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SBA training gives boost to Boston business owners

Martin Desmarais
SBA training gives boost to Boston business owners
U.S. Small Business Administration New England Regional Administrator Seth Goodall talks to participants in last year’vs Emerging Leaders training program. The program is intended to help Boston small business owners expand their businesses with seven months of classes and workshops.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is stepping up its efforts to connect with budding local Boston small business owners to help them get their young companies rolling.

The Boston office is now enrolling entrepreneurs for its local version of the national 2014 Emerging Leaders training program. The seven-month program includes about 100 hours of classroom time, workshops and connects small business owners with mentors, as well as helping them develop connections with other businesses, city leaders and possible investors in Boston.

“The program is intended to try and be a job creation program for Boston businesses and Boston inner-city business,” said Bob Nelson, director of the Boston office of the SBA. “At the end of the class, the small business has a three-year growth and action plan. It is a road map this business can use to try and grow.”

Nelson said the program is run with a small group of entrepreneurs to ensure they all get a hands-on, focused experience. This year the Boston office is looking to enroll 15 small business owners.

According to Nelson, the ideal business is one that has been running for several years, has employees and has several hundred thousand dollars in revenues. Most important, Nelson said, are entrepreneurs who are “really passionate about trying to grow their business.”

The program meets for class at night, for about three hours, every other week through the seven-months of the program. Topics that are examined include finances, marketing, government contracting, hiring and human resources — and many of these topics are examined with guest experts visiting the class to share their experiences.

Also included are workshops with established and successful executives from other Boston businesses.

“They really get to build a relationship with other CEOs,” said Nelson. “They get to meet a lot of people who get to help them in all the different facets of their business.”

Another important aspect of the class, Nelson said, is that it shows business owners the importance of stepping back from the day-to-day running of their businesses to examine the big picture of what can really help their businesses be successful in the long run. He explained that many small business owners — swamped with long hours and effort to keep their young business going — overlook the necessity of continuing to evolve as business leaders, expanding the knowledge that is necessary to truly make a successful company.

He claims that the program teachers, visiting experts and mentor CEOs can make it easy for the participants to consider business strategies that they may have previously shied away from because they were not familiar with.

The program is designed to lead the small businesses forward in exactly this way.

“We really get to know these 15 businesses really well so we can really hold their hands in a lot of ways,” Nelson said.

Nelson pointed out that the makeup of the class has always had a wide variety of types of businesses, including restaurants, beverage wholesalers, construction companies and product suppliers.

“I look for a diverse makeup of the class — minority entrepreneurs, veteran entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs — a real makeup of the community,” Nelson said.

Interested small business owners have to apply for the program and Nelson’s office will interview applicants to choose the 15 companies that get to take part.

After many years of running the program, Nelson said he has full confidence that the small businesses that are involved benefit with growth.

“They will absolutely get something out of it. They are going to get results,” he said.

The Boston program is part of the SBA’s national Emerging Leaders program, which has been run for the last six years and will be launched this year in almost 30 cities across the country, with recent expansion to Washington, D.C, Miami and Newark, N.J. Overall, programs have trained more than 2,000 small business owners.

“Emerging Leaders has a proven track record of helping small businesses in underserved communities,” said SBA Acting Administrator Jeanne Hulit. “Graduates of the program have increased their revenue, created jobs and helped drive local economic growth in their communities. Adding new locations this year builds on this success and provides even more entrepreneurs in underserved communities with the support, resources and skills to succeed.”

According to information provided by the SBA, the program has been successful in expanding business opportunities in underserved communities with graduates creating about 2,000 new full-time jobs since its start. Graduates in the program have secured more than $73 million in new financing for their businesses. A survey conducted by the SBA also reported that after participants in the program graduated, they have reported they were awarded federal, state, local and tribal contracts, worth more than $1 billion. In a survey of program graduates, 62 percent reported an increase in revenue while 72 percent reported maintaining or creating new jobs in their communities.

In 2013, all the programs run around the country graduated nearly 400 small business owners, representing the largest graduating class since the SBA launched the program in 2008.

The U.S. Small Business Administration will start its 2014 Emerging Leaders program in April. Applicants have a March 17 deadline to apply. For information, contact the Boston office at 617-565-5590 or visit www.sba.gov/ma.