The CU Grow Program Welcomes its Fifth Cohort of Minority-, Women- and Locally Owned Businesses with a Matching Ceremony

February 23, 2021

The CU Grow: Vendor Development Program welcomed its newest cohort on February 11 at its vendor/coach matching ceremony, launching the program’s fifth year helping minority-, women- and locally owned (MWL) enterprises grow their businesses. During the ceremony, executives of the 21 participant firms were introduced to the expert coaches that they will work with over the next eleven months of the program. This will be the second year the program will be offered in an online format due to the pandemic. 

The Facilities and Operations-led initiative helps MWL firms build capacity and expand their business through opportunities with Columbia University and other large clients. During a private breakout session, each participant met with their expert coach to identify their firm’s challenge areas, beginning the pair’s collaboration in creating a personalized three-year strategic growth plan that will inform the firm’s executive level decision making.  

Following a structured curriculum designed by the Columbia University School of Professional Studies, the expert coaches help guide the MWL executives through the program and support them in better defining their business policies and procedures using their knowledge in business development, procurement, project management, finance, and marketing. During procurement events held throughout the duration of the program, participants have the opportunity to network with purchasers from various Columbia University campuses and gain access to resources from other partners. 

This past summer, the program introduced a Marketing Expert in Residence to better serve current participants and alumni in pivoting their businesses during the pandemic. Available to meet one-on-one virtually, the Marketing Expert has already helped 14 alumni by providing strategies on social media, web marketing and other digital strategies. Starting this spring, two Construction Experts in Residence will also join the team to provide high-level construction expertise in partnership with the School of Professional Studies’ Construction Administration Master’s Program. 

“The program could not have assigned me a better coach than Deborah Romain,” said Shazia Anjum, President of Webnest Construction Company and member of the fifth cohort. “I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and expand my network and I enormously enjoyed my first chat with my coach, and can tell already from the first conversation how this program will expand my thinking about my business!” 

Since CU Grow began in 2017, the program has graduated 62 firms, awarded over $48M in contracts and approved 48 of the graduating firms to become Columbia University vendors. Vendors who successfully complete the program will graduate in December 2021. 
The expert coaches and vendors from the fifth cohort include: