financial means to move into my new clinic. This was the jumpstart that Tocar Spa needed to move to the next level.”