NEWARK, NJ – For 15 New Jersey small business owners who were selected to participate in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Emerging Leaders program in March, the hard part is over.

After spending eight months and logging in a combination of 100 hours of work and evening class time, the New Jersey SBA is graduating its first class of Emerging Leaders.  In February of this year, Newark was one of four new cities to have been chosen to participate in the agency’s 2014 Emerging Leaders initiative, an intensive executive-level entrepreneurship training program for small business owners in 27 cities and communities across the country. 

“We couldn’t be happier with the results of our inaugural Emerging Leaders class,” said SBA New Jersey District Director Al Titone, who delivered remarks at a graduation ceremony on Thursday evening at the Rutgers University Business School where the program took place.  “The caliber of each individual was evident through their commitment and willingness to improve their businesses.  If we made them step outside their comfort zones and take a look at different business principles from another angle, then we did our job.”

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According to SBA’s New Jersey Program Manager of Emerging Leaders Dominick Belfiore, participants had to have annual revenues of at least $400,000; have been in business for at least 3 years; and have at least one employee, other than self in order to participate in the program.

The 15 graduates, who participated in the program, came from the following New Jersey communities: Camden, East Orange, Galloway, Garfield, Jersey City, Monmouth Junction, Mountainside, Newark, Orange, Paterson, Princeton and South Plainfield.

Marcela Zuchovicki, the course instructor who led the class through the curricula set by the SBA said, “The SBA Emerging Leaders experience has given me great insight about the great work of the SBA.  I was familiar with SBA business loans, but was not aware of the depth and diversity of its programs for small businesses, women, minorities, and veterans, and how the SBA provides initiatives to help entrepreneurs excel in all aspects of economic development. “

Completing its seventh year nationally, the Emerging Leaders initiative has trained more than 2,000 promising small business owners in underserved communities, and continues to expand its impact of helping small businesses grow and create jobs.  

Brenda Rebello, president of Exceed Resources, Inc. of Monmouth Junction and Emerging Leaders class representatives said, “The SBA Emerging Leaders course was effective in reinforcing the importance of managing my business strategically.  I was able to look at my business from an outside perspective along with industry experts and identify areas of growth.  The course has sowed the seed of transformation, to grow from a business owner and emerge as a business leader.”

“Emerging Leaders has a proven track record nationally of helping small businesses in underserved communities,” said Titone. “Over time, we the believe that these first graduates of the New Jersey initiative will see increased revenues, create more jobs and help drive local economic growth in their communities.  We will build on this success and provide even more entrepreneurs in underserved communities with the support, resources and skills to succeed.”

Kan He, president of Biotranex, also of Monmouth Junction said, “The SBA Emerging Leaders initiative is an excellent opportunity for small businesses owners to understand business essentials.  Especially, for entrepreneurs like me with only technical trainings in the past, this program helps to appreciate the importance of the non-technical part of the business.  I have had many “aha” moments in the classes from the ratios of the financial numbers to examples of time management, from government contracts to marketing strategies, and so on.  This program is helping me transform from a scientist to a successful entrepreneur.”

The co-sponsors of the 2014 Emerging Leaders program were the African American Chamber of New Jersey, Brick City Economic Development Corporation, Greater Newark Enterprises Corporation, Morris County Hispanic-American Chamber of Commerce, New Jersey Business & Industry Association, New Jersey Small Business Development Center, and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.”