SYRACUSE — The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) launched Syracuse’s 2012 Emerging Leaders initiative (e200) Feb. 27, starting recruitment for the program, which is returning to the region for a second consecutive year.
“We want you to grow your dream,” U.S. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R–Onondaga) said during a press conference kicking off this year’s e200 at the Syracuse Technology Garden. “We want you to grow that dream into something bigger and better.”
The e200 program is designed to help established small businesses grow. It is open to businesses with annual revenue between $400,000 and $10 million. Businesses must also be at least three years old to be eligible.
Syracuse is one of 17 cities across the country with an Urban e200 program in 2012. An additional 10 cities have Native American e200 programs, which offer training to American Indian communities.
The program is free, but only 17 spots are available in Syracuse this year. The SBA’s Syracuse district office will accept letters of interest through March 15 from business owners who want to participate. The office will select participants by April 1.
Last year, the Syracuse program started with 18 participants. However, five business leaders did not finish, leaving 13 who graduated in November.
“There is a lot of work that goes into this program,” SBA Syracuse District Director Bernard Paprocki said at the news conference. “But as you can tell, the rewards are great.”
The program starts at the end of April and runs through November. Participants must attend 13 classes that will be held every other week. Those classes will be at least three hours long.
The SBA estimates program participants will put in at least 100 hours of work before graduation. That includes classroom work, peer-to-peer mentoring, and homework.
“I think it changed the way we all ran our businesses,” Theresa Slater, president of Syracuse–based Empire Interpreting Service and a graduate of the Syracuse e200 program last year, says in an interview.
“It’s like a mini [Master of Business Administration] program. I don’t know where else you can get this information for free.”
Empire Interpreting Service is a nine-year-old business that provides onsite and over-the-phone interpreting of a variety of languages, including sign language. It works with businesses, educational institutions, medical facilities, state agencies, and federal agencies.
Slater used knowledge from the e200 program to help her expand Empire Interpreting Service, she says. The company generated just more than $2 million in revenue last year, which was up over 40 percent from 2010, she says. And revenue in 2012 is up 32 percent so far over this point in 2011, she adds.
“My business grew really fast organically,” she says. “But e200 taught me how to grow my business strategically.”
Empire Interpreting Service has eight full-time employees and over 250 interpreters that work as independent contractors. It hired 2 full-time employees and added 20 interpreters as contractors in 2011.
Experts who specialize in different fields visit the program, which is helpful to business owners, Slater says.
“They didn’t bring in one accountant, they brought in like 10,” she says. “So we got a lot of one-on-one time.”
A number of guest organizations signed up to partner with this year’s e200 program, including CenterState CEO, the Central New York Technology Development Organization, the Manufacturers Association of Central New York, the Small Business Development Center at Onondaga Community College, and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
Other partners include Syracuse SCORE, Syracuse University, the Syracuse Technology Garden, the WISE Women’s Business Center, the City of Syracuse’s Department of Neighborhood and Business Development, and the Downtown Committee of Syracuse, Inc.
Anyone interested in obtaining more information about e200 can visit the SBA’s website at www.sba.gov/e200.