Corporations Help to Build Small-Business Capacity

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boot campNow that small businesses are recognized as drivers of economic recovery, job creators, community stabilizers and generators of wealth, corporations are finding innovative ways to help such businesses grow.

There are an estimated 27.2 million small businesses in the United States and more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business. For corporations, building small-business capacity is more than community give-back. Not only do they benefit from the healthy local and national economies that strong small businesses help to create, but they also see their support for such businesses as an investment in building a reliable, viable supplier base.

Last year, Consolidated Edison Co. of New York Inc., which provides electric, gas, and steam service in New York City and Westchester County, N.Y., sponsored four of its minority suppliers to attend The Network Journal/National Minority Business Council Inc.’s Entrepreneurship Boot Camp, a two-day intensive program that takes entrepreneurs through the rigors of marketing and managing financial and human resources, and works with them on their business plans or specific operational issues. The utility sponsored another four suppliers to attend the boot camp in March this year.

“The Con Edison vendors that attended the Boot Camp were actually the next generation of future entrepreneurs to benefit from the experience,” says Joy Crichlow, Con Edison director of supplier diversity. “Whether they are working with their parents, serving as mentees to seasoned vendors, or are starting out on their own, our special focus at the Boot Camp was to develop future small businesses. We provided the vendors with the business basics they needed, the discipline and extensive hands-on training with the objective of moving their businesses forward.” 

Con Ed New York is a subsidiary Consolidated Edison Inc., one of the largest U.S. energy companies. “We sent our vendors to the boot camp and they all came back saying what a meaningful and valuable experience it was for them,” Crichlow adds.

The boot camps are held four times a year at BNY Mellon offices in lower Manhattan. The next session will be June 17-18.

In another pro-small-business effort, retailer Sam’s Club this month kicked off a “Step Up for Small Business” program, under which its managers are donating time to local businesses that are Sam’s Club members as a way to learn about the members’ operations. The program also pledges up to $200,000 to organizations that support entrepreneurs.

Sam’s Club estimates that about 2,000 of its home office executives and club managers will participate in the “Step Up for Small Business” program and visit and work at more than 2,000 small businesses between May 9 and May 20. For every business a Sam’s Club manager visits, the retailer will provide grant money to nonprofit organizations supporting small businesses. Up to a total of $200,000 may be contributed.

“Together, we can make a huge impact on the economy and give small business owners the support they so desperately need,” says Betty Marshall, Sam’s Club vice president of the Southeast region.

Brian Cornell, CEO of Sam’s Club, said in a press statement, “Small businesses are the pulse of our nation. We recognize that small business owners are faced with many challenges these days. We salute those who are doing business every day and strive to help them grow their business.”