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Goldman Sachs might not seem to be the best friend of small business, but a new programme launched by the investment bank aims to transfer new skills and knowledge to the UK's SMEs.

The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme aims to address the "support gap" from which so many small firms suffer. The programme is intended to provide assistance to high-growth small businesses and social enterprises that need help to reach the next stage in their development. It was designed following "extensive research" by the investment bank, and is run in partnership with "some of the country's top business schools and universities."

What is the 10,000 Small Businesses scheme?

Goldman Sachs' scheme is essentially a business education programme. It aims to provide opportunities for small business owners to network with and learn from leaders of established firms and business educators. The scheme is fully funded, meaning that business owners do not have to pay to participate.

Each participant attends twelve sessions in the programme, totalling around 100 hours. The bank describes these sessions as consisting of "a high quality, practically-focused business and management education."

Over the course of the sessions each small business owner will participate in specialist workshops and mentoring sessions. They will also receive one-to-one business advice with a range of experts. Every business owner will develop their own Growth Plan, the intention of which is to provide their firm with an efficient framework for expansion.

The programme is administered by a series of universities, each of which already provide practical business education. These include University College London, the Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, and the Leeds University Business School. The scheme is currently in operation in London, the Midlands, the North West of England, and Yorkshire.

Goldman Sachs claims that 77 per cent of the programme's participants are net new job creators, while 66 per cent are growing revenue. They suggest that the initiative is "establishing a lasting national community of small businesses that are supporting each other to maximise potential."

What are the application criteria?

The 10,000 Small Businesses scheme is aimed at business owners who want to grow existing ventures and create local employment. It is not open to start-ups or sole traders.

In addition, the applicant must be the owner, co-owner, or "most senior decision-maker" of the business. The firm must have been in operation for at least a year, must be scalable, and must be capable of offering local employment. Most businesses represented on the programme have between five and 40 employees.

How do I apply?

Applications are made through each of the five university partners. You can find details of these partners on the 10,000 Small Businesses website.

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