Columbia-Harlem Small Business Development Center Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Bashar Makhay
June 20, 2019

The Columbia-Harlem Small Business Development Center (CHSBDC) has been part of the community of Upper Manhattan since 2009. Funded partially by the United States Small Business Administration, the CHSBDC is one of 900 centers across the country that offer free business advice and training provided by qualified small business professionals to existing and future entrepreneurs. The CHSBDC was first launched by Jack McGourty, then vice dean at The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and now director of Community and Global Entrepreneurship at the Columbia Business School, where the CHSBDC now calls home.

In 2012, the CHSBDC hired its current director, Kaaryn Simmons. While the center was mandated to provide workshops and one-on-one counseling, Simmons strategically transitioned the CHSBDC to offering more programs and leveraging its relationship with the Columbia Business School by modeling many of the offerings on the top-rated Master of Business Administration Program. Under Simmons’s leadership the CHSBDC expanded to offer the Harlem Local Vendor Program (HLVP), NYC SBDC Pitch Workshop and Series Competition, Columbia Community Business Program (CCBP), and the Brand Story Workshop Series and Competition.

Since their start in 2009, the expert advisers of the Columbia-Harlem SBDC have worked directly with 2,382 businesses, helping them to invest $43,749,684 in the area’s economy, and to create or save 2,459 jobs. To celebrate these 10 years of accomplishments, the CHSBDC kicked off a series of events it plans to hold throughout 2019 with a Harlem Local Vendors Buyers Fair in January and continues to have events monthly, including a formal gala in the summer.

Looking ahead, the SBDC will be moving its offices to Columbia Business School’s new home in Manhattanvillle. In preparation for the move—and as more programming and events take place in Manhattanville—the CHSBDC looks to make sure that local businesses, in particular small businesses, are given opportunities on the new campus. Furthermore they continue to provide resources and support to local businesses on the 12th Avenue corridor. Beyond New York, the CHSBDC is now working internationally with entrepreneurship centers in different countries looking to support local and regional economic development through programs similar to the SBDC. Most recently CHSBDC worked with the Promipyme centers of San Marcos and Alta Verapaz, Guatemala.

The CHSBDC is committed to supporting the economic sustainability of New Yorkers—one business at a time—and we look forward to seeing the success the next 10 years will bring to the SBDC and the local area.

Columbia-Harlem Small Business Development Center Programs
  • The HLVP provides a platform for local Harlem vendors seeking professional guidance regarding best practices and guidelines for vendor suppliers. It has assisted with securing supplier partnerships with retail and institutional partners including Whole Foods Market, Macy’s, and Columbia University Dining.
  • The Pitch Workshop Series and Competition is for clients of the SBDC with deep knowledge of their business looking to effectively communicate their business to family and friends, potential customers, or investors.
  • The CCBP is an executive education program for small business owners aligned with the core curriculum of the MBA program at Columbia Business School. Participants receive one-on-one business counseling, entrepreneurial education, and professionally facilitated peer learning.
  • The Brand Story Workshop Series and Competition is a program for entrepreneurs to learn how to use storytelling techniques and technical skills to communicate their value proposition through a brand video.

This article was originally published in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of The Columbia Newsletter, which is available for download.