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(Left to right) Mark Quinn, U.S. Small Business Administration district director with 2014 Emerging Leaders Dr. Tamara Hill-Bennett of Logic Eye Care Inc. and Daniel Costa of OPS Security Group at the graduation ceremony held Nov. 5 at La Calaca Feliz Restaurant.

-ABDUL SULAYMAN/TRIBUNE CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER

When Dr. Tamara Hill-Bennett tapped into the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Emerging Leaders program, she sought to build a solid foundation towards the future growth of her business.

Hill-Bennett is the CEO of Logic Eye Care Inc., a multi-speciality medical optometry practice located at 2030 Allegheny Ave.

She’s one of 15 business leaders to graduate from the 2014 Emerging Leaders Program which identifies small inner-city businesses across the nation demonstrating high growth potential and provides them with a free, intensive six-month course of in-depth education in organization management, growth strategies and management, market development and strategic planning.

“As an optometrist, we don’t learn the business aspect of optometry or business in general, so the class really helped me fine-tune what I’ve already learned by trial and error throughout the 14 years of being in practice,” said Hill-Bennett, who specializes in primary care, pediatric, ocular disease and geriatric care.

By participating in the program, Hill-Bennett has been able to develop a plan for business growth within the next three years. She plans to grow the pediatric side of her business by expanding Logic Eye Care’s services within charter schools. Back in 2009, she launched the Healthy Vision Charter School Initiative which provides eye examinations and glasses to children in participating charter schools.

Hill-Bennett said she learned how to better understand the financial aspects of her business and her leadership style.

"I found that a lot of business owners rely on other people to do the work. For me, I found that I didn’t understand my own financials and what they actually meant. That was something that I needed to work on and understand how to gauge that part of the process,” she said.

Hill-Bennett referred to the Emerging Leaders initiative as a great program for business owners.

“As entrepreneurs we’ve already done the groundwork somewhat, and I think that this program will really benefit those that really want to take their business to the next realm or the next level,” she added.

Hill-Bennett joins 14 other Emerging Leaders including Sam Chaudhry, president of Salus Health Inc.; Brett Kolb, founder of CoyoteLight, Inc.; Daniel Costa, president and CEO of OPS Security Group; Dominic Menta, chief operating officer of Environmental Construction Services, Inc.; Eric Devine, CEO of Chester County Linens, LLC; Angel Hackney, president of Morgan Construction Management; Yan Huo, founder of Art of Wellness LLC; Joseph Nolfi, vice president of Roman Sentry Security, Inc.; Rajesh Rajankutty; Brian Sirhal, owner of Feliz Restaurants; Walter Smith, president of North American Roofers; Kahiga A. Tiagha of Tiagha & Associates; Dr. Bruce Williams, owner of In Touch Medical Associates; and, Charlene Wilson-Doffoney, owner of Mitchum-Wilson Funeral Home Inc.

The Emerging Leaders were honored by SBA Regional Administrator Natalia Olson-Urtecho during a ceremony held Nov. 5 at La Calaca Feliz Restaurant in the city’s Fairmount section.

During the ceremony, Olson-Urtecho stressed how important small businesses are to the nation’s economy.

“Half of all Americans own or work for small businesses like yours. Small businesses are vital to the U.S. economy, and here in Philadelphia we are counting on you to grow the economy and create jobs in your neighborhood,” she told the graduates.

“You are leaders in your communities, as Emerging Leaders graduates. You have gained the skills and obtained the knowledge to push the businesses you’ve started to greater success. I believe you’ll go far. As the brightest rising stars in your community, I know you will roll up your sleeves and do everything in your power to hire more workers, create more jobs and mentor the next generation of successful Philadelphia entrepreneurs and innovators.”

The SBA launched the Emerging Leaders program in 2008 as a way to stimulate urban economies by helping their most promising businesses grow. The program’s curriculum includes approximately 100 hours 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. Participants attend sessions focusing on growth goals, marketing, sales, financials, government contracting and accessing capital. The program is offered in 27 cities across the nation.

The training is open to small business owners that have annual revenues of at least $400,000 and have been in business for at least three years.

“What we've seen is 67 percent of the participants have reported increase in revenue and 75 percent have reported that they are created new jobs in their communities which has been key in the last four years of the recession,” said Olson-Urecho.

The SBA is a government agency that provides support to entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Contact staff writer Ayana Jones at (215) 893-5747 or ajones@phillytrib.com

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