Small Business Programs


Now Accepting Applications for 2015!

Are you ambitious?
Do you have a strong desire to grow your business?
Would your customers benefit from new products or services?
Do you want to learn and practice the principles of a successful business?

 If you are motivated to grow, but could use help to see the path or make the time to implement your ideas, the PROPEL Small Business Growth Program is right for you.

>>See what past PROPEL Graduates have accomplished<<

2015 PROPEL Business Growth Program

The PROPEL Small Business Growth Program (PSBG) helps business owners to develop and execute a key growth strategy and achieve a major milestone in annual revenue. Whether you are trying to reach $100,000, $250,000, $500,000, or $1,000,000 in annual revenues, crossing your next revenue milestone will put you on a path toward success and open opportunities for financing future growth. The PROPEL Program is a comprehensive, practical, and interactive experience that helps business owners get ahead of the day-to-day details and complete concrete steps toward revenue growth and improved performance.

Space is limited. Apply now!

Must apply by March 9, 2015 - Space is still available!
Next cohort group begins mid-March, 2015

Download the PROPEL Business Growth Application to apply now, and email us at: to schedule an interview.

Rosie Torres

Rosie Torres,
Torres Law Group
2013 PROPEL Graduate

How will I benefit?

During the 9-month program you will:

  • Implement a significant improvement or revenue growth initiative
  • Apply practical business principles and tools immediately in your business
  • Improve marketing, management, and decision-making
  • Develop the ownership mindset
  • Increase public visibility for your business, and for yourself as a leader

What will I learn?

The PROPEL Program will covers the business topics that successful entrepreneurs need to know in order to grow and sustain a profitable company. This includes:

  • Knowing market trends and finding growth opportunities
  • Finding your target market and ideal customers
  • Deciding on your number one growth strategy
  • Planning and developing products/services
  • Seeking and utilizing customer input
  • Understanding cash flow, financial statements, and financial forecasting
  • Testing pricing, marketing, and promotion
  • Options for financing growth
  • Preparing, practicing, and presenting your business pitch
  • Realizing the rewards of business ownership through succession and exit planning

Program Format:

  • Duration: 9 months
  • 20 business owners (maximum) per cohort group
  • One half-day group workshop per month
  • One individual 90-minute advising session per month
  • Presentations at PROPEL public showcase events

Is there a cost to attend the program?
The monthly fee for attending the program ranges from $50 – $300 per month. Fees are set on a sliding scale, so your cost will depend on the revenues of your company and cash flow. The PROPEL Program is an excellent value as prices for similar programs are typically in the range of $4,000 – $5,000 or more.

Who should apply?

  • Business owners who have been operation for a minimum of 12 months
  • Companies with annual sales from $100,000 to $2 million
  • Must be located in one of the nine Bay Area counties (workshops will take place at a location in the East Bay)
  • All types of businesses are welcome, including: professional and business services, retail, consumer products/services, food or restaurant services, technology and web services, sustainability focused businesses, creative or artisan businesses
  • All business owners are welcome and diverse entrepreneurs (inclusive of minorities, women and disabled veterans) are strongly encouraged to apply

Download the PROPEL Business Growth Application to apply now.

How to apply:

  1. Download and complete the PROPEL Business Growth Application
  2. Email your completed application to: Or you may send your application by mail to: Alliance for Community Development c/o Darlene Crane, Executive Director, 300 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Ste. 223, Oakland, CA 94612
  3. Contact Darlene Crane at to schedule an interview (required).

Frequently Asked Questions:

Are you only accepting a limited number of applications? How many spots are available?

We will review applications and schedule interviews on a first come, first serve basis. You must submit a written application and schedule an interview for your application to be complete. We have a maximum of 20 places to fill. Once these spots are filled, no additional applications will be considered until we begin recruiting for the next cohort of business owners.

Is it beneficial to complete my application as soon as possible?

Yes, it is best to get your application in as early as possible. We have a maximum of 20 spots to fill and, once filled, you may have to wait until we begin recruiting the next cohort of business owners. Also, we have found that applications submitted at the deadline tend to be weaker and owners have not always thought through the commitment and effort to complete the 9 month program.

What is the time commitment and dates for the required works?

The time commitment is three hours per month to participate in a workshop with the whole cohort group and about two hours per month for an individual advising session on planning and implementing your chosen growth strategy.  Plus homework to apply the business principles and tools in your business operations.  In addition,   there are public events primarily the program graduation event in October to give you and your company greater public visibility. Owners who fully participate in all program components  obtain the greatest tangible results and professional development.  Dates of the workshops in 2015 are:

  • March 17
  • April 21
  • June 16
  • July 21
  • August 18
  • September 15
  • October 13
  •  October 20 PROPEL Program Graduation

What have other graduates achieved after completing this program ?

  • Historically, 9% of the graduates of the small business growth cohort groups cross $1 million in gross revenue within 2 – 4 years, which is four times the national rate for women and minority owned businesses*.
  • Other graduates also cross key milestones reaching $250,000, $500,000 or more in annual revenues within 1 – 4 years.
  • Companies have developed intellectual property or created new products.
  • About 10% of graduates acquire new financing, typically debt, for business expansion. Some have acquired equity from family and friends or successfully completed crowd funding campaigns for projects. Additionally, they are able to continue meeting lenders qualifying criteria, which provides options to pursue and finance future growth.

*Only 2% of all women owned businesses surpassed the $1 million revenue level (State of Women Owned Businesses Report, 2012 American Express Open study)

What do you consider to be a “small business?”

For this program we define a small business as having $100,000 – $2 million in annual gross revenue. We may make exceptions to our guidelines if the owner is moving into new product development, has created intellectual property, or has developed other innovations for the business. Additionally, we encourage suppliers to apply and may make exceptions for suppliers who are diversifying their product lines to add value to the company. If your business is outside of the revenue guidelines, you should contact us before completing your application.

What’s so important about reaching the $1 million in annual revenue?

Businesses with annual revenues over $1 million have a better chance of establishing long-term success.

You are a non-profit organization, so why do you charge for this program?

The PROPEL program charges a flexible monthly fee for several reasons. First, the sliding scale fee allows broad access to the program, while offsetting a portion of the program expenses. We keep entry costs low to encourage applications from all business owners who are qualified and motivated to grow. Second, requiring a fee encourages better participation and attendance in the monthly workshops and advising sessions. In our study of successful small businesses, we found the most successful participants paid for their participation. Finally, financing sources (such as banks) like to see owners making an investment in the growth of their company. Why should an outsider invest in the company if the owner is not willing to invest?

Do I need to attend for the full nine months? What if I miss a session?

All attendees are expected to reserve time on their calendars for the monthly half-day workshops. These are typically on the third Tuesday of every month from January – September 2014. You should plan to schedule vacations or weekend trips around the workshops. There is some flexibility in scheduling the monthly individual advising sessions. The monthly fees are required whether you attend or not, since they are low and only cover a portion of the program expenses. The PROPEL Program is an excellent value. Similar programs are typically priced $4,000 – $5,000, or more.

Who are the business coaches/advisors? What are their qualifications?

The business coaches and advisers are paid consultants and professionals with expertise in growth strategy, market research, branding, financial management, product development, and project execution. The consultants follow a core curriculum, but are flexible to ensure they meet the needs of the whole cohort group as well as the individual business owners. Special sessions with experts in industries and critical business processes are invited as guest speakers or recommended to owners if appropriate.

How is PROPEL unique?

The PROPEL Program introduces owners to the annual strategic cycle successful companies and the key business growth methods and tools existing business need to use to sustain or grow a profitable company. The primary goal of the program is to grow successful businesses with diverse leadership, and to help connect business owners to appropriate financing options to fund their growth.

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