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Buffett, Blankfein salute Baltimore small-business program grads

Bloomberg Philanthropies, Goldman pledge $10M to training program

Jasmine Simms, owner of Scrub Nail Boutique, spoke to the Baltimore gathering Wednesday about her experiences launching a small business. (Bryan P. Sears)

Jasmine Simms, owner of Scrub Nail Boutique, spoke to the Baltimore gathering Wednesday about her experiences launching a small business. (Bryan P. Sears)

Jasmine Simms’ small-business experience can best be described as a trial by fire.

Literally.

Simms, who recently completed the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program in Baltimore, started Scrub Nail Salon five years ago as she was weeks away from the birth of her first daughter when a fire destroyed her home and belongings.

“Although we have big clients now like Under Armour and PayPal, my journey into entrepreneurship has not been easy,” Simms said. “I’ve been through the fire literally and I started my business with few resources and no experience in running a business.”

Simms, who grew up in Sandtown in West Baltimore, opened the business “with my baby on my hip” a year later but found that keeping the doors open was a struggle.

Simms was one of nearly 60 business owners to complete a pilot program offered through the 10,000 businesses program, a partnership between Goldman Sachs and Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The program, 100 hours of classes on weekends, features one-on-one advising and accounting training along with programs on financing, goal setting and growing small businesses.

The classes are hosted by Johns Hopkins University in conjunction with Morgan State University and the Community College of Baltimore County.

The 59 business owners who completed the course were celebrated by Lloyd C. Blankfein, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs; Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and a graduate of Johns Hopkins; and Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

All three co-chair the 10,000 Small Businesses initiative that has offered similar training to 6,300 small-business owners around the country.

“We created 10,000 Small Businesses to fuel local economies by giving small businesses the tools to grow and create jobs,” Blankfein said. “We didn’t create their drive, their ambition, their brilliance. In some ways, we may have peeled away a layer that shielded it, but the drive that they have is clear and what really has been effective for us is the entrepreneurial education that really has allowed them to have this opportunity to break through.”

Goldman Sachs and Bloomberg Philanthropies Wednesday announced they are committing $10 million over five years to the program.

The free program is open to owners of growing small businesses that have been open at least two years, have $100,000 in annual revenue and have at least two full-time employees.

Mayor Catherine Pugh praised the program as being vital to the economic growth of the city.

Baltimore residents are ready for change and eager for opportunity,” Pugh said.

“This investment is making it easier for Baltimore’s small businesses to grow and create jobs, which in turn will strengthen our local economy and cement our city’s future,” Pugh said.

Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, addresses a Baltimore audience gathered to celebrate the graduating class of 10.00 Small Businesses. Buffett serves as co-chair of the organization, along with with Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (Bryan P. Sears)

Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, addresses a Baltimore audience gathered to celebrate the graduating class of 10.00 Small Businesses. Buffett serves as co-chair of the organization, along with with Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (Bryan P. Sears)

The owners who completed the course also heard from Buffett, the legendary investor.

Buffett delivered a nine-minute address to business owners and an audience gathered at Center Stage on why he remains optimistic about the country and its economy.

“I’ve always been very very optimistic about America, but when you meet the superstars that I’ve met in the last few hours, you just can’t help being that way,” Buffett said of the owners who completed the classes.

Buffett joked that he learned a lesson as well.

“For decades I’ve been buying small businesses after they become big — I’ve paid millions of dollars,” Buffett said. “It’s occurred to me that I’ve got to get these people earlier.”

From the accounting training and business plans, Simms said she also learned that resilience is an important component of owning a small business. During the last week of the program, her business suffered an electrical fire.

“There I was again, pregnant, dealing with the aftermath of another fire,” Simms said. “And if I’ve learned nothing else, I shouldn’t have any more children because something is going to catch fire.”

Simms said other members of the class pulled together to help her and she remains on track to hire four new employees and open other locations in Baltimore.

“Before this program, a setback like this could have ruined me and my business, but because I was taught how to craft my plan, I now know how to pivot and turn even the most severe challenges into a way forward,” Simms said.

 

 

 

 


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