Mayor Rahm Emanuel greets one of 38 entrepreneurs participating in Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program at the Harold Washington College. Photo by Fran Spielman.

10,000 Small Businesses program thriving in Chicago

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Most of them came to learn how to grow their small businesses and adapt to the ever-changing marketplace. Others wanted to network and “learn to be a better boss.” At least one entrepreneur wanted to figure out how to delegate so she could someday “take a vacation.”

The 10,000 Small Businesses program that Mayor Rahm Emanuel persuaded Goldman Sachs to bring to Chicago is celebrating its fourth anniversary with a bang: a new class and a new report that shows more than 70 percent of the 340 local entrepreneurs who came before them used the lessons learned to increase revenues in the six months after graduation.

That’s compared to an average of 45 percent for the 5,000 graduates nationwide.

On Friday, Emanuel addressed the thirteenth class at the Harold Washington College before they embark on what is a unique opportunity for the entrepreneurs lucky enough to be a part of, what can easily be called a boot camp for small business bankrolled by investment banking heavyweight Goldman Sachs.

Every Friday and Saturday for the next 15 weeks, they will attend daylong classes at Harold Washington College for 100 hours of customized training in such critical areas as marketing, human resources, accounting, negotiations and how to navigate the bureaucratic maze of government contracts.

“The whole goal was to take all the advice and professionalism that Goldman Sachs provides to the Fortune 1000 throughout the country and throughout the world and bring it to the small businesses of the city of Chicago,” said Emanuel, who marked the occasion by appointing a Small Business Advisory Council charged with developing small business growth strategy for reducing red tape and expanding access to capital.

“And I know one group of people who are going to be very happy: your family members. Because what you’re doing will no longer be on the kitchen table or the dining room table. They’re going to get you out into your businesses and professionalize them and take what you’re dreaming of and thinking of and helping you build the American dream.”

The mayor added, “If you ever get cynical about America, just come to one of these [small business seminars]. Every one of you give an inspiration to taking a dream, an idea, sticking with it and seeing it all the way through. Obviously, we want to see your revenue grow and see you hire more people, which is the ultimate. But, you are the backbone of our neighborhood economy throughout the city of Chicago.”

Christopher Keogh, regional head of private wealth management for Goldman Sachs in Chicago, was among a group of Goldman employees who interviewed the first “cohort” or class to graduate from 10,000 Small Businesses program.

“I keep coming back because there’s nothing that I come across in my day-to-day life that’s as inspirational as this,” Keogh said.

“The courage that all of you display in starting these businesses and wanting to grow is just immense. We know that small businesses are what drives the economic growth of this city and the potential for future employment. So, really the thanks go to all of you for entrusting us to be of help and give advice. In advance, I want to thank you for committing your time away from loved ones, away from your businesses to help grow your respective companies.”

Emanuel made his fortune in investment banking. Shortly after taking office, he lobbied Goldman Sachs to add Chicago to the program it had already launched in New York, Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans and Long Beach, Calif.

The mayor delivered, with an assist from his longtime friend and adviser-turned U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker who was, at the time, a member of the Goldman Sachs National Advisory Board for 10,000 Small Businesses.

In Chicago, the 10,000 Small Businesses initiative was to provide $20 million worth of loans to small businesses that often have a tough time accessing capital.

The remaining $5 million went to the Chicago City Colleges to provide the customized training.


Christopher Keogh, regional head of private wealth management for Goldman Sachs in Chicago (left) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel (right) enjoy a good laugh at Friday’s opening session of Goldman’s 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative at the Harold Washington College. (Photo by Fran Spielman)

During Friday’s inaugural session, 38 participating entrepreneurs with a combined, 621 employees rose to introduce themselves and declare their goals for the Small Business University.

“I’m here in the program to figure out a formal model for growth and I really need to hire more people and turn them into mini-me’s so I can someday take a vacation,” said Sherrie Hablitzel, co-founder of Kahoots Creative Group, a web design and marketing company in Ravenswood.

Diana Rodriquez is the owner of a ServiceMaster franchise that does fire and water restoration for commercial and residential properties. Her goal is to grow her business by learning more about financing, human resource development and hiring.

“And also how to just become a better leader and build leaders as well so that I, too, can take a vacation one day,” she said.

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