Small Business Growth Program

Small Business Growth Program

Applications and Eligibility

I'm Interested in Being a Client

The Polsky Small Business Growth Program supports South and West Side entrepreneurs in growing their businesses through coaching and consulting work completed by top student talent under supervision of local business leader coaches and Chicago Booth faculty.

What You Will Get: 

As clients, business owners receive free consulting services from teams of student consultants, supervised by Chicago Booth faculty. This work is organized into a 30-week engagement that includes in-depth research and analysis to build a unique strategy for the business, followed by strategy execution planning and plan implementation. Specifically:

  • 10 weeks – Weekly meetings with coaches and MBA team to build unique strategy for your business growth (Discovery)
  • 10 weeks – Introduction to service providers and strategy execution planning with continued advisement by coaches and students (Planning)
  • 10 weeks – Deploy up to $5K in services to approved vendors, covered by the Polsky Center, for plan implementation with ongoing support from coaches and Polsky team (Implementation)

Who Should Apply:

South and West side business owners seeking to grow their businesses from six figures in annual revenue to over $1M who are seeking to secure larger contracts with corporations and are:

  • Ready to make shifts in their businesses to achieve greater success;
  • Seeking to grow their customer base;
  • Prepared to spend time to work on their businesses (and not just in their businesses), i.e. step away from daily operations to grow the business; and
  • Able to attend virtual meetings weekly with their dedicated teams, and an in-person gathering at the start and close of the program.

Application Process:

The application for the 2024 Small Business Growth Cohort is closed. Please direct all questions to Isra Omar at

I'm Interested in Being a Student Consultant

The Polsky Center seeks highly motivated UChicago graduate students looking to apply to be a business development or business planning consultant. Candidates will possess:

  • Interest in business management, entrepreneurship, small businesses, social impact via economic growth in an urban setting, and/or consulting;
  • Excellent interpersonal, verbal and written communication skills;
  • Ability to be proactive and to follow through with attention to detail;
  • Availability to attend all virtual meetings weekly with your team/client, and an in-person gathering at the start and close of the program;
  • Capacity to commit 10 hours per week for ten weeks; and
  • Strong attention to detail and a team player.

Please note that there will be a preference for students with previous consulting experience.

The Polsky Center will work with graduate level students to help provide growth strategies to support and scale local businesses. Each business will work with business development or business planning consultants overseen by a senior-level executive and faculty member at Chicago Booth. The consultants will play an integral role during the customer discovery/research and project planning phase. Additionally, each consultant will have an executive coach for additional support.

In the first phase of the program (2024 winter quarter), the business development consultant will work with clients addressing the following key areas: local competitive landscape, food pricing models, supplier relationships, digital marketing presence, employee satisfaction, or institutional partnerships.

During the second phase of the program (2024 spring quarter), the business development consultants will overlap with the incoming business planning consultants to ensure a clean handoff. During this phase, the team will work with the client to take the data obtained during the first phase of the project and develop strong recommendations. Once these recommendations are agreed upon the team will work to develop strategic goals, timelines and execution plans.

Student consultants will receive training on growth marketing and innovation topics, research and analysis approaches, best practices and processes for consulting engagements, and skills for managing successful client relations. The program will accept graduate level students currently enrolled at the University of Chicago.

Students will receive a small stipend for their project work with the expectation that time in this program will require up to 10 hours per week. Please note that there are only ten open positions available for each role.

The application for the 2024 Small Business Growth Cohort is closed. Please direct all questions to Isra Omar at

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