By Bill Parry
LaGuardia Community College had star power on hand for graduates of its small business program Tuesday.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, businessman Warren Buffett and Goldman Sachs Chairman Lloyd Blankfein were some of the succesful entrepreneurs who attended the 20th graduation ceremony of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 SmallBusinesses program.
Buffett, the most successful investor in the world and the planets wealthiest person in 2008, gave the aspiring entrepreneurs his best piece of advice.
“Any business that has delighted customers has a sales force out there,” he said. “You don’t have to pay them, you don’t need to see them but they’re talking to people all the time.”
The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small businesses program was created through a partnership between the school and the Wall Street firm to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses and in turn, create jobs and economic opportunity by providing access to business education, capital and technical assistance.
“Our partnership with Goldman Sachs on 10,000 Small Businesses in New York perfectly aligns our dedication to helping existing small businesses grow their businesses, with our knowledge about the power of education to improve lives,” LaGuardia Community College President Gail O. Mellow said. “Our college is devoted to making a positive impact on New York City by promoting workforce development, in order to help people get out of poverty and to safeguard the middle class.”
Goldman Sachs chose LaGuardia Community College to pilot the program in 2011. Now it has expanded to 31 locations worldwide.
“We are so proud that LaGuardia Community College was our first partner when we launched 10,000 Small Businesses five years ago and that today more than 600 local entrepreneurs have been served through the program,” Goldman Sachs Foundation President Dina Powell said. “Through this important partnership we’ve been able to see firsthand the power of small businesses when they are given the tools and resources they need to grow.”
Plans for a new center for the program were unveiled during the graduation. The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Education Center, supported by $5 million from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s CUNY 2020 Program, will be located next to NYDesigns, an on-campus incubator for start-up tech and design companies.
“There’s a lot of synergy between our 10,000 Small Bussinesses program and NYDesigns, and we selected the location for the new Center to encourage even more collaboration,” 10,000 Small Businesses Executive Director Jane Schulman said. “Some companies in 10,000 Small Businesses decide to rent space in NYDesigns, which allows them to use an onsite laser cutter, 3D printer, and other high-tech tools in NYDesign’s FabLab, or use its procurement and development centers.”
One example of this synergy is the story of Nadira El Khang, originally from Morocco, who graduated from LaGuardia Community College in 2014 with an associate degree in accounting. While studying at LaGuardia, she began NadiraBag, a store featuring her unique and fashionable handmade leather bags.
El Khang came through the program and took home top prize in the Capital One Student Design Entrepreneur Challenge, which came with $1,000 to put towards her business. She then rented office space at NYDesigns, where she received counsel on her business plans.
“10,000 Small Businesses helped unlock my fears about expanding my business and gave me confidence to broaden my leather goods store online, to in-person at a pop-up store called Made in Queens,” El Khang said. “The store’s grand opening will be June 15 in Long Island City, and I’m so excited for my future and for the future of NadiraBag.”
The unique retail store, located at 27-24 Queens Plaza South, is the creation of the Queens Economic Development Corporation, a non-profit whose mission is to create and retain jobs through programming that assists small businesses and promotes tourism and business development.
“Nadira’s story is a shining example of modern-day life in Queens,” Rob MacKay, QEDC’s Director of Public Relations, said. “An immigrant arrives with talent and desire. She seeks help from local non-profits to start a business with a unique, high-quality product. Shoppers love her and everyone wins. We see it all the time.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr