Columbia Business School Launches Neighborhood Small Biz Program

Beginning this winter, Columbia Business School’s Small Business Development Center will offer a “StreetWise ‘MBA’”curriculum that aims to help neighborhood small businesses grow.

The program is supported by Citi Community Development and will use a nationally recognized curriculum developed by Interise, a nonprofit committed to helping underserved small businesses scale. This comprehensive curriculum covers topics including financial management, marketing and sales, human resources tactics, business strategy development, and access to capital and new contracts.

The Center began offering their 2-year community business program in 2009 and has since served more than 50 small businesses. The program serves business owners ranging from medical doctors’ offices to restaurants and florists.

“The strength of the program lies in the fact that we’ve been focused on a specific neighborhood at a time of transition and of growth,” says Kaaryn Nailor Simmons, director of Columbia’s Small Business Development Center. “These businesses are able to network with their neighbors in a way that they wouldn’t be able to if they were across the state or even the city.”

Columbia Business School’s Small Business Development Center unveils their revamped Columbia Community Business Program on the heels of a successful six-year program, which has served primarily Harlem-based small businesses.

“Interise is very fortunate to expand our impact to the neighboring communities surrounding Columbia, thanks to our continued partnership with Citi Community Development,” says Jean Horstman, CEO of Interise. “All three partners are aligned in our beliefs that local small business growth and education is the key to growing jobs and revitalizing lower income communities.”

The participants will spend the first year of the two-year program focused on creating their in-depth and personalized growth plans and the second year working on putting their plans into action.

The second year of the program focuses on preparing participants for procurement opportunities with both the university and other large institutions. Participants will be exposed to procurement officers and coached on the processes, strategies, and requirements necessary to become a successful vendor.

“Programs like the StreetWise ‘MBA’ are critical to help support minority and women business owners and entrepreneurs in low-income communities, giving them access to professional networks, a growth strategy, capital and contracts,” says Eileen Auld, regional director, New York Tri-State, Citi Community Development.

Interise’s StreetWise ‘MBA’ curriculum is already offered in 36 communities across the nation, including through New York University’s Stern School of BusinessStrategic Steps for Growth program, which is currently offered in partnership with the NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS). Unlike some formal continuing education programs, the curriculum allows small business owners to focus on their own operations rather than study other businesses.

The Columbia-Harlem Small Business Development Center began offering online applications to business owners in early October. Anyone interested in learning more about the program or becoming a part of it can learn more at


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