About Us

Investigate, Articulate, Disseminate

Small-biz.XLR8 is a flexible training and support program empowering entrepreneurs to create actionable growth strategies for their business. The Small-biz.XLR8 program teaches essential business growth principles while forming mentorship relationships among peers, regional business experts, and links to funding groups.

What do small business owners get out of the program?

  1. a.

    Deeper understanding of current value and positioning in the marketplace.

  2. b.

    A methodology to design and execute market-fitted growth strategies.

  3. c.

    Network of peer business owners, local mentors, and regional experts.

  4. d.

    Framework for a plan and budgetary strategy to present to potential funders.

During the 10 + 1 week program, Small-biz.XLR8 participants learn and apply fundamental business growth principles and present their growth plan in a final pitching session.


Market opportunities, assets, and
growth needs


Clear and effective value propositions


Messages, products & services, and growth plans for sales or partnerships

Small-biz.XLR8 was created based on the successful small business program, FASTForward, created by the IC 2 Institute at The University of Texas at Austin. FASTForward’s experience in Central Texas proved that sole proprietorships could grow to become companies with employees by identifying new markets, launching new strategies to meet market needs, finding access to funding, and building long lasting local collaborations.

The need to revamp and expand the program was apparent in 2020 as small businesses have struggled to adjust to a rapidly evolving business climate in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and slowed economic recovery. In particular, women and minority-owned businesses have been disproportionately affected by the challenging economic conditions. In the first half of 2020, business ownership declined by 22% overall, but Black-owned businesses declined by 41% and Latinx businesses by 32%. Women-owned businesses were impacted by women leaving the workforce at a rate 4 times higher than men and female entrepreneurs reported a more pessimistic outlook on recovering from the economic impact in the future

Small-biz.XLR8 takes the learnings from FAST Forward and provides a flexible online learning environment to help small business owners understand their market, develop effective value propositions for products and services, reach new customers, and build a growth plan which is attractive to funding groups to fuel business growth. We appreciate the generous support of the Truist Charitable Trust to make this program widely available.

Prior program outcomes

Hired 2 employees over 6 months

70% introduced new products

90% expanded their customer base

Over 50% increased employee compensation

Small-biz.XLR8 acknowledges the fundamental contributions of Ms.
Dovile Vilkauskaite and Ms. Coral Franke to make the program possible.