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Iowa small business owners: How 10,0000 Small Businesses program works

Des Moines Register logo Des Moines Register 8/9/2019 Tyler Jett
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By her own account, Des Moines lifestyle brand owner Marji Guyler-Alaniv is not a numbers person.

"My first goal for my business was to make enough money to pay an accountant to do as much of the work for me as possible," she said. "Quite honestly, I would rather pay them than pay myself. That's how much I don't love that aspect."

Guyler-Alaniv is one of 73 Iowa entrepreneurs who graduated this year from 10,000 Small Businesses, a program funded by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to teach company owners how to run smarter operations.

The course is like business administration speed dating, running CEOs through years of college classes in 10 weeks. The program's administrators look for people who have achieved some level of success — at least one employee and $100,000 in annual revenue — but aren't necessarily polished.

The course helped Guyler-Alaniv, the president of FarmHER, a company that promotes women in agriculture, to make a tough choice. 

She decided to end FarmHER's events division and shrinking her employee roster from six to three. She plans to focus more on FarmHER's TV show, as well as other media offerings such as a podcast.

"Those people specialized in events," she said of the employees she let go. "That's what they do. Difficult is an understatement. It has been such a change, but I know it's the right change for us."

How the program works

The ultimate goal? The graduates should be able to make more money and hire more employees, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon said.

"While they obviously have a great intuitive sense that's made them successful, they might not have the formal training that can really enhance what they're doing," he said.

Solomon will touch down at the Iowa State Fair on Friday morning to speak at a 10,000 Small Businesses graduation celebration, meet with Gov. Kim Reynolds and try a corn dog. Then, it's back to New York City.

The program, however, will continue this fall. DMACC President Rob Denson said Goldman Sachs has agreed to fund two more courses for Iowa's small business owners. The school is accepting applications through mid-October, with the goal of launching a new 10-week course at the end of January.

They partner with Babson College, which this year boasts the country's best undergraduate entrepreneurial program, according to U.S. News & World Report.

In the past, they held classes in big cities like Baltimore or Cleveland, opening up the course to business owners within a 20-mile radius. Other company CEOs have also been able to participate in online courses.

Making a difference in Iowa

Last year, program representatives announced they would launch a statewide program in Iowa. Solomon said he was attracted to the state's mix of urban and rural communities. 

The program's leaders partnered with DMACC and the state's other community colleges. The colleges worked with local economic development employees to identity small business owners they believed would be good candidates.

The business owners receive weekly assignments, which ask them to evaluate their own companies: Whether they're investing money properly, whether they have the right staff to meet their goals.

"It's very credible," Stiles said. "It's very hands-on. You're not sitting in a classroom being lectured to."

Making tough decisions

In Guyler-Alaniv's case, a DMACC employee recruited her to join the program last fall when she hosted a FarmHER event at the FFA Enrichment Center at the college's Ankeny campus. 

At first, she didn't believe she had time for the program. She started FarmHER in 2013, first as a blog that highlighted women in agriculture. As her website gained attention, women began reaching out to her. She said she built a database of more than 1,000 workers.

Eventually, she began a radio show, sold merchandise and hosted lifestyle events. This, in turn, led to a FarmHER TV show. 

a small child in a living room: Marji Guyler-Alaniz holds graphic journalism and photography degrees from Grand View University and an MBA from Drake University. After 11 years in corporate agriculture, she left in 2013, to launch FarmHer, a photography project to update the image of women in agriculture. Her documentary style photos show women working in various jobs on farms and ranches, big and small. Marji lives in the Des Moines area with her husband and two children.Photo taken, January, 2015. © Photo by Bill Schaefer/Special to the Register Marji Guyler-Alaniz holds graphic journalism and photography degrees from Grand View University and an MBA from Drake University. After 11 years in corporate agriculture, she left in 2013, to launch FarmHer, a photography project to update the image of women in agriculture. Her documentary style photos show women working in various jobs on farms and ranches, big and small. Marji lives in the Des Moines area with her husband and two children.Photo taken, January, 2015.

The events program grew, she said, with larger crowds each time. She said FarmHER hosted seven events in 2018 and planned nine this year. But her first week at DMACC, she said she drew a company map, showing where she was and where she wanted to go.

She decided the events were inefficient. They drew a couple of hundred visitors. But if she could make her media platform more effective, she said she could potentially hundreds of thousands with less effort.

"I don't think I would have gotten to that conclusion on my own without the help and guidance and support of that program," she said. 

Apply for the program

The school is accepting applications through mid-October, with the goal of launching a new 10-week course at the end of January.

Tyler Jett covers jobs and the economy for the Register. Contact him at 515-284-8215 and tjett@registermedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.

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This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa small business owners: How 10,0000 Small Businesses program works

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