SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A business development program aimed at small business owners started Tuesday in Springfield.

More than 20 percent of small businesses fail in their first year and nearly half within the first five but through this program entrepreneurs receive help. “Rise Up Springfield” is a partnership between the City of Springfield’s Office of Planning and Economic Development, Valley Venture Mentors, and Interise.

For around 15 businesses owners, the six month, hands-on program provides the knowledge and networks that business owners need to create and manage, a three-year growth plan for their business. The program is funded through the city’s community development block grant so it’s free for participating businesses.

“They are really a generator of job creation. I know a lot of times you hear about the mega projects and the mega businesses expanding but when you start to add up all the small businesses and the jobs they create it’s a huge percentage.” Mayor Sarno

To qualify, businesses need to be based in Springfield or connected to VVM, have between $150,000 to $10-million in revenue, have been in business for at least three years, and have one other full-time employee besides the owner.

Nationally the program has seen great results with 64-percent of alumni businesses having an average revenue growth of 21-percent.