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'Entrepreneur survival school,' other resources help Utahns grow their small businesses

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 12 2014 3:00 a.m. MST

Dr. Donna Milavetz goes over fabric samples for a client's exam tables while working at OnSite Care in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Dr. Donna Milavetz is the founder and CEO of OnSite Care, a company that operates workplace medical clinics.

Since 2007, Milavetz's business has provided “primary care at work” for employers in Utah and Arizona. Today, she oversees 40 employees at 13 clinics that generated about $2.5 million in revenues in 2013.

Despite the success of her growing enterprise that she started with no previous entrepreneurial experience, she said, “You really do need some business skills to run a successful business.”

That's what brought her to a table with other entrepreneurs and small-business managers in an upper-floor meeting room of the 222 Main Street building in downtown Salt Lake City.

She was a “student” at a professional workshop series called 10,000 Small Businesses, sponsored by global investment bank Goldman Sachs in partnership locally with Salt Lake Community College. The program offers small-business owners along the Wasatch Front access to a practical business and management education.

Milavetz said she was looking to develop tools that would help her manage and navigate growth for her company over the long haul, and that was the reason she chose to apply to 10,000 Small Businesses.

“We were struggling as a company with some of those basic business principles,” she said. “The program gave me the skill set that I needed to move the company forward into a sustainable business model long term.”

Milavetz, who also has a master's degree in public administration, said that without the program, she believes her company “would still be floundering.”

Launched nationally in 2009 through support from Goldman Sachs and the Goldman Sachs Foundation, the program helps business owners selected to participate in the program by offering scholarships to cover tuition and materials. The first Salt Lake City group began in January 2013.

Participants are required to attend a mandatory orientation as well as 11 pre-scheduled learning sessions. Each session has approximately 30 participants.

They must also commit an additional 6 hours to 8 hours per week to out-of-class activities to work on their business, including completing assignments and attending networking events and business support clinics. Each participant also develops a tailored plan for growth prior to graduation.

“Based on our experience so far, (participants) get business planning, leadership and ownership tools as well as an educational framework to think about how to operate their business more efficiently and smarter,” said Bruce Larson, managing director and chief administrative officer for Goldman Sachs in Salt Lake City. To date, the program has impacted 1,700 small businesses nationwide, including about 60 companies in Utah.

Nationally, the criteria for participation are at least two years in business and at least $150,000 in annual revenue. The goal of the program is to help established small businesses progress to the “next level,” said Karen Gunn, associate provost and executive director of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at Salt Lake Community College.

Some of the graduates call the program “a mini MBA without all the stuff you don’t need,” she said. “Others call it 'entrepreneur survival school.' ”

She said local partners also include the Salt Lake Hispanic Chamber, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and other business-oriented organizations.

“It’s a really great infrastructural ecosystem of partners working together to advance small business in Utah,” Gunn said.

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