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The best resource for growing your small business might be right around the corner

For smaller companies looking to grow in ways that foster real economic change in the communities where they operate, there is often a lack of opportunity. Without large revenues, resources may be hard to access, and business education can be a costly and time-consuming endeavor that hinders day-to-day operations. The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses (10KSB) program aims to fill that gap. The program supports business owners that have limited resources but a desire to expand by providing practical business and management education, a supportive network of advisors and peers, and connections to potential capital partners.

10KSB Houston alum, Mel Davis

A vital piece of 10KSB’s success is its network of community colleges around the country. Key to the delivery of the program’s business education, they are also a resource often under-utilized by the larger business and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Sonia Moin is a director of Urban Business Initiatives at ICIC, and leads the team responsible for recruitment and selection for 10KSB. Her collaboration with community colleges has revealed how powerful a resource they can be. She encourages early entrepreneurs to utilize them: “People forget how much access to [business] resources community colleges have,” and that their faculty and business advisors have deep expertise, especially in their particular geographic areas. “Non-students don’t always realize what’s available, but these schools have workforce development programs, local knowledge, and the resources to help build thriving small businesses,” a trifecta that Sonia thinks can be particularly useful for new and emerging businesses.

Cathy Landry, Executive Director of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at Houston Community College (HCC), says their school, “has a number of programs and resources to support starting a business. It’s a great place for people in the community, as well as students, to get a feel for what it takes to run a business.” Cathy also notes that “resources are limited for people who are already running a business,” and a whitespace exists between startups and corporate-level businesses that community colleges are able to help fill.

A prime example of what executive education and development at the community college level can look like is Miami Dade College’s McKinsey Social Initiative. John Hall, the Executive Director of 10,000 Small Businesses at Miami Dade College, describes it as “a 16 week course that teaches students both IT skills and soft skills of being an employee,” and that after graduation, students “make presentations to our cohort of [10KSB] businesses to see if any of the owners are looking for personnel with matching skills.” The program has been a success, with a 10KSB graduate recently recruiting the number-one graduate of the McKinsey Social Initiative. This coexists with another 5-6 programs at the college’s “Idea Center,” with John saying that the college is “always looking for ways to create synergy between programs at the college so that small businesses can take advantage.”

Community colleges often have programs available, such as Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), which businesses can utilize to improve results. In fact, businesses that apply for 10KSB but don’t match the criteria are often referred to other programs in their local community colleges to assist with growth, and then the colleges refer them back to the program once they reach eligibility. Sonia recommends that business owners think of their local colleges in terms of a resource: “Even if the support isn’t available directly through the school, they have relationships they can use.” This could be as simple as a business professor understanding local laws and tax regulations, or personally knowing a good CPA or other key assets that can help improve performance.

The task of providing education and access to resources to entrepreneurs is what ICIC and the 10,000 Small Business program revolve around. Regardless of whether or not a business is a year old and poised for growth, or decades old and anxious to expand, community colleges can help nurture both these needs. When it comes to starting or growing a business, it’s beneficial to act and think locally, utilizing resources in your community and embracing valuable knowledge and guidance from community colleges.

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