Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses Program Helps Bookseller Find Success

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Modeled after Goldman Sachs’ “10,000 Women,” a global initiative that fosters economic growth by providing women around the world with business and management education, mentoring and networking opportunities, and access to capital, Goldman Sachs’ “10,000 Small Businesses” is a program specially designed to aid small-business entrepreneurs through a free 12-week educational program.

Kelsey Ray, senior associate of urban business initiatives at Goldman Sachs, told Bookselling This Week that the 10,000 Small Businesses program helps small business owners grow their business, and grow revenue within their business, so they can hire and create jobs within their communities.

The educational program is delivered through partnerships between local educational institutions, business schools, community development financial institutions, and leading nonprofit organizations around the country. Booksellers can look online to see where the program is located near them; programs take place around the country, but applicants who are not near a campus location can participate in a blended program that takes place partially online and partially in-person.

Small business owners participate in about a hundred hours of in-class education over the span of three months, Ray said, either in-person in a classroom or virtually. Each cohort consists of 30 to 40 entrepreneurs, she added, all of whom come from a wide array of industries and backgrounds.

The program, Ray said, “is like a crash course MBA, but one where the case study that [students] work on is their own business.”

Said Ray, “The curriculum is really designed around peer-to-peer learning, experiential learning, and learning things so they can immediately start implementing them in their business the day of.”

In every cohort and every classroom, Ray said, a wide diversity of industries is represented. “Every industry is going to approach the same problem in a different way,” she noted. “We cover the construction of financial statements to understanding them so that you’re able to ask the right questions to your accountant and project growth off them. We talk about hiring and firing and retaining the right employees, as well as business leadership style and what that means in terms of the team you should put in place.”

What small business owners graduate with, she added, is a five-year growth plan and strategic guide to scale up their business; it covers what their growth opportunity is, the inputs necessary to attain that growth, and the steps necessary to attain it.

In 2017, Ariana Paliobagis of The Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Montana, participated in the program and brought home a wealth of information to her store. She told BTW that she was nominated by a neighboring business owner who’d completed the program herself and found it tremendously helpful.

“Like most of us in bookselling,” said Paliobagis, “we come to this business not from a business background, but from a love of books and a love of community, so there’s a lot about running a business that we can still learn.”

Though in 2017 she’d been a business owner for over six years, Paliobagis shared that she knew she still had so much she could learn. The 10,000 Small Business program, she said, was an opportunity to get a business education at no cost.

Instead of completing the entire course in-person, Paliobagis opted to complete 10 of the 12 weeks virtually, with two weeks spent on campus at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. She was the only bookseller in her cohort, she added, which was, at first, daunting.

“I was worried that other businesspeople would basically laugh at me when they heard the margins of bookstores because some of these people are really out there to make a fortune…[but] that was never the case,” she said. “Everyone was so kind and supportive, and there were people who had similar values as mine.”

She also noted that she was fortunate because the program paired her with a mentor who was the owner of a publishing house; the two were able to connect and talk about the details of the industry and understand each other’s perspective.

Working with a range of different business owners was ultimately very helpful, said Paliobagis. “So often we go to all these conferences where it’s just booksellers, and we can really learn from other industries. From [the program] I have friends who own restaurants, retail businesses, tech companies, service companies, manufacturing companies, printing companies. To get all those different perspectives is really, really valuable,” she said. 

Another valuable aspect of the program was the concentrated time spent focused on her business, she noted. “We talk about this a lot — at some points, you really need to spend time working on your business rather than in it. You can get bogged down in the minutiae of the day-to-day and not do bigger-picture planning,” she said. “This forced me to do bigger-picture planning and to really think about the past of the business, where the business was, and where I could take it.”

Her five-year plan, she added, was nearly 80 pages long, and following the program, she was able to use it to obtain a line of credit from her bank. “I think that really helped,” she said. “They saw how committed I was and how I was actively getting education and researching.”

It’s an intense program, Paliobagis said, but booksellers who are willing to commit to it have the opportunity to get what’s “essentially a mini business degree in 12 weeks,” which will help them learn about themselves as business owners, as well as their industry.

“You end up researching your community and the industry and getting details that help you understand your business in more ways than just an instinct,” she said. “A lot of us have really great instincts about our business and community, but actually doing the research can be really eye-opening. I learned a lot, and I made some great connections with people who’ve been very supportive.”

Booksellers can learn more and apply online at The criteria for eligibility are as follows:

  • Applicant must be the owner or co-owner of the business
  • The business revenues over $150,000 dollars in the most recent fiscal year
  • The business must have a minimum of four full-time employees/equivalent employees, which includes the owner
  • The business must be in operation for at least two years