West Side small business owners are being encouraged to apply for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at City Colleges of Chicago. The program’s entrepreneurial learning cohort will be hosted at Harold Washington College over the course of 15 weeks. It’s free for business owners who are accepted into the program. The deadline to apply is Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015.

“Alums and program participants include small business owners from across the city and represent many ethnicities and minority groups. We welcome more applicants from the west side of Chicago,” noted Vasco Bridges III, the Small Businesses program’s executive director, in an email statement.

Bridges said the program launched in Chicago, one of the program’s 12 locations nationwide, in 2011. Since then, he said, 400 local small business owners in the Chicago metropolitan region have participated in the program.

“To date, Goldman Sachs’s 10,000 Small Businesses has served over 5,000 small businesses that represent nearly 100,000 employees across the UK and U.S., including 49 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico, and collectively have over $3 billion in revenues,” Bridges said.

Business owners who are accepted into the program acquire a range of practical skills, including marketing, employee management and negotiating. They also receive intimate business advice from Goldman Sachs employees.

“According to a recent report, just six months after completing the program, 72 [percent] of small business graduates from 10,000 Small Businesses in Chicago have reported increased revenues and 50 [percent] had created net new jobs,” Bridges wrote. “84 [percent] of program graduates across the country are currently doing business with each other.”

Rebecca Berneck, the CEO and Founder of Officeheads — a financial management firm based in Evanston — graduated from the program in August.

“Throughout the program I successfully removed myself from 100 [percent] of the day-to-day operations of my business and I began to work strictly on the strategy and operations required to grow,” she said.

The general criteria for applicants include owning, or co-owning, a small business that’s been operational for two full years, living in the Chicago area, earning business revenues of at least $150,000 in the most recent fiscal year and employing at least four full-time employees (or full-time equivalents). The business owner can qualify as an employee.

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