Benton Harbor, MI-The Women's Business Center (WBC) at Cornerstone Alliance helps small businesses launch, grow and be sustainable. Entrepreneurs fuel local economies, filling storefronts and keeping the dollars local. The WBC offers a wide range of business resources to its clients including workshops, one-on-one counseling and access to capital through the Microloan program.

In 2016, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative invited the WBC to open the application process to small businesses in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren Counties. 10,000 Small Businesses is an initiative started in 2009 focused on helping entrepreneurs create jobs and economic opportunity by offering greater access to education, capital and business support services. Applicants have to meet the requirements of the program to be considered, including a strong desire to grow.

The program was developed by Babson College, located in Wellesley, MA, a frequently top-ranked entrepreneurship college in the United States. Babson College has been working with Goldman Sachs since 2010 and has helped train more than 250 faculty and staff who deliver the program throughout the country. 10,000 Small Businesses is an 11-week program, a combination of online and on-site sessions that allow small business owners to connect with entrepreneurial peers and work through practical business education.

Entrepreneurs in this program work with a high-profile group of business pundits and have included Berkshire Hathaway chief executive Warren Buffett and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. There is no cost to entrepreneurs who are accepted into the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative.

Marydawn Taggart, a client of the WBC since 2010, and owner of Maddog 5/1: Revolutionary Fitness went through the rigorous application process and was accepted.

In February 2017, Taggart started the program. "I was stepping out of my comfort zone," explained Taggart about her experience. "I was buried with work and it was overwhelming to fit this program into my already hectic schedule. They wanted real financials and a commitment to developing a three and five-year growth plan. I knew this was what I needed to do to grow my business to the next level."

Taggart was among a cohort of 150 other entrepreneurs across the country and from this group she was assigned to a micro group of 40 and then a smaller working group of seven. They worked with a business advisor, a successful entrepreneur who encouraged them to think big picture and challenge themselves.

"I am so grateful to Margaret Adams at the WBC for pushing me to apply to the program. It has been life-changing,” said Taggart. "10,000 Small Businesses instilled a head down mentality for me to achieve my growth goals for the studio. Being part of this experience was absolutely necessary for the continued success of Maddog 5/1.”

Taggart said she had access to business experts, colleagues and other resources that proved invaluable to her as a small business owner. Since completing the initiative, Taggart now has a new network of peers and business gurus with whom she can share ideas for a fresh perspective. “This is one the best parts of this experience,” added Taggart. “Knowing that I can reach out to my group who are experiencing the same challenges and decisions I face as I improve and grow my company is phenomenal.”

Taggart has implemented many of the tools that she learned from the 10,000 SmallBusinesses program into her business and has a growth plan based on real financials and attainable goals.

For more information on the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative, please contact Margaret Adams at the Women's Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance or (269) 925-6100.