Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative Graduation!

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative Graduation!

Goldman-Sachs-Dark_10K_SB_ALUMNI-1-inch-wideI am super excited to share the news that I recently graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative program. It’s an opportunity that I can only describe as incredible, and to have been chosen to participate out of many worthy applicants in the Houston area gives me a lot of pride.

In case you have never heard of the program, the 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative is funded by the Goldman Sachs Foundation. It’s a $500 million national program designed to help small businesses in the United State create jobs and economic growth by providing entrepreneurs with a practical business education, access to capital and business support services. The $500 million is generally split between the education program and loans.

I graduated from the eighth cohort in Houston along with 26 other small business owners. The companies in my group have been in business from 2 years to 33 years.  The business experience levels of the participants offered an interesting dynamic to add to the incredible education provided by experienced trainers. The number of employees in each business in my group ranged from 5 to 150.  Again, we each had a different perspective on running a small business and managing personnel. It was a super mix of industries as well.

Goldman’s goal is to provide this free business mentorship across the nation to 10,000 businesses (obviously), and at present 1,835 have completed the course. The education program is currently available in the following cities in addition to Houston: Chicago, IL, Cleveland, OH, Detroit, MI, Long Beach, CA, Los Angeles, CA, New Orleans, LA, New York, NY, Miami, FL, Philadelphia, PA, Salt Lake City, UT. They are working now to provide a web-based offering for businesses in remote locations, which is exciting. And the team here in Houston is so outstanding that they have been tapped to deliver the on-line curriculum. Babson College oversees the development of the curriculum, and I was very impressed to see how each module was followed by feedback from the participants enabling them to continually improve the offering in response to hands-on input from the business owners.

I cannot say enough good things about my experience, and I mention it to every small business owner I work with because I want to pass on the benefits I gained and help others as well.

The local program is managed by Houston Community College and an amazing staff. The course takes place over about 14 weeks and is a huge commitment by the teachers as well as the participants. But from my experience, every hour of sleep I missed because of “homework” was worth it. I met business owners across this city which I would never have encountered. I gained an amazing base of knowledge about business in a very short window of time, and I have new connections for business support to continue growing Photo Nanny not only for the benefit of my clients, but for the benefit of the community as a whole.

One of the biggest surprises I had from the course was the fact that it was NOT a program pushing small business owners to take on debt. It was NOT a program aimed at selling anything. The course curriculum was solid, creative, inventive and inspiring. Each participant has a dedicated mentor who has real hands-on business experience and the willingness to help others. And the course is NOT just about business.

During the first day we learned that this program aims at improving individuals, businesses and communities. And what that means is the emphasis is, of course, on improving small businesses.  But they know that small businesses only run by having healthy, well-balanced owners. So, they included a focus on the individual owners – what they need to do to be personally healthy and happy. You can’t be all business to the detriment of your personal life and succeed long term.

Equally as surprising to me was the emphasis on improving your community. Running a business without a mindset toward helping the community is short-sighted.  They encouraged each business owner to think outside their services to consider how they could be a positive influence on local residents and other businesses.

I was thrilled to learn about the program being available in Houston and believed it was a great opportunity for Photo Nanny to continue growing, but I had no idea just how amazing the journey would be. They explained during the first day how the interaction among the business owners was as important and the course content, and I was a bit skeptical about that. I mean, what do I have to offer to a business owner that’s been at this 25 years longer than I have?

Now having completed the entire process, darned if they weren’t exactly right. The feedback and participation of other business owners made the course content so much richer, so much more personal. I sound like an advertisement as I write this, but it was such an incredible experience, I want to make sure others know about it.

As the course progresses, participants gain an attitude toward community commitment. We were encouraged to look to the bigger picture…that it’s not just about being profitable, but about improving our surroundings. It might happen through creating more jobs, but in addition to that, our businesses should be providing positive outreach beyond just the products or services we sell. Can we provide mentorship education to others in the area? Maybe providing employee education programs or team building is another way to improve beyond the walls of our office and industry. Our outreach is unlimited if we keep our minds open.

On the final day of the course, each participant presented their growth plan to the group. I witnessed, along with the others, literal transformations in the business owners from Day 1 to the final presentation. And the attitude of the educators as well as the business owners is one of keeping the spirit alive well beyond the course graduation. We are all positioned to focus on what’s important for ourselves, our businesses and our communities.

On the last day one of the course facilitators asked each business owner to describe their feelings with two adjectives. I chose “blessed” for having been chosen to participate, and “empowered” because being a small business owner has been the most challenging and rewarding thing I’ve eve done. Having completed the course, I now feel that I can provide not only great organizing, scanning and photo consulting to my clients, but I have gained the skills to do so much more. If I hadn’t experienced it myself, I wouldn’t believe it.

If you are interested in participating, you can go to to learn more. If you’re not eligible for the course but know any other small business that qualifies, please pass along my whole-hearted endorsement or email me any questions. If you’ll tell them Photo Nanny sent you to the site, they’ll know I’m holding true to my goal of paying it forward. They don’t require it, but I honestly cannot place a value on what I gained through the course and I want as many other businesses owners to have the same opportunity.

Life is a journey and one filled with amazing opportunities to learn and share with others. I thank God every day my sister mentioned this course to me, and I hope that someone else can benefit the way I have as a result of my “spreading the word.”

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