A growing number of Atlanta businesses are living up to the city’s famous nickname: Hotlanta.
More than 20 businesses have entered, thrived and graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program, a scholarship-based course that convenes them to learn critical business skills and create growth plans for their companies.
The Goldman Sachs program is an investment to help entrepreneurs create jobs and economic opportunity by providing greater access to education, capital and business support services.
With 31 sites across the U.S. and United Kingdom, 10,000 Small Businesses has served over 7,100 small business owners. The program has reached businesses from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C, and has resulted in immediate and sustained business growth for the alumni of the program.
One of those successful businesses is Atlanta’s own Yardstick Learning, owned and operated by Ebbie Parsons with other locations in Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Illinois, Texas, Colorado and California.
“Our revenue has grown by 56 percent since participating in the Goldman Sachs program,” Parsons said. “Our total employees, including consultants and contractors, grew 109 percent. We have tremendously benefited from the program,” he said.
Parsons said he never imagined the program having such a positive influence.
“Frankly, that’s all I could do at first was imagine. We’re dreamers but seeing any of this come to fruition is just unbelievable. It’s beyond exciting because you’re creating an opportunity for yourself and your team and you’re helping others and doing good work by helping our clients solve real issues in their respective communities,” he said.
Yardstick Learning is considered a leading global strategic management consultant firm that provides strategy and change management services to mission-driven organizations.
“Our clients include, on the education side, K-12 school districts, charter school management, parochial schools, private schools, colleges and universities,” Parsons said. “On the corporation side, we work with several Fortune 500 companies on their social responsibility foundation and we work with international nonprofits.”
Parsons’ story isn’t unique.
The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses curriculum is designed by Babson College, the leading business school for entrepreneurship. Just six months after their graduation, 68.7 percent of all alumni see revenue growth. Meanwhile, 47.9 percent of the alumni create new jobs within that same timeframe.
As a comparison, 23 percent of U.S. small businesses added new jobs in 2015.
For Parsons, the program was a key step to understanding growth opportunities for his business.
“The program helped me to understand that we can’t solve every problem and that was difficult for me,” he said. “I am an African-American business man and an alum of the nation’s largest HBCU and our goal was to expand our services to work with more HBCUs and help them with any challenge they may have.”
“One of the things I learned the hard way is that we have to connect with clients who can afford our services. As a small business owner, there are some challenges that you can’t fix at the time. I had to realize that you just can’t tackle every issue,” Parsons said.
While participants in 10,000 Small Businesses hail from a wide array of industries, they engage in the program from their shared experience as entrepreneurs.
Georgia alumni include firms focused on staffing, health and fitness, security, childhood education, senior care and other industries. Through the peer-to-peer learning environment, the participants focus on overcoming universal business challenges – like human resources, access to finance and leadership.
“I learned that my gift was in nurturing relationships,” Parsons said. “But, I also learned that my weakness was that I needed to be a better master of the financials. I did not know initially that it was my weakness until I went through the program and it was a skill set that was honed in the Goldman Sachs program.”
With an eye to the future, Parsons is ready to keep growing his business.
“After the sobering realization that we don’t have the financial strength to tackle every issue that I’d love to, I look forward to building our assets to the point where we can help solve some of the problems that currently we cannot.”