“Many lower-income entrepreneurs don't have the same opportunities as those with more money. The Micro Business Development Program allows us to gain skills so that we can implement business ideas and become more independent and, therefore, financially self-sufficient. Thank you for that!”
- MH, Burlington, VT
The Micro Business Development Program (MBDP) of the Vermont Community Action Agencies provides training, coaching, and access to financing for low-to-moderate-income Vermont entrepreneurs.
Since 1988, MBDP has helped to strengthen the economic self-sufficiency of more than 10,000 Vermonters as well as the economic vitality of our communities. We have helped launch or expand more than 2,100 Vermont businesses, created thousands of jobs, and helped entrepreneurs leverage more than $15 million in financing.
Being employed by others does not guarantee an individual or family is above the poverty line. In Burlington, 9.8% of families with a working adult, and 34.4% of working single mothers, live in poverty1. Many seek to increase income through small businesses, with 19% of the Vermont workforce owning a micro business2. According to a 2013 study by the Aspen Institute, 84% of people who launched a micro business to supplement their income moved out of poverty.
Self-employment uses someone’s best skills to their fullest. Many Vermonters are underutilized in the employment they have. They have greater gifts than they use in their day-to-day employment. Self-employment allows people to use their creativity, drive, and ingenuity to its fullest.
Self-employment promotes a positive social climate. The success our clients find shows other Vermonters that those who have disabilities, are or were living in poverty, are single parents, are New Americans, or have experienced unique challenges are valuable members of our community who deserve respect and dignity.
Self-employment allows community members to address their specific needs. Many of our clients are living with physical disabilities or mental health challenges that make it difficult to sustain employment. Many also are caring for others -- children, disabled partners, elderly parents -- and need to set their work schedules around meeting others’ needs. Designing their own work allows them to control the hours and days that they work. By helping people work who want to work but cannot work within the constraints of typical jobs, we help increase families’ incomes and help those with disabilities increase their financial security.
Ownership is an asset. As clients grow their businesses, they are increasing their likelihood of sustaining their financial security in the years ahead.
1US Census Bureau: Burlington, VT 2018: ACS 5-Year Estimates Subject Table Poverty Status in the Past 12 Months of Families
2 Fairlie et al., “The Kauffman Index, 2015 Startup Activity National Trends.”
Community Action MBDPs are Unique Amongst Small Business Programs
Why Micro Business Development Program?
Micro Business Development Program clients show us their resilience, creativity, and determination every day. They also show us how their low-income, negative credit histories, unstable housing, physical disabilities, mental health needs, race, limited assets, and limited relationships with those in the business sector have made it nearly impossible to get the toe-holds they need to get started and to sustain their businesses. Our MBDP coaches across the state are uniquely skilled to serve them. Collectively, we have over 100 years’ experience (need to get a precise number) working with clients facing these challenges. We help clients find their strengths, build their soft skills, and develop their businesses successfully, even with the heightened stressors they face. We help them learn to network and to apply for funding. With MBDP’s help, clients who often get stuck in unemployment or entry-level jobs find financial success and personal dignity in self-employment.
Our clients count on us to provide individualized, focused support on their journey to self-sufficiency. 25% of our clients averaged over 22 hours of 1:1 business counseling in 2019.
Clients across Vermont can connect with a Micro Business Development Program at their local community action agency:
BROC Community Action: Rutland and Bennington Counties
Capstone Community Action: Lamoille, Orleans, and Washington Counties
Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO): Addison, Chittenden, Franklin, and Grand Isle Counties
Northeast Kingdom Community Action: Caledonia, Essex, and Orange Counties
Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA): Windham and Windsor Counties
I now have much more hope that my business can still thrive in the current economic climate.