Besides turning a profit, Schneiberg is out to improve what is a distressing statistic: that 50 percent of small businesses fail within their first five years.
Schneiberg attributes that to people launching businesses without a number of essentials, including a marketing plan, adequate financing, effective communication skills, and a wise physical location.
Small-business owners are often "driven by the skills they have," but they lack the vocational preparedness to translate those skills into thriving enterprises, Schneiberg said.
LearnQuest's new program, expected to seat its first class in September, will combine the traditional M.B.A. curriculum with a hands-on learning approach characteristic of vocational education, plus one-on-one mentoring. That will be offered over 10 months for $14,500. (Details can be found at http://www.learnquest.edu/.)
Schneiberg and the faculty of entrepreneurs he has amassed say the program is unique for its depth. That's hard to assess in what has been a rapidly expanding field of entrepreneurship-training programs locally and nationally in recent years.
What is not in dispute is that they are all needed, said Geri Swift, president of Women's Business Development Center, a Philadelphia nonprofit that offers a range of entrepreneurship training - the longest, lasting 10 weeks, for $425.
Small business is "where the economy is going," Swift said. "We need that kind of education and training, and we need as many different models as we can to assist people."
At Beyond Knitting Concepts, the self-assured Alexander acknowledged that she may not have the skills needed to achieve her goal of starting a nonprofit that encourages youths to express themselves creatively.
Now 30, Alexander was a marketing and advertising major at the University of Miami, where her interpersonal skills were adequately developed, she said. The other stuff she needs to excel in business? Not so much.
"As far as financials, overhead, inventory, hiring employees, insurance . . . I am not too strong," Alexander said.
Those sentiments were echoed by a relative business veteran compared to Alexander: Dahlia Wigfall. Her four-year-old Red House studio in East Falls teaches sewing and offers for sale the clothing and accessories made there. In a corner of the converted rowhouse on Midvale Avenue, Alexander's handiwork is also available.
"I've always been an artist," said Wigfall, 34, holding a lampshade she was jazzing up with fabric flowers and dangling accessories. Her business is "kind of taking off now. I'm lacking the skills to really make it happen."
For instance, Wigfall asked, how does she determine what to charge or how many pieces need to be made to make a profit?
"It's a simple thing to a business mind," she said. "But to a creative mind . . . it's tough. I come in, and I just want to create."
Those are the sorts of issues LearnQuest will focus on - using the challenges confronting the business owner/students in the class as case studies, Schneiberg said.
The problem with traditional M.B.A. programs is that they are largely based on case studies of large international companies. "I don't see how that helps small business in the Philadelphia area," he said.
Schneiberg himself has two sizable obstacles to getting small-business owners to sign up for class: their notorious lack of funding and free time.
Alexander, who attended one of LearnQuest's introductory workshops, said she planned to enroll in the small-business program - if she's approved for its financing program.
Wigfall, who just learned Friday of LearnQuest's new initiative, wasn't so sure it was for her, voicing a refrain common among small-business owners:
"I have such a hectic schedule."
Contact staff writer Diane Mastrull at 215-854-2466 or email@example.com.