Business Owner Commends CU Grow Program as “Life Changing” for Her Business at Graduation Ceremony for Program’s Seventh Cohort

December 15, 2023

Monica Barnwell, principal of Beacon Interiors, praised the CU Grow: Vendor Development Program as an invaluable experience for her business as she and 18 other business owners celebrated their completion of the program during a ceremony held at Columbia’s Faculty House on December 6.

The 19 graduating firms in the seventh cohort of the CU Grow Program – a Facilities and Operations-led initiative designed to support minority-, women- and locally owned (MWL) businesses build capacity – specialize in areas including carpentry, construction, window treatments, welding, fencing, and more. CU Grow is powered by a Capital Readiness grant awarded by the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA).

Barnwell, whose company secured the window treatment contract for Columbia's 34-story student and faculty residential building at 600 West 125th Street and a maintenance contract to support electric window treatments at the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center, discussed how the program moved her to consider questions about her business in ways she had previously not contemplated.

"CU Grow has been one of the most educational and fulfilling experiences I have participated in to advance my business. After graduating from this incredible program, I now consider myself an 'A-level Leader.' This program inspired me and supplied me with important lessons needed to grow and pivot my services. I have also gained lifelong mentors, advisors, and friends," said Barnwell.

CU Grow provides MWL firms with no-cost dedicated expert coaching and an ecosystem of resources to support firms on securing more contracts and engaging with new clients, leading to business expansion. The program follows a curriculum designed by Columbia’s School of Professional Studies to foster executive decision-making and strategic thinking to assist firms with business management and growth. Participants receive professional guidance to create and execute a three-year growth plan and access experts-in-residence to receive industry-focused guidance throughout the program. After graduating, they continue to receive support from the Facilities and Operations Construction Business Initiatives team.

In addition to helping participants hone their business acumen, CU Grow identifies contracting opportunities for all firms across Columbia’s campuses and recommends that graduates be considered approved university vendors. Each year, the program, participants, and alums are always invited to four procurement events with Columbia and other University affiliates to learn of upcoming contract opportunities, with some graduates of cohort seven already having been awarded contracts with the University. 

To date, CU Grow has graduated 117 firms who have collectively earned over $123 million with the University.

CU Grow graduates gather in front of the presentation screen holding certificates of completion.

The vendors who graduated from the seventh cohort include:

CU Grow will host two cohorts in 2024, offering opportunities for 40 businesses. Eligibility for the program includes vendors who are eligible to certify as minority- or women-owned business enterprises or be based in Upper Manhattan or the South Bronx, have annual revenue between $250,000 and $10 million, or provide a commodity or service that is aligned with the University's needs. Eligible businesses can apply to be part of the 2024 cohorts by completing an application on the CU Grow website before the January 20, 2024, deadline.