There may not be a mound of chocolate bars involved, but business owners and entrepreneurs in Summit County are in hot pursuit of their golden ticket. In 2009, financial giant Goldman Sachs committed $500 million to support 10,000 small businesses in cities across the nation and that program has landed in Utah, promising $15 million in the Salt Lake market alone.
The "10,000 Small Businesses" program was designed to create jobs and economic growth by providing business education services and access to capital.
Salt Lake City is the eighth market in which Goldman Sachs will offer the program, joining the ranks of markets such as New York City, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago. The global investment banking and securities firm partnered with Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) to accept applications into its educational program. Completing the educational component of the program will be a contributing factor in deciding how, and to whom, business loans will be distributed.
"For the clients, there is no cost other than their time," said Randy Schouten, the Division Chair of the SLCC Miller Business Resource Center, "but that is a commitment they have to be willing to make. And I like to think that those that go through the education process will have a better business plan in place when they apply for a loan."
The first round of applications was originally going to be restricted to just businesses in Salt Lake City, but last week Summit County was invited into the fold. Park City Business Resource Center Director Jon Buetler has been hard at work trying to spread the word, holding a presentation Thursday night.
"I think the quality of businesses we have in Park City fit the Goldman Sachs profile and I want to get them down there," Buetler said. " I know there will be businesses applying from the area."
Businesses targeted for the program are typically but not always, Schouten pointed out small scale, pulling in revenue between $150,000 and $4 million with a staff size of at least four people. The goal is to target businesses that have been operating successfully for roughly two years.
"Even if a business wants to apply and doesn't make it in the first round, I want to work with them in the coming months to make sure they get into the program," Buetler added.
Working with only a few days to spread the word, Buetler drew a small group together for a presentation. Trent Fargher of Shades of Pale Brewery said he has already had plans for expansion in the works and that while he intends to do a bit more research, "10,000 Small Businesses" has the potential to help him get the microbrewery to where he wants it to be.
"We're trying to figure out how to expand," Fargher said. " we're going to go through the application process."
Susi Kontgis, publisher of the new Park City-based magazine Estero, said she plans on applying.
"I'm really excited," Kontgis said. "I do believe that the education component is critical. I planned on pursuing an MBA anyway, and so when the opportunity came along if Estero is selected we want to participate. This could make us more efficient, a better business."
In other markets, loans have ranged from $40,000 to $200,000 and were used for everything from buying new equipment to product development to opening new locations. Since the program began in 2009, nearly 800 companies have gone through program and of that number, 70 percent of business owners reported an increase in revenue and 50 percent reported an increase in the number of employees.
"That's an amazing statistic," Schouten said.
The core of the program, business education, will work with business owners with a hands-on approach, tackling several strategies to improve operations, including topics such as finance and social media. Those that are accepted into the program are required to commit time to the classes which will be held once every two weeks and to homework assignments that relate to their business, an estimated six to eight hours per week total. First round applications into the program are due on Oct. 1 but SLCC will continue to take participants in intervals through the next five year, the length of the program. Thirty to 40 students will be selected for the program, which will kick off in January.
"Even though this is a kind of mini-MBA program, the case study through the whole process will be your business," Buetler said. "You're not wasting time talking about some other company in some other city and industry. The workshops, the classes, the time commitment, it's all about your business.
"The time committed goes to your business."
A nonprofit organization will be selected by Goldman Sachs in the coming months to distribute the loans, a process where the financial investment firm will distribute grants that will go through the nonprofit and finally into business owners' hands. The loans are designed to be paid back quickly as a business expands, and interest rates will go back to the nonprofit, Schouten said.
"We want people to work on their business," he said, "because when they're doing that, they are figuring out how to grow, how to expand."
SLCC is scheduled to host an application workshop Thursday Sept. 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Library Square Campus located in Salt Lake City.