After graduating its first 35 students in late September, New Haven’s Small Business Academy is looking forward to its fall semester.
Established in May, the Academy is part of Mayor Toni Harp’s initiative to encourage the development of small and minority-owned businesses in Elm City. The Academy, located on Dixwell Avenue, provides business owners with a number of resources, including classes with established professionals and incubator space where companies can work. Run by Small Business Service Center Director Jacqueline James, the program is a collaborative effort between local and state organizations including Springboard Consulting and the Yale School of Management.
“It’s just a tremendous head start in trying to open and successfully run a business from the ground up,” Jason Dorsey, an Academy graduate who now owns carpet-cleaning company Healthy Home and Office, said. “It’s really hard to do by yourself. You need some type of support.”
James said that all of the Academy’s first attendees had been in business for 12 months or less. She said she has already received 200 applications for the fall program, adding that she aims to choose applicants in the next two weeks and anticipates beginning classes again in November.
Alongside the Academy, James will also run programs this fall such as Side Street to Main Street, which trains active business owners to expand their companies. James said she also hopes to partner with the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council on an academy for contractors. In the spring, the SBSC will offer a small-business program geared toward recently released inmates.
The Hartford Economic Development Corporation, a partner of the Academy, lends technical assistance at the SBSC, HEDCO Vice President Kim Hawkins said. A consultant from HEDCO walks business owners from SBSC through the steps of applying for state-funded loans and grants, which the corporation then processes, Hawkins said.
“It’s great to have an agency like HEDCO support those entrepreneurs interested in starting small businesses, because we all know that small businesses do most of the hiring and support the economy,” Hawkins said.
James said that last week, the Academy helped graduates secure $150,000 in loans and grants.
Joseph Williams, a business advisor at the Connecticut Small Business Development Center, said his background as a small-business owner helped him develop business classes for the Academy.
Other Connecticut professionals taught classes that covered the legal challenges of opening a business, as well as how to write business plans, Dorsey said.
Dorsey said that although his business education at Gateway Community College provides him with “book knowledge,” the Academy focuses on the practical aspects of running a company. He added that instructors and other professionals at the Small Business Academy worked with him one-on-one to solve concrete problems he encountered in the process of establishing his business.
Dorsey, who had been attempting to start a business for the past decade, said the Academy provided the impetus and support he needed to successfully launch Healthy Home and Office. Dorsey also received a $10,000 grant through HEDCO and the Academy, which he intends to spend on equipment upgrades.
Boris Sigal SOM ’14, local procurement and business development director for the New Haven Economic Development Corporation, facilitated a collaboration between SOM students and the SBSC. Members of the SOM Outreach Nonprofit Consulting Club created a road map that small-business owners of the Academy can tap into, Sabrina Ling SOM ’16 said. The guide lists the main concerns small businesses confront at different stages during their development. It also provides businesses with a number of organizations in the city and state that can provide services like startup funding and legal guidance.
New Haven’s unemployment rate was 7.6 percent in August — 2.1 percentage points higher than the state average, according to the Connecticut Department of Labor.