“10,000 Small Businesses” faculty member Farshad Rafii shares ‘actions for growth’ insights during a recent cohort in Southern California. (Goldman Sachs)

LOS ANGELES (NNPA) — Eight hundred Southern California businesses have joined thousands of entrepreneurs across the country in an initiative to create jobs.

The business owners are participants in Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, a scholarship-based program that convenes them to learn critical business skills and create growth plans for their companies.

Just one of these local entrepreneurs is Patricia Watts, of FCI Management.

“I’m a year out of the program and we’ve added about three employees,” said Watts, who in 1998 established FCI, a Long Beach-headquartered company that develops and implements energy and water efficiency solutions for corporate, residential, commercial and industrial clients as well as for public and private schools, universities, and government and municipal agencies.

“We also had about a 15 to 16 percent growth in revenue,” Watts said.

Watt’s story is not unique.

The Goldman Sachs “10,000 Small Businesses” curriculum is designed by Babson College, the leading business school for entrepreneurship. Just six months after their graduation, 69 percent of alumni see revenue growth. Approximately 48 percent of the alumni create new jobs within that same timeframe. As a comparison, 23 percent of U.S. small businesses added new jobs in 2015.

Community colleges across the country run the program in partnership with Babson College faculty, creating a direct connection between business experts and urban communities.

Southern California is the only region in the country where two community colleges jointly run the program. Los Angeles City College and Long Beach City College partner together in the region, creating a scale of impact that is unique nationally.

“We have reached 800 business owners and we have a graduation rate of 99 percent,” said Vivian Shimoyama, the regional executive director for the Southern California Region for “10,000 Small Businesses.”

“Eighty-five percent of the business owners who participate collaborate with the other owners and they are growing their businesses together,” Shimoyama said. She added that “the program has had a great impact on not only increasing revenue, but on creating jobs.”

The Goldman Sachs “10,000 Small Businesses” program offers practical business management education for entrepreneurs. Those accepted into the program experience access to the education, business support services, and peer-to-peer networking that helps grow their companies, Shimoyama said.

For Watts, the program was a key step to understanding growth opportunities for her business.

“The year before I started the program, I ended up at the end of the year in the red with a loss,” Watts said. “However, this year, one year later, we ended up with a profit that was significant, because it was almost a $1.5 million swing from loss to profit,” she said.

While participants in “10,000 Small Businesses” hail from a wide array of industries, they engage in the program from their shared experience as entrepreneurs. Southern California alumni include businesses focused on marketing and design, health and fitness, food service, staffing, education, manufacturing, and other industries.

Through the peer-to-peer learning environment, the participants focus on overcoming universal business challenges such as human resources, access to finance, and leadership.

“You know how people always say you should work on your business not in your business? I learned that I have not done a good job in training my leadership team to take on [some other responsibilities],” Watts said. “I learned that I have to look at my staff differently and that I have to make them accountable. I have to look at my financials month to month to see where there are gaps and to fill them and incorporate and bring in the right skill set of people.”

With an eye to the future, Watts is ready to keep growing her business.

“I’m looking forward to continued growth as a national company. I have an office in New York and an office in Atlanta and I’m looking to grow the company nationally and I’m looking at growing our business in the federal sector,” Watts said, adding that, “I’m always optimistic, the most optimistic person you’ll ever meet and my motto is ‘failure is not an option.’ I don’t accept it and I’m not having it.”

Business owners are invited to apply to the upcoming cohorts of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses at Los Angeles City College and Long Beach City College. Learn more at: http://www.10ksbapply.com.
By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Contributor

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), known as the Black Press of America, is the federation of more than 200 Black community newspapers in the United States.