The Microenterprise Program is social benefit organization designed to help some of the most economically disadvantaged individuals in our cities. The Program partners with homeless shelters, and other community development agencies to provide business and entrepreneurial training for residents of the shelters. The Program also collaborates with universities to provide its participants with teams of student mentors, faculty, and business professionals who help the participants develop their small or "micro" businesses.
How It Works
To be selected as an entrepreneur-in-training (EIT) for the Microenterprise Program, each applicant must be a resident at one of the homeless shelters (or client of the other agencies) with which the program is partnered. This ensures the EITs have taken appropriate steps to get off the streets and have access to basic needs and other professional and social resources. Admission is contingent on participants being clean and sober at the start of the program.
The Microenterprise Program's curriculum combines a unique blend of large group instruction and peer-to-peer assistance in weekly training sessions over a 15-week period. As part of the program, EITs are taught about business and entrepreneurship as well as personal development, personal finances and job searching. Each EIT is also paired with a team of two or three graduate student mentors, or "Champions," throughout the program. Champions provide advice, encouragement, and support to the EITs as they strive to achieve a positive, life-changing transformation. Each training session includes:
2 Hour Lecture
The Program Manager and invited guest speakers deliver entrepreneurial lectures, as well as lessons of personal and professional development, which fit into the overall goal of life transformation.
EITs meet with their Champions over a provided meal. The focus of this part of the day is relationship building, long-term planning, implementation of the business plan, and homework completion.
Each week, the Program Manager covers the homework for the next week's session with directions for completing the assignment(s).
EITs who complete the 15-week program participate in a pre-graduation trade show where they get to showcase their products or services to their family, friends, and potential investors. Afterwards, there is a graduation dinner ceremony. As part of the ceremony, each graduate must stand before the audience and give a 90-second fast pitch.
After graduating from the training portion of the Program, select EITs are able to participate in an incubator for an additional 15 weeks. The incubator provides the EITs with office space, maker’s space, and warehouse space in an effort to help them build prototypes and show proof-of-concept for their business ideas. The incubator also provides continued business support and mentorship. EITs participating in the incubator are assisted with building their websites and other marketing material, solidifying business logistics, securing their first customers and bookkeeping.