Photograph by Jin Lee/Bloomberg
In the fall of 2009, with Goldman Sachs’s (GS) image battered by the financial crisis, the investment bank teamed with Warren Buffett and some well-regarded nonprofits to provide capital and entrepreneurship education to thousands of small businesses.
If the project felt like a play for positive publicity, the money behind it was real: $300 million to fund lenders focusing on economic development in low-income neighborhoods, and $200 million for entrepreneurship education. Four years later, the project, dubbed 10,000 Small Businesses, has offered training courses in nine U.S. cities and provided capital through its community development partners in different states.
The program still has a way to go to live up to its name: It’s spent $160 million to spur lending, and 1,600 businesses have participated so far in the education and capital access components.
Now, Goldman, which has a market value of more than $78 billion, is expanding 10,000 Small Businesses nationwide. Business owners will be able to complete the free program by conducting 80 hours of coursework and interactive sessions and attending two, four-day sessions at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. The program also covers travel expenses.
By offering remote, interactive sessions, Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman’s chief executive officer, hopes to “give small business owners the tools they need to grow their businesses,” allowing them “to create jobs and strengthen both the local and national economy,” according to a statement.
Goldman’s announcement coincides with a House Small Business Committee hearing today on private sector initiatives to educate entrepreneurs, and comes as entrepreneurship education has become increasingly popular: There were 20 times as many college courses in entrepreneurship in 2008 as in 1985, though some experts have suggested many teach the subject poorly. There’s also increasing awareness that different entrepreneurs have different needs: There are those building fast-growth businesses who will eventually be big job creators, and others working on smaller, local concerns.
The Goldman program appears to be aimed at the latter. Graduates include the operator of an environmentally friendly trucking company in Long Beach, Calif., and the owner of a martial arts school in New Orleans. According to Goldman, 63 percent of participants in 10,000 Small Businesses have reported increased revenue, and 47 percent have added new jobs. Interestingly, 76 percent of participants are doing business with each other.
To be eligible for the Goldman program in the U.S., businesses must have at least four employees and at least $150,000 in revenue for the most recent fiscal year. Applications will be evaluated by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City and are due Oct. 18. Go to www.10KSBapply.com to apply.