With help from financier Warren Buffet and investment bankers Goldman Sachs, the first 23 graduates of their “10,000 Small Businesses Initiative” collected diplomas at LaGuardia Community College in September.
LaGuardia was the first community college chosen to work with their $200 million program, which teaches small-business owners how to grow and create jobs. Over 20 weeks, they studied accounting, human resources, negotiation and marketing. Goldman Sachs provided one-on-one mentoring and pro bono legal advice.
“We were at a crossroads. Would we grow or perish?” said Saudia Davis, president and CEO of GreenHouse Eco-Cleaning, a Brooklyn firm that provides residential and commercial cleaning services, its own line of eco-friendly cleaning products and green consulting. “I was so caught up in the day-to-day that I didn’t have time to map out where we were going.” The program “helped me figure out what we needed to do and how many people it would require.” She has since hired three people, including a human resources manager, bringing the staff to 15. “We hope to double our staff in a year.”
Graduates included a café owner from East Harlem, a metal fabricator from Brooklyn, a furniture designer from Manhattan and the owner of a security agency in the Bronx.