Some special event professionals craft success out of a simple mix of talent and passion. But others find that all of their hard work never pays off financially. What's missing? It could be their unbusinesslike approach to running their own business.

Carolyn Dempsey-Arcuri has operated Carolyn Dempsey Design for 11 years, but she has worked to up her game by participating in the Goldman Sachs “10,000 Small Businesses” initiative. The program takes small-business owners through courses in accounting, marketing, human resources and other management essentials, along with providing one-on-one mentoring and pro bono legal advice from Goldman Sachs professionals. The goal: to help small businesses grow, create jobs and build more prosperous neighborhoods.

The first “10kSB” class graduated in September 2010; more than half of them report double-digit year-over-year revenue growth, and more than 75 percent say they have hired new staff.

Here, Dempsey-Arcuri shares her experiences:

SPECIAL EVENTS: How did you find the program?

DEMPSEY-ARCURI: My mother found an article in the New York Times and sent it to me with a note saying, “You should apply to this; they are helping small businesses achieve their goals! Love, Mom.” So I did just that. I applied, was called in for an interview and was accepted into “Cohort IV” being taught at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, N.Y.

Q: Is it like getting an MBA?

A: It is likened to a crash course over three months where you are challenged to map a course for business growth and the development of the CEO mind-set. As a “creative” in the special events world, I never truly considered myself to be a CEO.

The program has focused me and helped me to develop a growth plan over the next year, three years and five years, expanding to 10 years. It has reinvigorated me through this country's economic downturn, as well as my staff. We all are excited about our personal growth as well as our company's growth.

Q: Did you scale back your business to do this?

A: OK, don't be discouraged, but it is an 11-session course taught over a three-month period. My cohort sessions took place on Fridays and Saturdays; every cohort is different. Yes, I said Saturday. I almost choked when they told me that — you would think it was the kiss of death for someone in the event world. But I viewed it as an opportunity to better educate myself, grow my company and inspire my employees.

At first I thought, how I am going to do this? I realized after 11 years, I have a thoroughly capable and supportive team under me and all I needed to do was to take a leap of faith and to trust in their abilities. Not only did I get to step away from my business and work on it rather than in it, but my team had the opportunity to fully manage their individual events! It was great, and that leap is beginning to pay off tenfold.

Q: What did you get out of it in the end?

A: A journey full of opportunities, a fresh, reinvigorated new perspective, a great network of resources — mentors, business advisors, a growth group alliance, 10kSB alumni — and a living, breathing document called a growth plan.

Q: Would you recommend it to other event people?

A: I would highly recommend it to everyone. [Editor's note: Kathy Miller, president of Chicago-based Total Event Resources and ISES' president-elect, is now going through the program.] You are put in a cohort with 25 to 30 other businesses from all walks of life, all different industries, and you realize that we all have the same issues, needs and, most of all, shared vision for the growth of our businesses that we love so much. Read more from Carolyn Dempsey-Arcuri in “The Last Word” on page 46.


Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses www.goldmansachs.com/citizenship/10000-small-businesses