Mountain Microenterprise Fund delivers knowledge and resources so that people from underserved communities can develop their own businesses and achieve their goals and dreams.
Aspiring entrepreneurs who have viable business ideas and the discipline to follow through will access the resources they need to create successful businesses. The entrepreneurs’ increased income and improved quality of life will build a more vibrant local economy in Western North Carolina. All who participate will know MMF as a trusted gathering place and community to bridge the gap between entrepreneurs of varying incomes, geographies and ethnicities. Mountain Microenterprise Fund will be a leading small business development organization.
We recognize and affirm peoples’ talents and dreams. We believe that successful businesses meet individuals’ personal and professional goals, and create prosperity in underserved communities. In all our interactions, we value the dignity and work of each individual and encourage self-sufficiency, accountability and interdependence.
The development and support of small businesses is crucial to growing and sustaining Western North Carolina’s economy. In the face of plant shutdowns and economic uncertainty, more people are creating their own businesses and achieving economic independence. It is small business, not big business that now drives our nation’s economy.
Having experienced tremendous growth over the past four years with a six-fold increase in clients served, the Mountain Microenterprise Fund board decided to be intentional about the organization’s future direction. The board’s strategic goals included ensuring that MMF’s decision making is grounded by its vision and mission, that MMF’s funding and growth is sustainable and that MMF is meeting the needs of the identified underserved entrepreneurs — low-income individuals, minorities, rural residents, and women.
A strategic planning team composed of board, staff, MMF alumni, and a consultant guided the process and interviewed key stakeholders. Board, staff, alumni, donors, business and community leaders were interviewed about the critical issues for the region and organization. The resulting strategic plan is organized on the known successful foundations of MMF: people, programs, and resources. The key themes of diversification and sustainability that emerged from the stakeholder interviews are woven into MMF’s core. Together, these elements will guide the organization’s growth for the next five years.
This strategic plan was approved and adopted by the MMF Board on April 4, 2003.
MMF is foremost about people and their dream to create a different life for themselves and their families. We value diversity among staff, board, and alumni.
MMF serves all individuals who aspire to be entrepreneurs and who may not have access to business development services and financing to start and grow a business.
1. Services are accessible to all people with a special emphasis on those people who live in rural areas, are low income, are Latino or are African-American, or are women.
2. We are active in outreach to grassroots organizations and leaders.
3. We market our services to people with barriers such as lack of credit, collateral, or prior business experience.
By 2005, MMF will:
· Increase the number of low-income individuals, rural residents, African-Americans, and Latinos accessing MMF services
· Ensure that programs are accessible to all participants
· Ensure program content and educational level is appropriate for underserved communities
· Evaluate staff responsibilities (especially in the far-western counties)
· Implement the marketing plan
MMF is a team-oriented organization that values honesty, fairness, professionalism and life balance.
1. Staff have the time, resources and the development opportunities they need to be effective.
2. The organization is structured to support staff and their provision of services.
3. We offer competitive compensation and benefits.
By 2005, MMF will:
· Develop professional development system
· Establish written orientation process
· Develop written policies and procedures for all programs
· Update job descriptions, and organizational structure and decision-making
· Conduct salary/benefits survey of local non-profits
Through a series of integrated services, MMF provides people a way to create sustainable businesses. Person by person, business by business, MMF builds communities from the ground up. We pursue the highest standards in our work.
MMF offers a continuum of services and provides the information, advice, support, and environment that facilitates success.
1. There is a full range of education and training for the aspiring entrepreneur.
2. Alumni have access to member services that bridges the gap between Foundations and other services in the area.
3. Loan products expand to bridge the financing gap for business growth.
By 2005, MMF will:
· Conduct Foundations course – 10% annual increase
· Implement Pre-Foundation course
· Offer additional financial and market research trainings
· Improve member health insurance option
· Explore additional program offerings like mentoring and on-line training
· Secure additional funding for Individual Development Accounts
· Increase Mountain Microenterprise Loan Fund’s staff resources and available loan capital
· Partner with equity financing/venture capital firm
MMF is known as a community partner and the resource center for entrepreneurs in each of the 12 counties of WNC.
1. We have significant presence in all 12 counties.
2. We partner with community organizations and leaders in all 12 counties.
3. We advocate on issues regionally, statewide and nationally that affects small business development.
By 2005, MMF will:
· Increase the number of public events conducted in the far-western counties
· Execute a targeted marketing campaign using the most effective media for each county
· Build and maintain relationships with key grassroots organizations and leaders
· Maintain strong national and regional presence in microenterprise industry
We believe microenterprise development is an effective strategy that results in long-term economic and social benefits. By creating an entrepreneurial and sustainable organization, MMF is providing a legacy for the next generation of small business owners.
MMF is an entrepreneurial, nonprofit organization that operates with a double bottom line of social impact and financial viability.
1. We evaluate our programs for social impact and financial viability.
2. We model our services and operations as a business.
By 2005, MMF will:
· Evaluate MMF’s services to determine if they are meeting the clients’ needs
· Survey MMF Alumni to determine business growth
· Develop means to measure MMF’s return on investment
· Improve organizational tracking and evaluation system
· Implement strategic plan
MMF is financially sustainable.
1. We have a diverse funding stream.
2. We increase our financial autonomy.
By 2005, MMF will:
· Develop a diverse source of foundation and government grants
· Build a 90-day cash reserve
· Create an endowment that contributes 5% of the organization’s annual budget
· Generate 30% of the budget each year from earned income streams and individual donors
“Give a person a fish, feed them for a day, teach a person to fish, feed them for a lifetime.”
A lesser known, but critical addition to this statement was articulated by Coretta Scott King: “You also need to help people gain access to the fishing hole, capital to purchase fishing gear, transportation to get their catch to market, and fair compensation for their product.”
Simply handing out fish is charity. Teaching fishing is the helpful first step towards a different future. But the conditions necessary for sustainability—so clearly identified by Ms. King—are the critical elements of economic empowerment.
At Mountain Microenterprise Fund, our fundamental commitment is to economic empowerment. We prioritize working with women, people of color, lower-income individuals, and rural people so they can help themselves to realize their dreams of owning their own businesses and increasing their family incomes.
These individuals increase their entrepreneurial capacity and self confidence by developing their basic business skills and increasing their knowledge of their particular industry and potential customer base. Their chances of business success are increased by accessing MMF’s small business loan pool and by networking and problem-solving with their business peers.
Through helping over 1200 people work toward economic self-reliance over the past 14 years, MMF has been instrumental in creating a healthier, more just economy in Western North Carolina. In real dollars that’s more than a $10 million annual impact on the economy. We have lent over $400,000 to small businesses that couldn’t get loans anywhere else.
Why? Because one of MMF’s fundamental beliefs is that “entrepreneurs are made, not born.” Some people mistakenly think that a person has to have an “entrepreneurial gene” to run a successful business, but that is just not true. A good idea, determination, and the ability to learn from one’s mistakes are most important.
In 2002, almost 400 people graduated from Foundations: MMF’s Business Training Program. This is a 600% increase as compared to 1998! MMF provides tangible assistance in the form of training, one-to-one consultation, loans, workshops, and networking opportunities. Most of all we believe in people and their ideas before anyone else does; maybe even before the entrepreneurs themselves.
There are still 25,000 emerging entrepreneurs in Western North Carolina who are not served. For MMF, we envision as an organization that is able to provide services to any entrepreneur who has a sound business idea and the gumption to follow through. We dream of a family of small business owners, staff, board, and donors, who, together, shape this region and provide fuel for the engine of economic growth, job creation and a better quality of life.
Sometimes, a story relays the message best. Jesse and Shelby were both laid off from their jobs a few years ago. Instead of wallowing in despair, they built on their skills and experience, came to MMF for some support and training and are now running their own car repair business. Jody came to MMF amidst the crisis of an ended marriage and pregnant with her second child. She built on her new skills in massage therapy, and coupled them with MMF loans, support, and confidence gradually built one of the most successful massage therapy businesses in the area. From public assistance to being voted “Best Massage Therapist in WNC” in only 4 years! MMF is about helping people reach their dreams and create the lives that they want for their families!