64 businesses poised for Detroit's comeback

Jennifer Chambers The Detroit News

Detroit — There were billionaires and big shots in attendance, but the real stars on the stage of Wayne State University Thursday were the the 64 graduates of Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program who say they are now have the tools to grow their businesses and create jobs that will contribute to the revival of Detroit.

Goldman Sachs has spent $20 million for small business loans on the program which aims to create jobs and revenue growth by providing business owners with practical business education, support services and access to capital. Goldman Sachs launched the program in Detroit in 2013 and has spent $500 million nationally on it.

"To the 64 behind me and all of those out there who've helped them, you're in the right country, you're in the right city...You've taken the right course to prepare you for the business. You've got it within you. It's going to be fun to watch it all happen," billionaire investor Warren Buffett, founder of Berkshire Hathaway and a supporter of the project, told the group.

Program graduates own businesses that include McClure's Pickles, Sweet Potato Sensation, Old World Style Almonds and Aesthetic Dental Clinique.

A third class is already lined up in Detroit and ready to go in the program, officials said.

Michael Antaran started his business Marvel Apps just two years ago. He was among 64 small business owners from Detroit and the region who graduated from the program.

"I needed a firm direction. I had great talent around me, Goldman Sachs put all the pieces together for me," Antaran said. "Negotiations was always a daunting task for me. They made it so simple for me to understand what I needed to do. It's nibbles rather than a bite."

Business owner Cynthia L. White, whose company Partners For America's Classrooms provides struggling schools programs for improvement in math and other areas, said this program made her step outside her business and develop a growth plan for the first time.

"Everything we did was built around that growth opportunity. We figured out where to build the business," White said. "Part of my growth plan includes adding 18 consultants."

Tammy Tedesco, owner of Edibles Rex, a catering company, said the program taught her how to take a bird's eye view of her business to see places to grow it.

"I've already created a new office and hired three more people for that and hired a permanent catering director," Tedesco said.

Gov. Rick Snyder said the event shows the power of Detroit and the comeback going on.

"And it starts with small business," Snyder said. "These are fabulous entrepreneurs. They have built businesses and this is going to take them to the next level. So it's more and better jobs for Detroit and all of Michigan."

"Many people see Midtown, downtown coming back. This helps the neighborhoods come back. Because this can be in every corner of Detroit and is," Snyder said.

Asked about being on stage with Buffett and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, another supporter of the Goldman Sachs program, Tedesco said: "The real collaboration comes in our teammates because now we have this huge network of people to be with as business owners. Because as they like to say: 'It's lonely at the top' ".