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10,000 Small Businesses: Now 526 companies strong and growing to help South Florida entrepreneurs


The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses at Miami Dade College program has been helping small businesses grow since the first of its 16-week training programs launched in early 2014.

In late August, the entrepreneurship program kicked off its 20th cohort. So far, 526 companies have graduated from the local program.

First, some basics: To be accepted into the free 10KSB at MDC program, small business owners must demonstrate a commitment to growing their business and creating jobs. The eligibility requirements were recently updated to increase participation, particularly among minority small business owners impacted by the pandemic. The businesses should be at least two years old and  generated revenues of at least $100,000 in 2019. The businesses should  employ a minimum of two people, including the owner.

Businesses who are accepted into 10KSB (known as scholars) commit to attending two learning sessions a week – a curriculum that was developed by Babson College — plus devote time to class assignments and networking activities. As part of the program, each scholar creates a company growth plan.

Among the benefits for graduates is being part of an active alumni network. 10KSB also hosts educational events throughout the year open to the community. And as a public-private initiative, 10KSB at MDC can leverage the best of national as well as local resources. Nationally, 10KSB has graduated more than 9,700 companies representing all 50 states.

To find out more about 10KSB at MDC, go here. To apply for Cohort 21, which will start in January, go here. The deadline to apply for Cohort 21 is Oct. 16.

Pamela Fuertes

Pamela Fuertes became Executive Director in Aug. 2019, just a few days before cohort 18 started. She has a strong background in economic development. Before 10KSB, she was economic development director for the City of Coral Gables and launched her career at the Miami-Dade Beacon Council.

“I really love my job. I love MDC and the fact I can do what I do in economic development. At the end of the day, why do we do it? Because we believe in small businesses and know small businesses are key contributors in our community. To do economic development from this perspective is just fascinating – to be able to help connect the dots for small businesses, for the program, for the college, is what makes me very happy.”

Cohort 20 is fully virtual, Fuertes said.  “Now is as important a moment as ever to support small businesses. We know it is tough but we are inspired by their adaptability and by their commitment to keep moving forward.”

GrowBiz reached out to Fuertes to learn more about 10KSB at MDC and how it has been adapting to COVID-19 pandemic. Here are excerpts from the conversation.

Tell me about your newest cohort, Cohort 20?

We’re really excited because it’s a wonderful group. It’s one of our larger sized cohorts, 35 companies, of which more than 51% are women-owned businesses. There’s also a nice cross-section of companies from counties throughout South Florida. Collectively, these companies represent $46 million in total revenues and 403 jobs in our community.

We’re seeing greater industry diversity of the companies that are participating. And that’s a little bit by design, frankly, because of our community and with my background in economic development and experience in accessing a cross section of domestic and international businesses in our community.

What are some ways you have been able to keep that personal connection, particularly virtually?

For our cohorts, it starts from the moment that companies apply to our program. We reach out, we thank them for their interest, and through our application process we start to get an idea of what the company’s profile is and where the opportunities are for growth. From there we have interviews with the businesses. For now, they’re held virtually — where we get to understand from them “hey, this is what’s important to me as an entrepreneur, this is the opportunity we see to grow our business and this is what we would like to do moving forward.”

And then if they join the program, they are immediately matched. We carefully design groups within the cohorts. We pair — there’s the peer-to- peer experience that is that is deeply ingrained into the program. So we not only try to match partners within the program, but we also then assign the companies to business advisors that are members of the team. We’ve had virtual visitations, in lieu of in-person visitations now, where we go out to the company, we visit, we see their warehouse, we see their office.

The business advisors help them understand how they can apply the principles of the program – and how they can grow their business. Our business advisors know the program, they know the curriculum, which is delivered by our outstanding Babson-trained faculty, and they understand what small business owners need.

Tell me about how 10KSB quickly adapted to the COVID reality. You were in the middle of Cohort 19. Wasn’t it part in-person and part virtual?

Yes. We were in the middle of the in-person experience when COVID hit. So we extended the program a little bit. We took a week or 10-day pause to give everyone a moment to assess what they needed to do with their respective businesses, but then we kept it going virtually. Of course, we understood that many of them had to make quick decisions while they were participating in the program but we found that they appreciated the support and the opportunity to learn from one another. There was a lot of exchange of information, a lot of sharing.

We knew that it was important to keep the program going – it was almost like a real-life case study.

Another very helpful step in this was that the Goldman Sachs Foundation and Miami Dade College both looked for opportunities to be of support to them. We immediately started assessing all the community resources we could point these companies to.

For help with obtaining a PPP loan, we identified a CDFI within the national network of the 10,000 Small Business program where our alumni and scholars could go to. In April, we announced that the Goldman Sachs Foundation made an investment of $15 million for small businesses in the state of Florida that needed to access the PPP.

In parallel to that, we reached out to all of our alumni to let them know we’re here to help. We martialed our business advisors online and we launched an outreach to all of the program’s alumni, about 526 companies. We also hosted weekly local support calls. On a set date, set time, we opened it to all alumni. For example, one week we had representatives from the Small Business Administration for a talk about the PPP program. Then we had another session where we talked about legal considerations, given the COVID pandemic.

On a national level in a series of surveys, the Goldman Sachs Foundation has taken the pulse of small businesses. The first survey, launched within like two weeks of going remote, was very, very telling how difficult the moment was but they were facts that we used to say okay, how can we be of support? How can we help move some of our resources to do that?

In your view, what’s the secret sauce in 10KSB?

We’re driven by the belief that access to education, support and access is the best way to help ensure that a small business is successful. And we know that that there are so many opportunities that are afforded by entrepreneurship.

Our program is specifically and especially designed for small businesses – we understand their needs, appreciate their role and contributions in our local communities and impact across the U.S. – we therefore have a program and network that is designed to focus on key areas of relevance and need for small business entrepreneurship.

In South Florida, we have one of the strongest and most diverse small business communities in the US, and so we have the entrepreneurship program, which is the first part of it. Then we have a very robust alumni network with programs and outreach workshops. And then, as of May, we now have an advocacy program known as Voices. We had a virtual fly-in in the month of May with members or graduates of our program and representatives in Washington, DC. We feel that it’s important that small businesses make their voices heard through positive advocacy outreach. Voices is a very cool addition.

I think we establish a sense of unity and partnership from the very beginning of the program and there is that tremendous sense of community that’s really instilled throughout and is maintained.  Our graduates become our number one ambassadors of the program because they’ve seen for themselves what the how the program has helped them. And we have an amazing team.

How have your alumni grown since the program?

Cohorts 1-19 represent 526 alumni, $796 million in revenues and 9,734 full-time jobs in our community.

  • 67% of alumni grew revenue within 6 months
  • 72% within 18 months
  • 47% of alumni created jobs within 6 months
  • 53% within 18 months
  • 86% of graduates do business with each other

Our alumni have grown their business and demonstrated to be much more resilient and adapt to change. Many have credited the GS10KSB program and the “growth mindset” that our program establishes. The growth plan developed during the program is a key take-away for our small business owners, and many of them consider it a “living” document that helps them keep and maintain a “big picture” assessment of their business and lead with confidence through growth, changes and opportunities.


Photo at top of post: The graduation ceremony for Cohort 18 Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses at Miami Dade College. It was the last cohort before 10KSB went virtaal during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

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