Small Business Center
One message dominated Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses Summit last week: Small business is the backbone of the economy and small business owners need knowledge and networks to grow and perform at their best. The summit marked another year of the Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program, which trains small business owners on business growth planning, cultivating networks and improving their access to capital.
About 2,500 small business owners gathered at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., to hear speakers from business founders like Drybar’s Alli Webb and Colgin Cellars’ Ann Colgin to Republican senators Ted Cruz and Tim Scott and Democratic senators Kyrsten Sinema and Ben Cardin, who chairs the Senate Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee. Celebrities with business connections were there, too: NBA star Chris Paul, actor Ryan Reynolds and Gwyneth Paltrow, actor and founder of lifestyle and wellness brand Goop. Investing titan Warren Buffett and former President George W. Bush attended, as well.
Attendee Jenny Steffensmeier spoke to the ICSC Small Business Center from her cell phone as she wandered the ballpark to meet with Congressional staffers to discuss the needs of small businesses. She took over Steffensmeier Welding & Manufacturing in Pilot Grove, Iowa, seven years ago when her husband died, and participated in the Goldman Sachs program in 2019, the first time it was offered in Iowa.
The program also provides funding for small businesses through the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, a network of lenders, investors and financial services providers certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to advance economic opportunity for underserved people and communities. Since the program’s 2009 inception, participants have received 37,000 loans totaling $1.6 billion.
Of the Goldman Sachs program, Steffensmeier said: “They went over every aspect of everyone’s business,” she said. The added value, though, is that participants now have a network of fellow business owners — and sources of capital — they can call “any time, for any reason and they will help,” she said. Since completing the program, her company has created, produced and marketed custom-made fitness weights and set up a successful e-commerce platform to expand its sales. Steffensmeier’s oldest daughter designed that platform and runs it. “Business ownership is a tough deal,” Steffensmeier said. “The 10KSB program just nailed it, from cash flow to its programs, and they wanted to see us grow.”
Goldman Sachs said it also has used its own funds to support the 10,000 Small Businesses program. The bank said it has deployed $750 million to about 12,800 small business owners since the program began. Program graduates collectively have brought in more than $17.3 billion in revenue and employ 245,000 people. Goldman Sachs now aims to reach 20,000 small businesses through the program.
BigDeal Car Care founder Dylan Book, speaking to the ICSC Small Business Center from his office in Adel, Iowa, brightened at the mention of Steffensmeier, whom he met during the program, and said he had a great reason not to be at the summit in Washington, D.C., with her: His business has expanded so much he couldn’t get away.
In college, all he’d heard of Goldman Sachs was a brief mention in a business administration class. A nearby chamber of commerce representative, however, urged him to apply for the program, which accepted 39 Iowan businesses out of several hundred applicants that year. “That was like getting an MBA in eight weeks,’ Book said. “They took you through your entire business plan and got you to focus on one specific business opportunity.”
BigDeal wanted to increase its bulk sales of automotive detailing products online, and those sales have more than tripled since Book participated in the 10,000 Small Businesses program. “It’s helped out a lot in the grand scheme of things,” he said. “When I started out, we were a crew of two guys and a couple of high schoolers. Now, I’ve got 19 people on the payroll.”
By Will Swarts
Executive Editor, ICSC Small Business Center