Philly One of Seven Cities to Win Minority Business Grant

"We’re going to wrap our arms around them and help them grow."

Members of The Enterprise Center gather to celebrate ScaleUp Philadelphia.

Members of The Enterprise Center gather to celebrate ScaleUp Philadelphia.

How does one hair salon turn into three? How does a small pizza shop become a local chain? It’s all about scale — and that takes a combination of money and expertise — something that The Enterprise Center suddenly has aplenty.

The University City-based small business accelerator recently won a five-year, $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration that will help the organization coach minority and disadvantaged business owners on how to scale their businesses.

The grant comes from the SBAs’ ScaleUp America Initiative — designed to help small firms with high potential “scale up” and grow their businesses so that they can provide more jobs and have a greater economic impact. It also aims to strengthen entrepreneurial networks in communities across the country.

To qualify for the program, entrepreneurs must be based in the Philadelphia area and have between $150,000 to $700,000 in revenues.

The Enterprise Center will hold two separate, 25-member cohorts, where entrepreneurs will get advice from successful business owners and CEOs in the region. They’ll also identify mentors who will conduct one-on-one coaching.

“We’re going to wrap our arms around them and help them grow,” said Iola Harper, executive vice president of The Enterprise Center.

The money couldn’t be going to a better group, she argues. Not only do small businesses create more jobs than any other sector, she said, there’s plenty of capital and technical assistance available for the smallest businesses and very large ones — but not much for the middle.

“Think of it like a school,” said Harper. “There’s a lot of money for kindergarten, a lot for 12th graders, but not much for middle schoolers.”

With businesses ranging from food-service to construction firms, Harper hopes to “create an ecosystem where they’re not only learning from each other but also working together to get business, contracts and jobs from one another.”

The organization is currently taking applications and will start its first coaching group in January.

“The right thing at the right time,” she said “has come our way.”

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