THE BLOG
09/25/2012 04:40 pm ET Updated Nov 25, 2012

Supporting Small Business, Supporting the Local Economy

Kraft Foods started as one man selling cheese out of a horse-drawn carriage. Two men created the online giant Google in a garage. Before they were global companies, they were small businesses. While it may be a one in a million shot for a small business to grow into a mega brand, it shouldn't be as hard for a small business to become successful, expand and grow.

Small businesses are everywhere and they make up a significant portion of the economy. There are 23 million small businesses in America, which account for 54 percent of all U.S. sales, according to a U.S. Small Business Administration report. These companies provide 55 percent of all jobs and 66 percent of all net new jobs since the 1970s. In fact, successful small businesses can have a big impact by creating jobs and pumping more revenue into their local markets. Multiple studies have shown that a local business keeps more money in their city, including a study in the Chicago neighborhood of Andersonville.

That's why it's a critical time for us to examine what we can do to ensure small business owners have the tools they need to survive and grow across the country. These companies face many hurdles that can be difficult to overcome. Only 25 percent of new businesses last 15 years or more. Small companies often fail because the owners don't have the business education needed to compete in the 21st century economy.

The good news is, with some proper guidance many more small businesses could succeed. At City College of Chicago, we are partnering with Goldman Sachs to provide local small business owners the necessary knowledge to help their businesses not only survive, but expand. Through the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, we offer them a free, hands-on business education focused on entrepreneurship, a curriculum designed and co-delivered by Babson College. The program also provides access to capital and business support services.

The first class at City Colleges of Chicago completed the program in June and these business owners are already seeing results. For six months, the business owners spent every other Friday at Harold Washington College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago, learning concrete skills that they could apply immediately to their businesses. The program covers everything from accessing financial capital to handling human resources, marketing to finding time to be strategic leaders. And they all worked with a business advisor to develop a business plan for growth.

These business leaders are taking their business plans and adding employees, expanding into new markets and evaluating new service offerings. For example, the owner of Bark Bark Club, a dog-walking and pet care business, launched a new website for his company, expanding into a new market. It's exciting to watch these businesses grow from the ground up and as these entrepreneurs continue to take risks, I'm excited to see the positive impact it will have on Chicago's economy. I also hope to see all of the graduates again -- maybe next time visiting to recruit the graduates of City Colleges.

And these results are being duplicated across the U.S. Among the first five cohorts to complete the 10,0000 Small Businesses program nationally, approximately 70 percent increased their revenues within six months of graduation and 50 percent created net new jobs.

When we invest in one small business, we are investing in more than the future of that business. We are investing in the lives of their employees, their future employees, and our own local economies for years to come. We talk a lot about rebuilding our national economy and believe that this is the place to start.

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