It took just 11 sessions of intense education for Frank Dsouza to feel on top of the world.
Dsouza was one of 33 Utah small-business owners in the first class to graduate Wednesday from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program, an educational initiative that aims to create jobs and spur growth in Utah and elsewhere in the U.S. The ceremony, attended by Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of the Wall Street banking giant, was held at the ornate Union Pacific Depot in The Gateway.
"One of the things they mentioned was this program would show me how to scale our business, to come up with a growth plan to grow our business and hire more employees as we grew," said Dsouza, who owns Seaich Corp., a Salt Lake City designer and importer of women's accessories.
The program did that, and more.
"The program helped me secure a line of credit to expand our business. I needed financial resources, and the next thing I knew, I was in front of angel investors and bankers willing to do business with me. Growing up in India, I did not have an opportunity to further my education, so this was a dream come true," Dsouza said, adding that he recently added three employees to his payroll.
In January, Dsouza and the other business owners who had been selected on a competitive basis began more than 100 hours of free classes at Salt Lake Community College. The classes were taught by instructors who used a curriculum that Goldman Sachs developed with help from business professors at Babson College in Wellsley, Mass.
The owners represented a gamut of companies looking to grow, including manufacturers, transportation companies, design firms and retailers. When the sessions ended, Dsouza was armed with two goals by the end of this year, Seaich wants to increase the distribution of its apparel products to 1,000 Walmart stores from the 400 the company already supplies. And he wants to expand his customer base to include retailers such as Dillards, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale.
The beauty of the program, Dsouza said, was that the instructors didn't focus on big-picture concepts. Instead, they helped him craft a strategy that was unique to his company. The other businesses received the same treatment.
"They had world-class mentors and teachers who walked us through each step in growing our businesses. The program far exceeded my expectations. I didn't think it would be so intense," he said.
Blankfein was able to attend the graduation event because he is in Salt Lake City to conduct the Wall Street bank's annual shareholder meeting on Thursday.
"Thanks to the dedication of our local partners and the strong culture of service in Utah, today's graduates are contributing to the local economy by growing their businesses and creating jobs," Blankfein said, noting that Goldman Sachs has built a local workforce of 1,600 people since opening an office in 2000.
Goldman Sachs launched the program in Salt Lake City in partnership with the Governor's Office of Economic Development. It committed $15 million for small-business loans, education and grants for supporting community partners, including the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Salt Lake Small Business Development Center and the Pete Suazo Business Center.
More classes will be presented over the next five years.
More information about the 10,000 Small Businesses program:
The application deadline for the next set of classes is June 3. Sessions start in August
Details on how to apply is at www.slcc.edu/10ksb