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At small-business boot camp: counsel, technical advice

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The first regional "management boot camp" class recently began and offers 100 hours of free small-business classroom and practical training.

There are 24 people in this iteration to run through September, but organizers believe they can handle up to 40 people in the next class, said Margaret Berger Bradley, executive director of 10,000 Small Businesses-Greater Philadelphia.

The classes – which are free – are being held at the Community College of Philadelphia in the city. The next class is scheduled to begin in September, and Bradley expects at least three classes per year over the next three years. July 22 is the deadline to apply for the next class.

Nationally, the Goldman Sachs program is designed to reach 10,000 small businesses and to have a direct and positive impact on each company by training leaders in accounting, negotiating, marketing, sales, operations and human resources management.

"Small businesses make up 99 percent of businesses and two-thirds of the jobs created in the last 15 years," Bradley said, adding that helping small businesses through this program is one of the greatest paths to prosperity in our community.

"We're much more of a business adviser, like a personal trainer," Bradley said. "We make you do the situps; we don't do the situps for you."


The management boot camp amounts to every other Friday, some Saturdays and a few evening sessions for about 3 ½ months of one-on-one business counseling with networking opportunities, expert advice and technical assistance.

The program is designed for small-business owners with limited resources who are poised for growth and are committed to creating jobs in the community.

Those who should apply include the owner or co-owner of a business that has been in operation for at least two years with revenues between $150,000 and $4 million in the most recent fiscal year and have at least four employees, including the owner.

Participants in the program will be required to attend a mandatory orientation, 11 pre-scheduled learning sessions, 6-8 hours per week of out-of-class activities such as assignments, networking events and business support clinics and develop a tailored plan for growth prior to graduation.


Attending a recent information session on the program was Erick F. Towles, president of E.T. Electric LLC, an electric contractor with 20 years of experience who has had his own business in Reading since 2007 and, including himself, has three employees.

"You need to make a commitment outside the classroom to apply what you have learned," Towles said.

A business expert does the opening and closing sessions of the course, while other experts in the areas of finances, operations, human resources and real estate all teach their respective areas.

Business education is combined with business support services with a goal of revenue, growth and job creation, Bradley said.

A typical class combines a variety of industries, so those taking part are not necessarily talking directly to their competition.

"We want to bring in other experts who have been successful in specific areas [such as a] countertop business, electric contractor, real estate, plumbing and flooring," Bradley said. "The matchmaking is fun. It's light-touch consulting."

Organizers hope to increase the success rate of small businesses.

"You bring the time and make the commitment," Bradley said, explaining that the qualifying rules are not set in stone. "If you don't fit the criteria, make us understand."

For information on the program, visit www.ccp.edu/10KSB.


The Community First Fund – a private, independent, nonprofit community development foundation – is associated with the program, and it uses the classes as an opportunity to inform small-business owners about its low-interest loans.

The fund offers loans, business training and one-on-one counseling to entrepreneurs of all sizes in Eastern Pennsylvania through offices in Reading, Lancaster, York and Harrisburg.

"They don't need a loan to attend the course and they don't need to attend the course if they get a loan," said James E. Buerger, senior director of lending for Community First Fund's Greater Lehigh Valley office in Reading. "We're in our 21st year of existence and have given 1,100 loans for $56 million – 80 percent to low income, 45 percent to women and 45 percent to people of color."

For information on Community First Fund, call 610-685-4940 or visit www.commfirstfund.org.

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