Investment bank Goldman Sachs has pledged to continue its pioneering business education programme in Leeds after 25 companies successfully completed its pilot in the city.
The success of the Leeds pilot has led the company to commit to the programme long term and launch the initiative in Manchester.
Launched last year, the Business Growth Programme is run from Shine, in Harehills, in partnership with Leeds University Business School and Leeds Ahead.
The Business Growth Programme stems from a global initiative from Goldman Sachs, known as the 10,000 Small Business Programme, which aims to support SMEs to grow and is the first time it has been tried in the UK.
Dina Powell, president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, said: “A lot of initiatives focus on start-ups but we wanted to help that segment of people with a good business model but who need help to create more jobs and growth.
“We are very proud of the fact that because of the success of this investment in Leeds we are now starting a national programme.
“This is not just a programme we have funded, this is something that has been very carefully researched and that we are involved with for the long term. We could not be more delighted with the results.”
The Business Growth Programme sees participants take part in a 13-week series of tutor-led sessions on all aspects of running a business and work in groups with their fellow students to discuss the issues they are facing and learn from each other.
On leaving the programme, graduates are each linked to a mentor from Goldman Sachs who help guide them as they implement the growth plans they have drawn up during the course.
Michelle Pinggera, Goldman Sachs chief of staff for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said: “Research had shown us that there was a very strong SME base here and a strong emphasis on entrepreneurship but what really made the decision to start in Leeds was the quality of partners here was fantastic.
“What this programme offers is a learning experience for people who need that extra piece of knowledge to unlock their potential.”
Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan hosted a reception for the first graduates at Leeds Civic Hall yesterday.
Former professional footballer Achille Traore was among the small business owners to take part in the pilot programme.
His business, TopScreenMedia, places digital media kiosks selling event tickets and providing promotional offers in areas with large numbers of people such as shopping centres and train stations.
The company is celebrating securing a contract with a major event ticket firm and since starting the programme has grown the number of kiosks it operates from two to 10 with 20 more in the pipeline.
“I have a Masters in economics and when I applied they asked me why? I told them this is about real money, my money and the course is about business in practice.
“This course has built the foundations to take the business to the next level. The curriculum takes everything into account and is focused on how to build your business.
“Many busineses, ones that have been around for many years, don’t ask themselves the important questions. We are growing rapidly and it’s really important we have everything in place.
“The growth groups were a chance to sit around a table with five other businesses and it becomes a sounding board where you get honest advice from other business owners.”
Launched in 2009, TopScreenMedia employs five people and is about to take on a further member of staff.