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Innovation LaunchPad, Morehead State SBDC to partner with SOAR and SOAR Innovation to host CO.STARTERS program in Morehead

The Innovation LaunchPad and Morehead State's Small Business Development Center (MSU SBDC) has announced a partnership with Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), SOAR Innovation and the Cabinet for Economic Development’s KY Innovation Office to host a nationally recognized entrepreneurship program.

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 endeavor. CO.STARTERS is facilitated by local entrepreneurs and is catered for start-ups or existing small businesses aspiring for scalability.  

Mark Murphy, director of the LaunchPad and MSU SBDC, will assist in facilitating the training, which is scheduled to begin June 13 at the LaunchPad, located at 149 East Main Street in Morehead. The Innovation Launchpad is a 5,500 square foot business incubator and co-working space formed through the collaboration of Morehead State University, the City of Morehead, Rowan County Fiscal Court, Morehead-Rowan County Economic Development Council and Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.

“We are thrilled to be hosting a CO.STARTERS cohort in Morehead,” said Murphy. “This program is truly all about those participating and building a responsive and thorough ecosystem of support for start-ups and small businesses. Through this collaboration with SOAR and SOAR Innovation, we truly believe this will be the start of a movement to support those wishing to start a business or growing their existing businesses.”

SOAR Innovation, a partnership with the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development’s KY Innovation Office, works in 44 Appalachian Kentucky counties to provide services to innovation-led or innovation capable small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs. SOAR and SOAR Innovation will launch other CO.STARTERS cohorts this summer in Hazard and Pikeville. 

“The CO.STARTERS model is one that empowers communities to collaborate and own the vast opportunities that come 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 for Morehead, Rowan County and surrounding counties.”

Brandy Esham, a business and innovation champion with SOAR, will provide support to those participating in the CO.STARTERS cohort. Esham, a Morehead State University graduate, is based out of the LaunchPad and supports small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs in Lee, Powell, Wolfe, Menifee, Morgan, Elliott, Bath, Nicholas, Robertson, Fleming and Lewis counties in addition to Rowan County.

MSU has been a partner of SOAR since its inception five years ago. Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR, said the SOAR Innovation model is one built on a collaborative approach that supports and nurtures clients while deploying the organization’s more than 200 partners including MSU, the LaunchPad and the MSU SBDC.

“The Small Business Development Center provides so many important resources for entrepreneurs, start-ups, and existing small businesses,” said Arnett. “They represent an important part of the ecosystem of services and we are thrilled to partner with them on launching the CO.STARTERS program in Morehead.”

“We’re excited to build on our existing partnership with SOAR to offer this exciting opportunity to support our local start-up community,” said Dr. Jay Morgan, president of MSU. “With our work in aerospace and related technology, this is a great avenue to test innovative business models and help our start-ups scale their business.”

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

To register for the Morehead CO.STARTERS class, visit

For more information on the CO.STARTERS cohort in Morehead, contact Brandy Esham at 859-749-2010 or by email at For more information on SOAR Innovation, contact Ryan Jones at 606-766-1160 or by email at  
For more information about the MSU SBDC, visit, email or call 606-783-2895. 

PHOTO CAPTION: The Innovation LaunchPad and Morehead State University Small Business Development Center (MSU SBDC) has announced a partnership with Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), SOAR Innovation and the Cabinet for Economic Development’s KY Innovation Office to host a CO.STARTERS cohort in Morehead beginning June 13. From left: Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR; Ryan Jones, director of SOAR Innovation; Mark Murphy, director of the Innovation Launchpad and Morehead State University’s Small Business Development Center; Dr. Dan Connell, assistant vice president for regional education and outreach; and Jason Rainey, deputy executive director of the Kentucky Office of Entrepreneurship.