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Graduates of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative at LaGuardia Community College with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Photo: LaGuardia Community College
It’s been two years since Goldman Sachs launched 10,000 Small Businesses, and the initiative to help small businesses in select cities expand appears to be achieving its goal.
Last week, 15 small business owners who participated in the initiative through LaGuardia Community College (LCC) in New York—the first site to implement the initiative—had an opportunity to tell government officials—including U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan—and others how the program has helped them. The initiative works with local organizations—including community colleges—to advise small business owners on expanding their companies and create jobs.
To set the stage at the LCC event, Margaret Spellings, a former U.S. education secretary and the event’s moderator, gave an overview of Goldman Sachs' initiative, a $500-million investment to help small businesses acquire the skills and knowledge needed to grow—from marketing and negotiating, to hiring and managing financial capital.
Spellings noted that the initiative—which is also active in Los Angeles, New Orleans, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston and Long Beach—is yielding results. Across the program, about 75 percent of the participants are seeing an increase in their revenues, more than half are creating new jobs, and the participants are developing a strong network between small businesses owners. The program has a 99 percent graduation rate across all sites.
At the LCC event, participating small business owners shared how the initiative has transformed their companies. Rhys Powell, founder and president of Red Rabbit, a Harlem-based company that provides healthy meals for children at more than 70 schools in the New York area, discussed how the program’s management module provided him with the skills to manage a business that quickly grew from 13 employees to 31.
Daniel Levy, founder and owner of Manhattan Home Designs, a modern furniture outlet, explained that by applying information he garnered from the program’s section on government contracting, he secured his first New York City government contract to provide the bistro tables and chairs on the Times Square plaza. Since then, he has received contracts from the other city agencies, including the departments of corrections and transportation. Levy’s business’s growth has caught the attention of the U.S Small Business Administration, which awarded him its 2012 Entrepreneurial Success Award of the Year.
Laura Catana, owner of City Gardens of New York, a full-service landscaping design firm, who came to the program with no business background, said that the initiative has helped her to act and think like a CEO and taught her how to analyze her business, which made a profit for first time in four years.
The initiative is not only helping small businesses, but it’s serving the community at large, noted LCC President Gail Mellow.
“Overnight, these entrepreneurs are able to transform their businesses which is leading to increased revenues and job creation,” she said. “It is exactly what our city and our nation needs to jumpstart our economy.”
A network of peers
Along with the solid curriculum, participants cited peer-to-peer learning as a strong educational tool. Monique Greenwood, owner and CEO of Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns, said that she established a business-to-business network with several business owners in the initiative who provide cleaning services, event planning and catering.
“Owning a business is often a solitary experience,” Greenwood said. “The program provides its scholars with a valuable support network.”
The most valuable aspect of the initiative is that it has taught small business owners that there are different ways to think about education—and it challenges educators how to deliver the knowledge and training that small business leaders need, Mellow said.
“The challenge for us is to rethink how we teach, and the context in which we teach, and the way in which theory and practice are not disparate, but a continuum,” she said.
Copyright ©2012 American Association of Community Colleges