The Howard County Economic Development Authority has opened applications for a fifth cohort of its HoCo Higher entrepreneur accelerator program. Conducted in partnership with M&T Bank, this eight-week boot camp teaches early-stage and historically underserved entrepreneurs the essentials of business planning, operations, credit building, communication and financial management.

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. Enrollment is based on a competitive application process and available at no cost to participants.

The eight-week program begins on Wednesday, Oct. 4, and will meet weekly on Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Maryland Innovation Center, located at the Kenneth S. Ulman Innovation Hub in Columbia.

Applications can be found at 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 in good standing.

“One of HCEDA’s priorities is creating economic opportunity. HoCo Higher provides access and resources for business owners to fast track their companies’ growth and build relationships with industry experts,” said Jennifer Jones, CEO of the HCEDA. “This program helps ignite the entrepreneurial spirit and addresses our need to cultivate a diverse pipeline of innovators that creates jobs and transforms communities.”

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.

“We at the Maryland Innovation Center are excited to expand the HoCo Higher program into the (MIC’s) award-winning BRITE [Business Revitalization Initiative Through Entrepreneurship program] series,” said Chuck Bubeck, executive director of the HCEDA’s 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. Howard 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.