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How Community College, Goldman Sachs are helping Philly small businesses become ‘bankable’

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Lily Fischer, co-owner of Cake Life Bake Shop in Fishtown, is a new 2019 graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small businesses program taught through CCP, the Community College of Philadelphia.
Lily Fischer, co-owner of Cake Life Bake Shop in Fishtown, is a new 2019 graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small businesses program taught through CCP, the Community College of Philadelphia.Read moreElizabeth H. Field

Lily Fischer co-owns Cake Life Bake Shop in Fishtown, but she had no formal business education.

Then she signed up for the joint program between Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses and Community College of Philadelphia, a 14-week accelerated business training seminar that’s free to those who earn a spot.

“There’s no class for being a boss. I want to be a successful job creator, and I needed help," Fischer said. "This has been exactly what I needed.”

Since Goldman Sachs launched the 10,000 Small Businesses program in Philadelphia in 2013, CCP has churned out more than 500 graduates through 20 cohorts, billed as a mini-MBA.

Alums of the latest cohort include William Brown, owner of Duke Barber, a fifth-generation barbershop whose services include men’s and children’s haircuts, straight razor shaves, and the sales of men’s hair- and skin-care products; Adam Solow of the Solow, Isbell & Palladino immigration law firm; Melissa Page Peter, owner of Mi Casita Preschool, a Spanish immersion preschool and day care for infants and children up to 5 years old; Tuan Phung, founder and operator of Bánh Mì & Bottles, a Vietnamese eatery; Jeanne Chang, owner of the Lil’ Pop Shop, an ice cream and pie shop; and Tim Eads, owner of Rug Tufting Machines, a crafts and rug-making supplies company.

Fischer and her business partner, Nima Etemadi, founded Cake Life Bake Shop at 1306 Frankford Ave. She initially was reluctant to take part in the Goldman Sachs-CCP program.

“I thought my business partner should do it, and I was just the wacky artist,” she said at the graduation ceremony. “But business is about taking risks and trying new things.”

She was pregnant at the time she won a spot in spring 2019, and deferred until the fall of 2019. She graduated with her cohort on Dec. 13, at a ceremony at CCP in Center City.

“We small-business owners all have the same problems, and as an entrepreneur we can feel isolated,” she said. “This is now an instant network of my peers. And my takeaways were how to work on my business, not just in my business, and how to become bankable."

The Cake Life growth plan is to expand by opening a commercial kitchen and expand the catering services, Fischer said.

Two-thirds of graduates of the program report revenue growth within six months, according to Nicole Pullen Ross, managing director at Goldman Sachs in the firm’s Philadelphia office.

“We also have Goldman employees come over to do mock interviews and what we call ‘rocket pitches,' as if they were pitching to a bank or a group of financial investors,” Ross said.

“All our graduates are bankable when they finish our program,” said Joan Chrestay, executive director of the program at CCP, meaning the business owners have a solid view of their revenue and strategy, and can borrow money for future growth.

All the grads were asked to stand up and speak about their business and what they learned from the program.

Cara Frank, founder of Six Fishes acupuncture, told the graduating class that she “developed leadership skills and how to be filled with positive.”

Added another cohort grad, Brown of Duke Barber: “I know my numbers and now I can fine-tune my operations.”

CCP is accepting applications for the summer 2020 cohort. The application deadline is Feb. 4. Classes start May 13. For more information, visit CCP’s website ( or visit this link: