Entrepreneurs learned planning and development through BEP. (Courtesy photo)

To continue the growth of Black businesses, the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce launched its 18th Business Evolution Program, which prepares entrepreneurs and business owners to participate in the financial success that keeps the country’s economy going strong.

BEP perpetuates GLAAACC’s mission of providing technical assistance programs and creating networks environments that facilitate opportunities and connections that would otherwise be impossible.

“After completing BEP, many of our graduates double their capacity and their revenue,” GLAAACC Chairman Gene Hale said.

“The networking, exposure to capital, and mentorship are unlike anything out there.  It’s a business bootcamp that prepare businesses for the next level in their growth.”

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BEP began in 2005 with one mentor groomed by GLAAACC’s board of directors, which resulted in more clients, more customers and more contracts.  In response to the pandemic’s devasting effects on small businesses, BEP was expanded to provide the opportunity to several businesses each year.

The first BEP cohort in 2020 consisted of thirteen businesses, the 2023-24 class, consists of thirty businesses.  Photography, personnel staffing, construction management, health & wellness, food & beverage, and technology are a few of the industries in this year’s class.

BPT Staffing President Michelle Jones opened her staffing and recruitment firm in 2022 and has been “figuring it out as I go.”  Like many of her 2023-24 BEP cohorts, she hasn’t had formal support or training.

Jones said she joined BEP to hear from successful professionals about business planning and developing a solid business structure.  “I really want to put my business in a position to do business with the government.”

BEP cohort member Attorney Almuhtada Smith was seeking to position his practice which consists of three attorneys, specializing in entertainment, Intellectual Property and corporate law, for expansion.

“I wanted to put systems and my back office in place to be prepared to service larger clients and scale the business and potentially open offices in Northern California and potentially on the east coast.  Generally, just put my business in position to grow and succeed.”

In the first two months of participating in BEP, Smith has connected with a bank representative from JP Morgan who is providing resources.

“It’s a no-brainer.  First of all, it’s free, so there’s no loss and there’s so much upside.  The cohort alone is a valuable resource because it’s a group of small businesses, in different industries that could potentially lead to more clients,” Smith said.

BEP’s rigorous curriculum consists of nine months of rigorous business modules include financial management, business development, access to capital, certification and branding & marketing. A seasoned industry expert teaches each module.

BEP is free to participants thanks to sponsorship of GLAAACC’s corporate partners, T-Mobile, SoCal Edison, SoCalGas, US Bank, Microsoft, Wells Fargo and Citizens Business Bank.  BEP is also in partnership with U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce and the SBA.

GLAAACC board member and Wells Fargo senior lead commercial relationship manager DuVon Davis, advised the cohort on how to get the most from BEP.

“After every class, reflect on what you learned and how that’s going to impact your business.  That’s the hardest piece but that’s how you get the most out of the program,” Davis said.  “It’s your responsibility to invest in yourselves so you can be the leaders for the next [BEP] class and the class after that.”

Reflecting on her time as a 2017 BEP mentee, CTI Environmental CEO Robin Thorne said the program was a turning point for her company.  CTI specializes in environmental clean-up.  Thorne said the relationships and networking she was exposed to during her 9-months in BEP helped her expand her business by broadening where and how she sought opportunities.

“Relationships are key.  Everything I’ve done has resulted from my relationships, knowing what services I had to offer, and strategic networking,” Thorne said.

“BEP taught me to do my research on who will be in the room and to be ready to deliver when the call comes.”

To learn more about GLAAACC’s Business Evolution Program, visit glaaacc.org.