Helping businesses save cities

The government's Emerging 200 program aims to boost job growth by training inner-city entrepreneurs to expand their businesses. Here's how it's playing out in 5 cities.

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Yashoda Naidoo, owner of Annapurna's World Vegetarian Cafe
Yashoda Naidoo's restaurant chain has defied the economic downturn. Annapurna's World Vegetarian Cafe saw its sales grow to $1.25 million last year. Already running locations in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, Naidoo plans to open a third restaurant in Albuquerque this year.

Naidoo was part of the Emerging 200 program's first training class last year. A certified public accountant by trade, Naidoo says she learned about broader aspects of running a business, such as marketing and human-resources management.

"I thought this would be good to get some hands-on tools for small business owners like myself," says Naidoo, who has 30 employees and plans to add 13 more for the new restaurant.

John Woosley, district director for the Small Business Administration in Albuquerque, says the E200 program seemed to build confidence in Naidoo and the 18 other entrepreneurs who graduated from last year's class. Some of them have used their training to pursue bank loans and venture capital.

"It was a night-and-day difference in how people were able to present their businesses," Woosley says.

This year's program includes 16 participants in such industries as construction, software, printing and aerospace engineering. This time around, for the program's second outing, local SBA officials sought businesses from a broader assortment of industries, to minimize competition between participants.

"We had a desire to diversify and avoid people feeling like they had to be reticent to speak," Woosley says.

The marketing lessons from last year's E200 were the most beneficial part of the program for Naidoo. She implemented a customer loyalty program, which has increased the number of repeat customers that her restaurants have seen. Annapurna has also begun using e-mail and social-media marketing, which has encouraged diners to come into Naidoo's existing restaurants and has built buzz for the new location.

"It definitely has brought in additional sales," she says.

By Sheena Harrison, contributing writer

NEXT: Portland
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