The Uptown Business Association (UBA) launched this spring the inaugural class of NextStep, an innovative, seven-month program designed to help small business owners maximize their business’s potential. NextStep is modeled after the highly successful StreetWise ‘MBA’™, developed by Boston-based nonprofit, Interise. During the classes, instructor Michael Obi and local industry experts lead engaging and thought-provoking discussions on topics such as leadership, goal-setting, financial management, sales & marketing, and resources, among others. The goal of NextStep is for business owners to leave with a Strategic Growth Action Plan™ which outlines their path to success in the future.
The inaugural class of NextStep is comprised of 11 small business owners representing fields as diverse as consulting, technology, education, insurance, health care, and food, to name a few. Three participants – Tanya Haggins, CEO, Lakewood College; Darwin Rutledge, CEO, Rutledge Group; and Jen Brunkow, owner, CGB Tech Solutions – agreed to be interviewed to share their thoughts on their NextStep experience to-date.
Q: Why did you decide to take the NextStep program?
Haggins: “We are experiencing a lot of growth. We started with three employees and 100 students, and now we’re up to 20 employees, 14 independent contractors, and 1100 students. I wanted guidance on how to properly handle the growth.”
Rutledge: “I usually handle the marketing for the company, but I wanted to know more about all aspects of my business.”
Brunkow: “It was too good to pass up. It was a significant commitment, but we weren’t working on the business, we were working in the business. We decided we needed to look at the big picture.”
Q: What have you learned thus far from the program?
Haggins: “How to grow without the growing pains. It’s great to talk to other entrepreneurs and find out what worked for them. The confidentiality of the classes gives you a powerful platform to be able to share.”
Rutledge: “I have a much better idea of where every dollar goes, and where I can make adjustments. I’ve learned how to set aggressive goals, and to strategize to achieve those goals.”
Brunkow: “If we wanted to expand, we now know what the financial requirements are, and that has taken away the stress. This is real help.”
Q: Would you recommend the NextStep program, and why?
Haggins: “Yes, definitely. You are actually working the whole time, not just listening to a boring lecture.”
Rutledge: “Yes. The program has given me knowledge that I can funnel all the way down to the bottom line. I would recommend this program to everybody, even if you haven’t started a business yet.”
Brunkow: “Absolutely, and I already have. This kind of thing doesn’t come around often. It’s not a formal MBA program, yet it gives you access to amazing resources.”
NextStep is currently looking for new participants for classes beginning in January 2015. Classes meet every other week, for three hours. Small business owners are encouraged to contact Laura Kleinman at 216-707-5040 or email@example.com to find out how to apply. More information on NextStep is available at universitycircle.org/nextstep. NextStep is presented by KeyBank with additional support from The Cleveland Foundation and the Elizabeth Ring Mather and William Gwinn Mather Fund.
~ Article By Becky Voldrich, Marketing Manager, University Circle Inc.