As many of the banks that traditionally lend to small business face financial troubles, Goldman Sachs, one of the world’s largest bank holding companies, and billionaire investor Warren Buffett, have just announced a $500 million partnership aimed at helping small businesses over the next five years. Because the towering Goldman is an unlikely friend to small business, its initiative, “10,000 Small Businesses,” has sparked much discussion and even a few conspiracy theories. But while pundits debate the motives behind the partnership, entrepreneurs can begin taking advantage of the program — and accessing some of the funds — by early 2010.
“The program is designed to help unlock the job creation potential of 10,000 small businesses across the United States,” says Alicia Glen, managing director and head of the Urban Investment Group at Goldman Sachs. “To do so, we’re working with a broad network of partners from the small business, finance, and academic community to provide greater access to business education, mentors and networks, and capital.”
Here’s what you need to know to get in on the action.
Where’s the money going? The program, 10,000 Small Businesses, will provide $200 million for community colleges to provide education, mentoring and networking for entrepreneurs; and $300 million to community development financial institutions (CDFIs), which specialize in providing loans to businesses in underserved markets. The CDFIs will distribute $250 million of that capital via loans to small businesses in their communities, and $50 million will be used to help the CDFIs build staff and beef up operations.
Why CFDIs? Each year, CDFIs loan about $30 billion in their own communities. “We already have experience and knowledge in working with emerging domestic markets,” says Mark Pinsky, president and CEO of the Opportunity Finance Network, the nation’s leading network of CDFIs. “We’re good at making loans and investments work in underserved markets. Goldman Sachs could figure it out, but we already have the experience to make it work.”
Who qualifies to receive some of the funds? A business must have between $150,000 and $4 million in revenue, four or more full-time employees, and it must have been in operation for at least two years to qualify for funding through 10,000 Small Businesses. In addition to candidates that apply through CDFIs, Goldman Sachs will identify potential recipients by working with community colleges and universities, business organizations such as local chambers of commerce, and national organizations like the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Urban League.
How soon will funds be available? The first community college to receive some of the 10,000 Small Businesses funds is LaGuardia Community College in Queens, New York. Classes will begin at the college’s Small Business Development Center in the spring of 2010.
Seedco Financial Services in New York City will be the first CDFI to receive financing through the program. Seedco will begin making loans to underserved businesses in the New York area in early 2010, Glen says.
How can I apply for some of the funding? Because the funds from 10,000 Small Businesses will be distributed through local organizations, you’ll have to first find out if community colleges or CDFIs in your area are participating. To find CDFIs in your city, contact your local Chamber of Commerce or use the CDFI locator at OpportunityFinance.net, and contact them to see if they have funds available to lend. As Goldman distributes funds for the program, new recipients are listed online here.
Why is this initiative good news for entrepreneurs? Not only will 10,000 Small Businesses provide direct help to a number of entrepreneurs across the country, but it may spur additional investment in the small business sector, which will have an impact on even larger numbers. Because this program “brings with it the Goldman Sachs brand and expertise, it has the potential to leverage other folks such as banks and other corporations to invest in the space,” Pinsky says. “We’re agnostic about where the liquidity comes from; we just need liquidity to meet the financial demands of small business.”