By EMMA BARTLETT
When Yemi Sekoni boarded the bus for a nine hour drive to Washington D.C. last week, she knew that the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Summit event she’d be …
When Yemi Sekoni boarded the bus for a nine hour drive to Washington D.C. last week, she knew that the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Summit event she’d be attending was supposed to be a great experience. Other small business owners had given positive reviews about the convention but, now after attending herself, Sekoni noted the convention’s passion, energy and camaraderie.
Sekoni is the owner of Donahue Models & Talent (located on Sockanosset Cross Road) and founder of Rhode Island Fashion Week. She is a Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses education program alum and graduate from the chapter housed at CCRI; Goldman Sachs hosted the event and assists individuals in business education along with access to capital and support services.
The three-day convention took place at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center and the Nationals Park Baseball Stadium; it included successful business owners, speakers and lawmakers – including Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg and others.
This year’s Summit gathered 2,600 small business owners who gained insights from business leaders, visionaries, policymakers and each other on best practices for business growth, hiring, accessing capital and more as they continue to power the nation’s economy and employ the majority of America’s workforce.
This was Sekoni’s first time attending Summit. On day one, small business owners heard from industry leaders and experts and attended breakout sessions that focused on optimizing business growth -- ranging from best practices for effective hiring to accessing capital and leadership.
She noted that everyone from Ryan Reynolds to former President George Bush were present to speak at the convention; each had nuggets of information to share.
“We see the success story and forget the struggle,” said Sekoni, mentioning that many companies have gone through the same problems regardless of the business’s size.
Some of the key advice she took away from the convention was giving that extra one percent each day which will allow you to create consistency and consistent growth. Sekoni added that there were some topics she learned about in the Goldman Sachs class that she forgot about.
“Sometimes we’re buried in the minutia and don't have the luxury of time to do strategy,” Sekoni said, adding that she needs to start creating vision boards again.
On day two of the convention, Summit alumni visited congressional offices and met with Congressman David Cicilline. Sekoni said after finishing a speech for a firearms bill heading, Cicilline left Congress to speak with Summit’s Rhode Island alum. She said that even though he came into the room looking tired and exhausted, he made them feel like they were the important people that he wanted to talk to at that moment.
“It was so encouraging and nice to see him,” Sekoni said.
Sekoni said that during the pandemic, the Goldman Sachs program stayed connected with graduates and had advisors available to speak with them. Sekoni said going through the program and staying connected significantly increased her confidence of her business surviving the pandemic. She added that this year was the first time since the pandemic as of Q2 that she exceeded 100 percent of revenue of 2020 and 2021.
She said business was rough during Covid since her income comes from Donahue Models & Talent. Companies come to her for marketing/advertising needs and she said when times are tough, the first thing companies cut is marketing and advertising.
In March 2020, Sekoni had six jobs – each one slowly getting canceled or put on hold. Soon, her calendar was wiped clean. Even after the economy started to reopen, there was a lot that went into booking jobs, such as looking at vaccinations and getting tested. She said now jobs are flowing in and it’s hard to keep pace. Sekoni expects that this will go back to a steady flow at some point, but for now she is riding the wave.
Just before this year’s Summit event on July 19, Goldman Sachs released its ‘Summit Survey’ July 13 which found a majority of small business owners still have deep concerns about the trajectory of the economy – with 93 percent worried about the United States experiencing a recession within the next year and 89 percent reporting broader economic trends, including inflation, supply chain and workforce challenges are still taking a toll. According to Goldman Sachs, this data was based on a survey of 1,533 Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses participants conducted by Babson College and David Binder Research from June 20-23, 2022. The survey included small business owners from 48 U.S. states and two U.S. territories.
Sekoni said when she tells fellow business owners about the program, they often say that they have no time for the course.
“No one has the time when they do it,” said Sekoni. “Don’t think about the time, just do it.”
Originally from the UK, Sekoni came to the states in 1999 and settled in Boston. After two years there, she found her way to Rhode Island and has been in the Elmwood area of Cranston for the past 21 years. As for Summit, Sekoni would gladly go again.
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