Five years out, SBA Emerging Leaders graduate is thriving better than ever

Five years out, SBA Emerging Leaders graduate is thriving better than ever

What do you do when corporate downsizing makes you rethink your career goals?  Well if you’re like Gloria Carter-Hicks, CEO of Hicks-Carter-Hicks consulting firm, you take your severance pay and invest in control of your own destiny.  You start your own business. A graduate of Alton Senior High School and the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Carter-Hicks was raised in an entrepreneurial household.
 
“My father ran Carter’s Groceries in Alton, Illinois, a business of 37 years.  So I had a role model to look up to and then I entered the corporate world so it wasn’t like I was new to business, “she said.
 
Prior to launching her business in 1999, Carter-Hicks attended free start-up classes offered by SCORE, a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration.  As her business grew she took advantage of every class and networking opportunity offered by the SBA, including the very first session of the Emerging Leaders Initiative, executive level training for entrepreneurs in underserved markets. The Emerging leaders program offers approximately 100 hours of classroom time per participant and provides the opportunity for small business owners to work with experienced mentors, attend workshops and develop connections with their peers, city leaders, and financial communities. Carter-Hicks has high praise for the effects the program has had on her firm.
 
“It forced me to look introspectively at how I do business.  There was actually a panel of bankers, lawyers and SBA people that were our consultants and they gave us feedback on our business,” she said.  It’s an effort that would be tough to put forth had it not been for the Emerging Leaders program.”
 
One of the greatest advantages of the class was the interaction with other CEOs. The opportunities to share information and work on business development strategies as a team were invaluable.
 
“There are things you can’t discuss with your employees so it was nice to be able to talk things out CEO to CEO,” Carter-Hicks said.
 
A personally valuable benefit of the Emerging Leaders training is that Carter-Hicks connected with an important mentor for her business during the seven-month program.
 
“I gained an important advisory board member for my business. He had done what I was doing but in a different field,” she said. “I needed to pick his brain.  I wanted someone who was going to be honest and in my face and challenge me.”
 
Carter-Hicks has mastered an important philosophy inculcated in nearly every class or counseling session offered by the SBA:  Work ON your business, not IN your business. She’s always known the value of doing exactly that and now she’s helping other entrepreneurs do the same.
 
“Right now I have a work assignment that is so fulfilling because I am getting to work with business owners on how to grow and develop themselves and how to deal with any people or HR issues,” she said.
 
Working on a business means always looking to and planning for the future.  For Carter-Hicks and her team of consultants, the future could take them to faraway places.
 
“I’m really excited that I have people asking us about providing services on an international basis.  We have the technology, the infrastructure and ability to do that, “she said.  “We’re not afraid to travel.  We’re not afraid to use technology so we are looking at scalability not only nationally, but internationally.”
 
The Hicks-Carter- Hicks consulting firm has been in business for 17 years.  A commitment to continuous learning, execution of strategy and increased profitability have formed a trifecta that enables the company to soar to new heights.
 
“This is going to be one of our best years,” says Carter-Hicks. “And a lot of that is from all of the learning, applying it, and using it around not only product and delivery but toward being a better business.”
 
The St. Louis District is currently accepting applications for the 2017 Emerging Leaders class.  To learn more about the program SBA St. Louis is offering an information session on Feb. 3 at 2:00 p.m. at Webster University’s East Academic Building, 545 Garden Avenue, Room 102. For more information please contact Angie Wells at 314-539-6613 or via email at angela.wells@sba.gov