Jose Alfaro is the president and COO of Chattanooga-based Co.Starters, which equips individuals and communities to thrive through entrepreneurship. Co.Starters works in cities across the US, Australia, Africa, Canada and New Zealand. He is an experienced leader with a track record of building healthy and sustainable business models to support work at scale.
Andrew Beattie, Jose Alfaro
What do you do and who do you work with?
I am the chief revenue officer and chief operating offers for Co.Starters. We’re a starting point for startups.
Where do you do it?
We work primarily in the US, but we have partners in Australia, New Zealand, North Africa, UK, and Canada. Our home base is Chattanooga, but I work remotely from Fort Worth, Texas, and travel back and forth.
What are your priorities and hopes for the next year?
Great question; the priority is still the same, how do we continue to make entrepreneurship accessible for everyone? We believe that individuals and communities can thrive through entrepreneurship, so we have to continue to find ways to engage everyone who wants to start something. We are looking at building more community engagement around entrepreneurship and leveraging different technology platforms to help deliver the content.
Who and what inspires you?
I am inspired by those who the world has judged unqualified, yet they overcome every obstacle. There is something so powerful when individuals who are underestimated live humbly confident to do what they believe is their calling in life is.
What’s your ethos?
Oh man, no one has asked me that before. To be honest, I think it is to cultivate a culture where individuals are confident to live for their purpose.
What do you think are some of the main challenges for businesses as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic and what do you think businesses will do differently?
I think many will go to the data and say funding, resources, adaptability, etc… However, I think the greater challenge is the fear of the unknown. We don’t know when this will all be over or if it will pick up again. Will we have the energy to continue to fight through to persevere? The fear of the unknown can cripple individuals and not allow them to be creative.
What can we do? We need to invest in our self. YES! Invest in us; if we overwork ourselves during these times, we will not have the space to be creative, ponder, or imagine. The best ideas come when you can unplug and think out loud. When you came up with your business idea, it didn’t come from stress but a place of creativity. We need to leave room to dream so that we can continue to build and grow our businesses.
What will business look like in the future? I believe that we are moving to an era where business will be about connection. Before, business was about products to make our life easier, and technology has done that, but we have missed the biggest part of making our life easy – human connection. We are still missing the connection to our community to live better and more holistic lifestyles. If you look at the last two years, businesses have been created to bring people together, to share – we are moving to a collaborative world instead of hoarding; businesses are finding ways to share information rather than hold information.
Do you think that people think differently about business now, or are looking for other things from the brands they engage with?
I think people are starting to realise that brand means a lot more to them. Businesses have also realised that brand is important. I think businesses are starting to find ways to provide value over cheaper products. How someone responds is dependant on what they find value in; when companies can provide value, the patrons will continue to follow and become fans. Once they are fans well, they will buy whatever the company sells.
If you could give your 18-year-old self any business advice, what would it be?
You know, I have thought about this a lot. I have made my fair share of mistakes that I wish I never made, because if I knew better, it might put me in a better position now. The past is the past, and it can’t be undone and the future is unknown, and we shouldn’t worry about it (easier said than done). So, if I meet my 18-year-old self and I could say something, it’s “keep the course”. I have made many mistakes, trust me – however, I have had the privilege to do amazing work that I wouldn’t give up to change my past. If I can give myself advice from my mistakes is ‘be courageous (have no fear), but start small (be smart)’.
What are some of the current challenges in your industry and how do you see them being overcome?
The biggest challenge is a scarcity mindset – “we do this already; we don’t need to change”. Cities, NGOs (non-government organisations), private market – do not know how to collaborate. We still have antiquated ways of thinking and process for an ever-changing world.
Second, when people think business, they think high growth business with an exit strategy that will make the founders millions – I am not against that; however that is only for a few; what about the small micro-business owners who serve the community? They are important and provide an economic increase for the community. A lot of research is being done around this topic, but we have to stop living in research and start taking the risk to change our metrics around business growth and human flourishing.
Pick us some books to read…
• Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse
• Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
• Think Again by Adam Grant
• Simply Christian by NT Wright – actually, anything from NT Wright. He solidified my faith when I was being tested.
And some podcasts:
• Bible Project Podcast
• The Tim Ferris Show
• The Futur with Chris Do
• American Fiasco – the story of soccer (football) in America
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