Chamber president touts benefit of biz program

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program connects small business owners and helps them learn by working together.

Henshall

Even though she’s the president of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Pam Henshall knows she isn’t done learning about business.

Even though the chamber is about to reach 96 years of operation, it’s still a business, Henshall said, and when the opportunity arose for her to expand her business skills, she seized it.

Henshall signed up for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, a course designed to connect small business owners and give them a platform to learn and share knowledge that would help expand their businesses.

“I can’t stop talking about it,” Henshall said. “Professionally, it’s one of the greatest accomplishments I’ve participated in.”

The 13-week course is not a lecture where you sit and learn from an instructor. Henshall said it was a hands-on course where all participants got to share their own knowledge and ask for advice from other professionals.

“The students became a sounding board and a great roundtable for myself to understand what other businesses from the surrounding area are doing,” she said. “Their impressions and advice helped us craft our direction.”

Philadelphia is one of 15 cities nationally where the program is offered. So far, 370 Philadelphians have graduated from the course since it came to the city in 2013, with 32 more currently enrolled. The Mayor’s Office, commerce department, PIDC Philadelphia and CCP all joined forces to bring the program to the city.

“The city was interested in providing further business support services to businesses that met the program’s criteria as the research showed they needed the most support to stay in business longer,” said Joan Chrestay, director of the program.

When the program moved to the city, they identified CCP as the best school to get the program running.

“The national program was predicated in establishing the education curriculum at institutions with deep reach into underserved communities viewed as trusted partners with the local business community,” Chrestay said.

So far, those graduates have seen results. Chrestay said 60 percent of the businesses increased the number of jobs they offered within six months of graduation, and 47 percent have already seen increased revenue.

Henshall said the program itself is top-notch, but what made it a standout experience for her was the people she took it with.

“The program itself can stand on its own, but the relationships are the biggest takeaway,” she said, saying the relationships with other students she formed would be lifelong. “It always comes down to the folks that are with you through the process. You develop a team mentality with your fellow scholars by going through this together and learning from each other.”

Henshall would especially recommend the program to business owners who are looking for the “next step” in their careers.

“It’s important for a professional to understand growth,” she said. “The program takes a different approach to structure of business, teamwork, and helps you understand there’s a larger picture to running a business rather than day to day operations. It helps you look at the entire package and realize what that looks like.”

Business owners interested in taking the course need to have a business at least two years in operation that has at least four full-time employees and is generating at least $150,000 in its second year. The course consists of 120 hours of classroom time as well as six to eight hours a week of additional work. Qualified applicants can visit 10ksbapply.com for more information and to apply.

“Because I learned to take a step back and to really go back to the skills they taught and look at bigger picture, I have a better understanding of how to be a leader,” Henshall said. “It was a life skill in addition to a leadership skill.” ••