This spring, Harlem Commonwealth Council held its second round of workshops for small business owners through Growth Path, a small business advisory service launched last year to help business owners “re-gain footing and move forward” in light of the decline of Black-owned businesses in the Harlem community since 2012. Last year, we reported on the first co-hort that included Angie Hancock, founder of Experience: Harlem, who shared her insights about the service.
Here, Kelvin Collins, Harlem Commonwealth Council President & CEO, brings us up to date on this year’s co-hort.
TNJ.com: How was this year’s co-hort different from last year’s?
Kelvin Collins: This year, we brought in some additional resources that have boosted the resources and support for small businesses. In addition to the one-on-one, hands-on consulting advisory support, we have added a handful of intensive educational workshops funded by HSBC, focused on marketing, tax strategies, financial management and other topics. Firms will now have some educational workshops that they can choose to attend.
TNJ.com: What else?
Kelvin Collins: We also brought onboard the National Black MBA Association to increase the number of consultants we have to offer. They volunteered some of their members to address issues that businesses of color are having in the Harlem community. We are still focused on marketing, financial management and human resource issues, but this year, we brought on a deeper bench through this partnership with National Black MBA Association. They can be one-on-one resource partners for some of these businesses in the areas of marketing, financial management and human resource.
We will probably run a series of workshops over the next 3 to 4 months. By end of the summer, we will have concluded both the advisory service as well the educational series. We will wrap up by the end of the year, then secure additional resources and plan for next year co-hort.
TNJ.com: What kind of feedback have you received from participating small business owners?
Kelvin Collins: We have seen tangible results. Some businesses have experienced a 10 percent increase in sales from new ideas and new relationships that have brought some of these business owners fresh perspectives. Other businesses in financial management have seen up to a 20 percent reduction in expenses that impacts their bottom line and improves their ability to stay alive and thrive here in the community.
Many small business owners have come back and asked how they can continue on with the consultants we paired them up with because the results were terrific, the relationship was strong and the business saw tremendous improvements over the past year. So, now, we are looking to raise additional funds to make the service available not just for a one-time experience for a business but to look at how we can ensure that the business has an extended relationship that does not cost them anything and can truly improve their bottom line.