Last week Motoworks Chicago hosted a unique event. More than 250 local business owners converged on our Western Ave store to witness an awards ceremony and celebration of Chicago entrepreneurship. With Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel giving the keynote speech and presenting several of the awards, this was not a typical day for us, but it was an exciting opportunity to celebrate Motoworks and other small businesses in Chicago.

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Specifically, this event was meant to celebrate the latest group of graduates from the 10,000 Small Businesses program, of which I am a graduate. The 10KSB program is a partnership between Babson College, Chicago City Colleges, and Goldman Sachs. As part of that alumni, hosting this newest group of graduates was like bringing the program full circle for me.

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Just three years ago I was merely a student — just a guy with a bike shop trying to make it work. Fast forward to Friday, where I got to host this event in my store, got to address a couple hundred of my business peers, got to introduce the Mayor of Chicago, and then received an award for our (Motoworks Chicago’s) growth in revenue and job creation. It’s been a challenging road, and I certainly didn’t do it alone, but it was a proud moment none the less. I just wish my mom had been there. She would have really dug it.

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I learned about the 10KSB program from a Chicago City Colleges professor who had been helping me with business matters. He was helping me with business plan documents, credit applications and more for Motoworks. He’d also been tapped as a professor in the 10KSB program, and thought it would be very beneficial for me and for my business to enter the program. The application process was daunting, but he offered to assist me. With his help, I was accepted into the program. I didn’t know it then, but my life and my business were about to change.

I entered the program in January of 2012. The course consisted of about 15 sessions, each with significant “homework” for me to do on my own. I would estimate my total time investment at roughly 200 hours. Yet for all that time spent, the program was absolutely worth it. It helped me connect the dots. The course came at a pivotal time for Motoworks, as we were bringing on Ducati at the same time.

Our biggest hurdle at the time was that the business needed credit to cover some existing debt and get us the operating capital it would take to help us transition Motoworks into this new chapter. It was a period of significant change for us, but the program, its tools, and my fellow student business peers helped me navigate the growth we were experiencing as both a Ducati startup, and maturing Triumph dealer.

Both the Babson and the Chicago City Colleges professors were a pleasure to work with. When I started Motoworks, I have no experience in the motorcycle industry, or in small business. I had no education or preparation for it. My strategy had always been to follow my gut, put myself in the shoes of our customers, use common sense, and have fun.

In hindsight it’s still a pretty good plan, but it wasn’t complete. The 10KSB program filled in the gaps with business best practices and showed me how to secure the capital that I needed to keep 150+ motorcycles and scooters for sale in the store.

If you’re a small business owner, and want to take your operation to the next level, I would highly recommend 10KSB.

The best part: it’s free!

Please contact me if you would like to learn more. You can also check out the Chicago City Colleges site for more information.

Lastly, I can’t thank everyone enough. From my professors in the 10KSB program, to my fellow alumni, to all the mentors in my private life, and especially to my team here at Motoworks past and present; thank you all! I wouldn’t be here without you, and I’m just so stoked for the next chapter.

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