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Goldman Sachs “leans out” for the women of small business

Global Woman Leaders at Fortune's 2015 Most Powerful Women SummitGlobal Woman Leaders at Fortune's 2015 Most Powerful Women Summit
Global Woman Leaders at Fortune's 2015 Most Powerful Women SummitCourtesy of Fortune

We all know about “leaning in,” but to support women entrepreneurs, Goldman Sachs has been “leaning out”—beyond the world of rarified finance—to reach small businesses and the women who run them.

Hanan Khalil, founder and managing director of Zahraa Trade, an Egyptian firm that supplies pharmaceutical ingredients and affordable oncology medicines, is one such beneficiary. A chemical engineer by training, Khalil founded her company almost two decades ago at the age of 29. At Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington D.C., Monday evening, she said her involvement with Goldman’s 10,000 Women program—an initiative that has provided 10,000 female business owners in emerging markets with business training and access to financing and education—has professionalized and utterly transformed her operations.

Closer to home there’s Carla Walker-Miller, president and CEO of Walker-Miller Energy Services, a Detroit-based firm specializing in energy efficiency. Her business got a serious boost thanks to her participation in Goldman’s U.S.-based 10,000 Small Businesses program, which she applied for hoping for help with managing her business’ growth.

“I’d read so much about businesses failing during this period. I was scared to death,” says Walker-Miller. She had also struggled to access the capital she needed to expand. Back then, she had 20-some employees. Today she needs 80. “It’s helped me in every way,” she says of the program, which provides mentoring and training to small business owners.

It also gave Walker-Miller confidence. “I used to say, ‘I’m just a small business owner.’ Now I say, ‘I own a small business. You know we drive the economy right?’” She encourages others in corporate America to “lean out” as Goldman has, to give women—particularly women of color like herself—opportunities they have traditionally been locked out of.

Other beneficiaries of the Goldman 10,000 Businesses program include Jessica Johnson-Cope, president of Johnson Security Bureau, a New York-based security firm, and Jill Bommarito, the founder of Ethel’s Edibles, a gluten-free snack company (best known for its Pecan Dandy) that launched in 2011. Revenues at both companies have more than tripled since their participation in the Goldman program.