September 2014, Volume 18, Number 3



Businesses Get a Boost at MDC

Ready to take their businesses to the next level, recent graduates of MDC’s Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses (10KSB) program, which is now working with its third cohort, have completed their three-month intensive training with a 100 percent retention rate. The dynamic 10KSB partnership, designed for entrepreneurs seeking to expand their horizons and reach broader markets for their companies, features courses taught by area entrepreneurs and MDC business faculty. Backed by Goldman Sachs, which has contributed $500 million with a goal of helping 10,000 small businesses nationwide, the program at MDC is already producing impressive results.

Eye-Catching Returns

“My company’s revenues for June were three times what they were for last June,” program participant Brett Warner said of his business Fresh Starts Behavioral Therapy. “I attribute that in no small part to 10KSB.”

Equally outstanding are the results obtained by co-participant Armando Morales, who founded Assisting Hands Home Care.

“We’ve had a 20 percent growth in revenues since I began the 10KSB program in February,” Morales said. “In the next 12 months, we expect to create 30 new jobs and increase revenue another 50 percent through growth and acquisitions.”

Mastering the Basics

Planning and organization were key points of the training, according to Under One Umbrella owner Cristina Mistri, who also was a member of the program’s first cohort at MDC.

“I didn’t realize how important it was, but it allows me to structure my time effectively, and implement systems and processes,” she said. “I’ve changed how I run the business. Every day is a little better. More things are getting done.”

The diversity of the participants themselves added further value to the program. “There was a great range in age and background of the other entrepreneurs,” Warner said. “We shared a lot of great ideas, and sort of became a family.”

Noting the strong bonds formed through the program, Morales added, “We continue to meet on a monthly basis. I put together an advisory board for my company, and some of our cohort members are on it.”

To learn more or apply to the program, see

Armando Morales: Assisting Hands Home Care

Morales discovered first-hand the need for reliable home care.

“Years ago, my mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was in bed for more than a year,” Morales recounted. “We had great difficulty finding good people to help care for her. Years later, we went through this again with my father. I learned from these experiences how great the need was for these services, so I created Assisting Hands Home Care.”

Morales, who has a degree in marketing from the University of Puerto Rico, began his business three years ago. He said the 10KSB program helped with feasibility studies and other fundamentals. Aside from the logistical information, Morales also noted he came away from the program at MDC with a more positive approach to his entrepreneurial venture.

“The 10KSB class helped remove a lot of doubt,” he said. “The instructors convinced me that if you have a good idea and can communicate it, you can get capital for your enterprise. We are now hiring for growth.”

With a smile, he added, “The main barriers to success are in your mind.”

Cristina Mistri: Under One Umbrella

A native of San Remo, Italy, Mistri came to the United States 30 years ago seeking opportunities not available to her in her homeland at that time. A single mother, she began her business, Under One Umbrella, when the company that employed her gave up the distribution rights to Poggesi products in the U.S. That inspired Mistri to become the exclusive dealer for the Italian firm’s stylish outdoor umbrellas and awnings.

“As part of 10KSB, we had to write our five-year goals,” said Mistri. “At that moment, they seemed outlandish, but now they seem in reach, and I have a road map to accomplish them.”

Brett Warners: Fresh Starts Behavioral Therapy

The impetus for Warner’s company, Fresh Starts Behavioral Therapy, was a business school project, but the origins go back to his days in middle school.

“I worked as a counselor then. There was one child with autism and cerebral palsy whom I bonded with immediately. I met his family and gained a passion for what these children and their families go through,” Warner said. “Later, in business school, I had to create a model company, and all I could think of were these kids. So I modeled this business, it won a business plan competition, and I founded the company the day before graduation.”

Warner’s company is rooted in applied behavior analysis, which focuses on skill acquisition and behavioral development.

“These kids often can’t communicate at all, and many of the difficult behaviors result from that frustration,” Warner explained. “When a child achieves something – like saying ‘Mom’ for the first time – we call it a breakthrough. Every time we get a breakthrough, it’s a huge deal, because it leads to progress in other areas. All these things are connected.”  

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