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Business growth opportunities for entrepreneurs

by Paula Anderson

As an entrepreneur, there are times when you need to grow and scale your business model to reach new customers and increase revenue. 

The Small Business Administration (SBA) recognized this need and created the Emerging Leaders program in 2008.  

According to Rory Thomas, executive director of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center,  the program is a mini-MBA program designed to move entrepreneurs to the next level in business. 

The program lasts seven months and is normally held between May and Oct of each year.  The program covers marketing, sales, accounting and business growth. 

Steve Pitcairn, SBA facilitator said, “The program was developed to help inner city entrepreneurs  with business education.”  

A business growth plan is the culmination of the program because it allows business owners to forecast revenue 5-10 years down the road. 

Rory Thomas, executive director of Tennessee Small Business Development Center - Photo Credit: Paula Anderson

It is currently in 69 cities and the program is non-partisan according to Pitcarin.  A few of the outcomes are sales growth, government contracting opportunities and certifications with local and federal governments. 

According to the SBA’s website, established business owners with $250k in revenue, one employee and three years in business are ideal candidates.


However, there are few exceptions that can be made on a case-by-case basis. The training is free to entrepreneurs and they are introduced to other entrepreneurs who are working in the industry. 

Since 2008, the program has created 6,500 jobs, generated $300 million in new financing and secured 3.16 billion in government contracts. 

Several local business owners have experienced the benefits of the program.  

Johnny Fayne, founder of Fresh Start Facility Services, Inc. said, “The SBA

Emerging Leaders program greatly impacted me both personally and professionally. I knew starting a business would be a long, tough road. I have encountered more unknowns than I thought possible."

Fayne added, "The program taught me how to connect the dots of running a business with all the moving parts that you really need to run a thriving business such as utilizing a CPA as well as a bookkeeper, keeping an attorney on retainer, financial planning, stability and the importance of being a brand."

Johnny Fayne, Courtesy Photo

Financial planning and accounting are just one of the components of the program.  

Carolyn Michael-Banks, founder of A Tour of Possibilities said, “My experience in Emerging Leaders has taught me how to manage my financials.”

“I am learning financial terminology such as cash flow statements, and forecasting because your business can’t survive without sound financial planning.”

Carolyn Michael-Banks, Courtesy Photo

As business owners scale their enterprises and learn about business management and growth, Fayne shares these words of advice. 

“My advice to anyone entering entrepreneurship would be to find a program such as the SBA Emerging Leaders program and take the time to complete the program and learn as much as you can from the program." 

To learn more about the program, contact Rory Thomas @

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