Many small business owners filled the conference room at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City on Monday to glean some much needed tips and fill out some back-to-school applications.
However, these were not applications for traditional courses. About 40 business men and women want to enroll in the 10,000 Small Businesses program, a joint effort between the college and Goldman Sachs.
“I’m trying to expand,” said Paul Williams, the owner of Absolutely Trophies in Queens.
Williams bought the business two years ago. Before the big purchase, he worked as a consultant and hopes to gain knowledge through the 10,000 Small Businesses about running a small business, and particularly about retail — an industry he is still very green in.
“It’s very hard right now, anything we can do will help,” said Vinod Gadura, a real estate broker and owner of a small laundromat. Gadura also attended the Monday meeting to potentially enroll in the program.
The college will begin its sixth program on May 24. About 30 people will be selected and any program costs and materials will be covered.
“Goldman Sach’s program is an example of a good corporate citizen,” Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx) said. “They also need good companies to invest in and .... eventually these businesses could go public.”
“Honestly I don’t think I would be in business still,” said Laura Catana, who graduated from the program a year ago.
Catana took over City Gardens NY, located in Long Island City, from her father in 2010. She said the business was “a mess.”
Through the skills she learned in the program, Catana has turned the one-man-operation into a full-service landscaping company. Over the last year the business has grown from three employees to eight, has increased revenues by 70 percent and has profited for the first time.
Mario Fichero graduated from the program in January. He has used information he learned about insurance rates to move his company into a new classification and save money.
“I told the insurance company what they needed to do to help me survive,” Fichero said.
Individuals enrolled in the free program undergo four months of intense training from marketing, to insurance to general operations. To qualify, the company must have four employees, make between $150,000 and $4 million and be in existence for at least two years.
Once enrolled the small business owners must attend class all day for two days a week — or about 90 hours of education.
“It’s boot camp,” said Mercedes Cano, an immigration attorney who is enrolled in the program.
Each student also is partnered with a business advisor who checks out the firm’s inner workings and gives specialized advice. Catana said even a year later she consults her advisor about tricky decisions.
“They have the audacity to say what is wrong,” Cano said.