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Scale DSM Q+A with Bernard Johnson

About Scale DSM

This article includes an interview with Bernard Johnson, Senior Director of Programs at Interise, who answered questions about the upcoming Scale DSM Minority Business Accelerator


What is a Minority Accelerator program?

Economic inequities cannot be dealt with unless we also eradicate racial and ethnic inequities. To accomplish the goal of an economy that truly works for all, we must change the systems that have prevented the emergence of an equitable economy.

Interise’s shared mission with our local partner is to create an intentionality around scaling minority and/or BIPOC businesses. The program focuses on increasing individual and shared capacity, knowledge around when and how to acquire capital, exploring opportunities via contracting (procurement) and, most importantly, building the type of confidence necessary to unlock growth. Nationally, Interise minority accelerator programs are outperforming their colleagues and peers who are at a similar size and scale.

Do you have to have a ton of previous experience as a business owner to participate?

For a business owner to participate in the program they will need to business at least 2-3 years

What is its significance/importance to minority business owners?

Many minority-owned and/or BIPOC owned businesses often lack adequate opportunities to scale. There are unique challenges facing them particularly when located in lower-income communities. When we look at systemic racism, we see that disadvantaged minority business owners have been hampered in their ability to grow and thrive, such as limited access to capital, absence of networks and relationships in regional and national markets, lack of knowledge and know-how needed to successfully scale.

For a minority and/or BIPOC business it is important to understand that our community of practice and shared mission with our local partners by design is to create thriving minority and BIPOC businesses while building the necessary systems to influence their bottom-line. Interise has more than 9,000 graduates of our program and the curriculum has been offered continuously for 18-plus years in more than 80 communities.

How much of a time commitment is the program?

The program spans 6-7 months and the business owner will spend about 40 hours in class as there are 13 sessions and each session is three hours, about 10-20 hours in their CEO mentoring groups and will spend about 80-90 hours during those 6-7 months working on and not just in the business.

What topics does the curriculum cover?

The curriculum covers strategy, leadership, goal setting and implantation, organizational development, business processes, finance, sales and marketing, procurement, capital, delegation and human resources.

Who teaches the courses?

The program is facilitated by a local instructor who is onboarded, trained and supported by our local partner (GDMP) and Interise. The individual will have had experience working with adult learners who own a business, have scaled a business themselves and are a trusted and respected member of the local small business ecosystem.

Why would you tell minority business owners to participate?

Since 2004, Interise has created a curriculum that is designed to scale minority-owned and/or BIPOC businesses. The curriculum was created specifically for business owners who became business owners most likely out of necessity. That said, our program has tremendous results for minority-owned and/or BIPOC businesses. Minority firms that finish the program will increase their revenues on average by about 37% year over year.

What benefits do participants get at the end of the program?

Upon completion of the program, business owners will have a completed a three-year Strategic Growth Plan that will serve as a roadmap for their next phase of growth. The plan is created by the business owner and is vetted by the program’s facilitator, subject matter experts and fellow members of the cohort. It will incorporate key learnings the business owner experienced throughout the program.

What has been the most rewarding part of building this program?

The lasting community impacts, for not only the business owners but for those they employ, relate to how the accelerator helps increase pathways around economic mobility. The graduates of this program will create new and sustainable jobs with an average salary of $55k or more, while offering health, paid sick time and paid vacation to its staff. The businesses that finish the program will have a distinct competitive advantage all while creating opportunities for others.

What is your advice for our Des Moines area participants who are interested in the program?

For participants who are interested in the program, I would strongly encourage them to attend one of the upcoming info sessions and/or to apply online as the program will quickly fill up based on the program's demand and track record.

Bernard Johnson

Bernard Johnson leads the development of the creation and management of the partnerships, systems and services needed to scale Interise nationally. Previously, Bernard served as manager of operations for several commercial real estate holdings for GE Commercial Finance in Boston and commanded a startup division with Cintas in downtown Boston.

Looking for tools to help grow your startup or small business? Visit the Small Business Resources Hub to find the information you need or sign up for Mentor Connection to build relationships with a trusted group of mentors.

Greater Des Moines (DSM) welcomes diverse talent to the region. As one of the fastest growing business communities, inclusion and attracting diverse talent in the workplace is a key strategy of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Learn more here.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is the economic and community development organization that serves Greater Des Moines (DSM), Iowa. Together with 23 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce, more than 6,500 Regional Business Members and more than 400 Investors, The Partnership drives economic growth with one voice, one mission and as one region. Through innovation, strategic planning and global collaboration, The Partnership grows opportunity, helps create jobs and promotes DSM as the best place to build a business, a career and a future. Learn more at DSMpartnership.com.