Linking Learning to Action: Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses
Chevelle Brown had a big dream but she wasn’t quite sure how to make it come to life.
Brown has been teaching kids to play chess for years and eventually started her own small business, I Teach Chess, in 2015.
Her goal was to have a chess club and scholastic center that caters to children and chess in Detroit. Brown had won a pitch competition and had some seed money but she needed more.
Enter Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, a national program that has a location at Wayne State University’s Office of Economic Development.
“I’m sitting there trying to figure out how am I going to get a building, how is this going to happen? How is this business going to grow to be able to support such a thing,” Brown said. “Goldman Sachs took me from beginning to end on how it’s going to be possible so I’m walking away with an actual growth plan on making this dream that I have a reality.”
Brown learned to play chess in ninth grade from her English teacher, Mr. Lombardini. She has seen the impact that learning to play chess has had on her students.
“That has been the thing that I’ve done for several years now is just really using chess to teach children to think critically,” Brown said. “That has been everything. Even in the beginning stages, even when they’re just learning, they do learn to organize their thoughts, they do learn to think things through to their logical conclusion. But because of how I’ve grown over the years, just as a championship chess coach, these young people get to the point where now they’re seeing their test scores increase. Because learning to play will teach you those basics but when you compete, now you’re trying to beat someone else, now you’re thinking about okay, how can I outthink a person? So the research shows that chess improves test scores in math and in science and also in cognitive skills and behavior.
“It literally helps them increase their test scores so that part right there has probably been one of the most impactful pieces that I see happen with our young people.”
Brown is one of the graduates of the cohort that finished Dec. 9, 2022.
“I love Chevelle Brown,” said Molly O’Meara, alumni and outreach manager for Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses. “For me, Chevelle was just such a light every time I saw her. She was so humbled to be there and be in that classroom. She’s just an amazing person to interact with and talk to. She’s going to be able to grow this business because now she’s armed with the tools and the knowledge.”
The program runs three times a year with a group of around 30 small business owners. The curriculum is created by Babson College, and the faculty includes subject-matter experts from Oakland and Macomb community colleges as well as previous graduates.
O’Meara said in the eight years they’ve had the program, they’ve graduated about 800 local business owners. Those businesses aren’t all in Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties, but reach across the state to Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Lansing, up to Flint and down to Toledo and Perrysburg, Ohio.
The requirements for the program are to be an established business owner with two or more employees, including the owner, a minimum of $75,000 in annual revenue and the ability to commit to an 11 to 14-week program that runs from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and includes five evening clinics that run from around 5:30-8 p.m.
The program is open to any kind of established business.
“For example, we had a baker in our most recent cohort, we had a Pilates instructor, a woman who owned a Pilates studio, a woman who owned a call center, a McDonald’s franchisee,” O’Meara said. “So we can also work with franchisees. Not only that, we’ve had businesses who have gone through the program that have then created a franchise model for their business.
“It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, you’re doing the same thing. You are an employer, you are watching your books, you’re figuring out where the money’s coming and going and how to do that more efficiently and effectively. For us and Goldman, the goal is to increase revenue for business owners but make sure they’re more resilient. I used to say recession-proof our business owners but I truly believe we pandemic-proofed a lot of our business owners.”
During the height of the pandemic, the cohorts shifted to online learning but are now back completely in-person.
In the last two cohorts, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses added a new component to the curriculum — a digital marketing clinic.
“I think it was really borne out of the pandemic when people had no other choice but to go to digital marketing,” O’Meara said. “I think it’s really empowering people to just understand how to better use the technology. Because we’re such a peer-learning focused program, they learn from one another best practices.”
O’Meara is in charge of the alumni program, which helps keep all the businesses connected to everything they’ve learned and to each other.
For the alumni, throughout the year there are two in-person clinics, other live events, a quarterly Zoom meeting and a recently updated proprietary app similar to Facebook or LinkedIn that is exclusive to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses scholars and alumni.
In addition, the business owners have access to an advocacy program that Goldman Sachs launched so they would have direct access to elected officials.
“We met over the summer in D.C. for that purpose,” O’Meara said. “I think it was about 2,500 business owners, the largest gathering of small business owners ever, to come together to learn and be inspired. We had speakers from Gwyneth Paltrow and Ryan Reynolds to Pete Buttigieg and George W. Bush. We were all in the same room, they all had something to share with small business owners but more importantly, we were gathered there to meet with our elected officials.”
Michigan senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and all of Michigan’s representatives participated in the event so all of the business owners from Michigan had a chance to meet them.
“One of our alumni, through the advocacy program, she and her husband have a woodworking and milling business (Burke Architectural Millwork) so they do a lot of custom millwork for the restaurant and bar industry,” O’Meara said. “They’re based in Livonia and she has developed an apprenticeship program that’s actually now a certified apprenticeship program so they can get funding and all of these things.”
Marlene Brooks also benefited from the advocacy program, expanding her Dymond Designs Beauty Studio to include a Beauty School. Now Brooks can offer students financial aid so more people are able to enroll.
O’Meara said that Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses accepts applications 365 days a year on a rolling basis at 10ksbapply.com. To be considered for Cohort 28 slated to begin in September, businesses should have their applications in by May 31, 2023. She also said that staff members are available to help guide applicants through the process.
They helped Brown get her financial documentation ready so she could apply.
“One of the things that we require is for our business owners to submit two years of financial documentation, including tax returns,” O’Meara said. “So you have to have your balance sheets and your profit and loss statements together. That’s not a very easy thing for a lot of business owners to do. She needed some help with that, we got her the help she needed, we got her over the finish line and into the classroom.”
Now that she has graduated, Brown is well on her way to realizing her dream.
“The first three things I needed to do was partner with a realtor, with a project manager and with a lender,” Brown said. “I have my project manager and my realtor in place and then I’ll get my lender in place and we’ll be going from there. I have a lot of people who are interested. I’m going to try to do the Motor City Match. I’m going to do several things to try and get the money portion done.
“But I’m hoping that by next summer, we’ll have found a space and be looking to open. I’ll be so great. I’ll be so excited.”