Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg Philanthropies invest $10M to bring small-business program to Baltimore

Goldman Sachs and Bloomberg Philanthropies are scheduled to announce a $10 million investment Wednesday to launch a training and loan program for small businesses in Baltimore.

The program, called 10,000 Small Businesses, is intended to give small businesses a jolt of energy, new ideas — and maybe a little cash — to jump-start growth and spur hiring.


"This is for the betterment of Baltimore," Mayor Catherine Pugh said. "To have this kind of investment in our city, I think, bodes well for Baltimore."

The announcement is to coincide with a graduation ceremony at Center Stage Wednesday for about 60 business owners who participated in two pilot sessions of the program earlier this year. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein; former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, whose charitable giving is managed by Bloomberg Philanthropies, and billionaire businessman Warren E. Buffett, all of whom serve on the program's advisory council, are expected to attend.


Goldman Sachs launched 10,000 Small Businesses in 2010. More than 6,300 businesses have participated in the 100-hour training program at 14 sites in the United States. Another 850 have received loans.

The program also operates in the United Kingdom.

The educational component teaches business owners about managing finances, creating growth strategies and hiring the right people for the job.

Blankfein, Goldman Sachs' chief executive, said the program is aimed at boosting entrepreneurs' practical business skills and boosting their confidence in their ability to lead and develop a company.

"These people are as sharp and committed and aggressive as any we have at Goldman Sachs, but they don't [necessarily] have the degrees and the education and the confidence to go out and go forward," Blankfein said.

A better understanding of finance, management tactics and economics, he said, can help business owners feel more confident in making big decisions that will grow their companies.

That's exactly what Jeff Hargrave says he got out of the program.

Hargrave founded Mahogany Inc., a Baltimore general contracting and architectural millwork company in 1991.


The company brings in revenue of about $14 million a year, employs 55 people, and has worked on some of Baltimore's most prominent buildings, including Horseshoe Casino, suites at M&T Bank Stadium and Exelon's new tower in Harbor Point.

But Hargrave never had formal business training.

Hargrave, who grew up in Cherry Hill, saw carpentry as something that could steer him away from a negative path in his old neighborhood.

After years of learning the trade from others he worked for, he opened his own shop.

Now he's applying lessons he learned about understanding financial statements and establishing a growth plan to map out new business deals in New York City, Philadelphia and elsewhere on the East Coast, Hargrave said.

His goal is to increase annual revenue to $50 million in five years and hit $100 million in a decade.


"I'm a risk-taker and always thought we would be big," Hargrave said. "But those were thoughts — it wasn't written down. The class made me realize when you're trying to do something, you've got to sit down and strategize."

Business has been steady for Jan Desper Peters' business, Higher Ground Transportation Services.

Over the past 11 years, Higher Ground has grown from a two-vehicle, two-driver operation to a diverse fleet of vans, SUVs and buses with 10 employees.

"I was never really sitting down and working out what was this company going to look like in three years and five years," she said.

After completing the program recently, she has plans to go after new business in Washington, and is learning the ins and outs of applying for federal contracts.

In Baltimore, 10,000 Small Businesses will work with Morgan State University, the Johns Hopkins University and the Community College of Baltimore County for the education program. They will help identify prospective participants, provide faculty to teach the classes and keep the Baltimore cohort connected to a national network of 10,000 Small Businesses alumni.


"Baltimore has a great history of growing entrepreneurs," Morgan State University President David Wilson said, and the small-business program will build on that.

"Goldman Sachs and Bloomberg Philanthropies have made an incredible commitment to building and supporting small businesses in cities across the country, and it is a testament to the entrepreneurial people graduating today that Baltimore has been selected to continue," Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels said in a statement.

The program is open to small businesses that have been in operation for at least two years, employ at least two full-time workers, have annual revenue greater than $100,000 and are interested in growing and creating jobs.

The loans program is to be managed separately, and businesses are not required to apply for both a loan and the training program.

The Evening Sun


Get your evening news in your e-mail inbox. Get all the top news and sports from the

The Annie E. Casey Foundation will work with 10,000 Small Business to identify local groups to manage the loans program.

Interested businesses may apply online at


For Hargrave, the business program was about more than learning how to improve his bottom line.

As an employer, Hargrave said, he wants to build a business that can offer Baltimore residents the chance at employment he got as a young adult. As a father, he wants to leave behind a company that will be valuable to his children, two of whom work with him.

"I think it's important when you leave this world that it's not about how much money did you make," Hargrave said. "It's whose life did you impact."