As a small-business owner, you’ve made it through some tough infant years. Now you’re ready to take your business to the next level, whether that’s adding new products or services, expanding into new markets or breaking the $1 million sales mark.
But to get there, you may need to revamp your business plan, develop better management skills or obtain capital. What if you could get a boost to the next level, with expert advice and access to capital, for free?
New Orleans entrepreneur Jason Horne, on the advice of his business consultant, turned to Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, a nationwide program that helped him learn how to grow his business.
Launched in 2009, the $500 million initiative is designed to help small-business owners increase revenue and create jobs. Entrepreneurs who have been in operation for at least two years, have at least $150,000 in revenue and employ at least four people qualify for the free program.
It offers an MBA-style curriculum developed by Babson College that touches on issues such as increasing operations, expanding participants’ financial literacy and developing a growth strategy. It also provides access to capital.
Goldman Sachs works with lending and education partners in each of the 12 U.S. cities where the program is locally available. A national program is available at Babson College. More than 2,000 small businesses have completed the program.
It consists of more than a dozen full-day classes or half-day workshops over a three-month period. Community colleges host the classes, except at Babson, which has a mix of online instruction and in-person sessions.
“The program was an eye opener,” Houston business owner Maria Rios tells NerdWallet. “When you’re in business, we forget the idea of taking our business to a different level.”
Seventy-six percent of program alumni grew their business revenue within 18 months of graduating, according to a recent impact study conducted by Babson College. And those businesses grew by 60.8% on average during the same period.
There’s another benefit, says Desiree Young, owner of New Orleans business consulting firm VentureWalk: Many alumni stay connected. Young is a faculty member for the New Orleans program at Delgado Community College as well as the national program.
“They wind up doing business with each other,” she says. “They develop a real network and see they’re not lone rangers.”
For small businesses considering the program or going through it now, Rios offers this advice: “Go in there knowing that it will take time. It’s going to take time from your family and work. … It will pay off. You’re not doing it just for yourself but for your office.”
NerdWallet recently spoke with Horne and Rios about how the program helped their businesses:
‘It’s a good problem to have’
Jason Horne, XS Martial Arts Dojo in New Orleans
Goldman Sachs class of 2011 at Delgado Community College
Jason Horne has survived the ups and downs of running a small business in New Orleans. Flooded out after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and then again with Hurricane Gustav in 2008, Horne had to rebuild his martial arts business.
He started XS Martial Arts Dojo in his garage with just eight students in 2002 and uses martial arts to instill discipline and the willingness to work hard. His business also provides after-school programs in New Orleans.
Horne says the program has helped him develop better business habits and skills, especially in negotiating sales and contracts. Before Goldman Sachs, Horne says, he had two partnerships with schools, nonprofit groups or other organizations to provide martial arts instruction. Now, his business counts five. One of his contracts, Horne says, is worth $64,000 for nine months.
“We’ve never had this many partnerships,” he tells NerdWallet, “and it’s a good problem to have. I could honestly say I can’t take on one more partner right now.”
The program also opened the door to capital. Horne obtained a $50,000 loan from Hope Community Credit Union, the lending partner for the Goldman Sachs program in Mississippi and Louisiana. Horne says he has used the money to buy two vans to provide transportation for students in the dojo’s after-school program and summer camps.
51% increase in revenue
Maria Rios, Nation Waste in Houston
Goldman Sachs class of 2011 at Houston Community College
Since Rios graduated from the Goldman Sachs program in 2011, her company, which does solid-waste removal and recycling, has seen an upswing.
Nation Waste’s revenue has increased 51%, and Rios hopes to generate $25 million by next year. Her workforce has doubled to 40 employees. Rios says she expects to hire another 40 over the next 18 months with the demand for waste removal picking up.
The businesswoman attributes her success to the growth plan she developed during the Goldman Sachs program. That plan called for Rios to add a portable toilet division and a recycling unit, both of which she accomplished.
As a result, Rios secured a multimillion-dollar contract in 2013 with Houston to provide portable toilets at the city’s parks and airports as well as during special events such as the Fourth of July celebration. As Houston’s official partner for portable toilets, Rios’ company also has secured other contracts.
“It’s a well-put-together program,” Rios says, “tailored to help small businesses open their eyes and see the potential that there is in every business.”
Top image via iStock.