Prior to COVID-19, over 92% of businesses in the US were classified as small business and they employed roughly 47% of the private sector workforce. COVID-19 had a huge impact on our entire economy, reducing small business numbers by over 34%. However, as the economy slowly begins moving forward, we see a sharp rise in entrepreneurial ventures as shown by a dramatic spike in EIN applications in early 2021. One sector of small business that is showing great resiliency is the microenterprise business. Microenterprise businesses are those that consist of less than 5 members, including the owner. Many new microenterprise businesses are being born out of need. COVID-19 created job loss and a desperate need for childcare, but also shifts in how people saw their work/life balance and many re-evaluated their goals and life strategies.
Microenterprise businesses have a direct impact on the community and local economy. Some of the key factors are that these businesses are based directly on local need and can be adapted as the community need changes. The revenue feeds more directly back into the local economy, and often microenterprise businesses employ members of the community who are disadvantaged or who may be excluded from traditional employment. These microenterprise ventures can help to occupy vacant store fronts and also draw in consumers from outside the local region. For the business owners themselves, they often report higher job satisfaction, greater connection to their community and in spite of the inherent risks in small business ownership, more control of their work/life balance.
Traditionally, high poverty zip codes have fewer microenterprise start-ups, but communities like Auburn have determined to make microenterprise development a priority. In January of 2021, the City of Auburn sponsored a pilot program for start-ups of under two years and entrepreneurs who qualified as microenterprise. The participants had to be residents of Auburn and qualify as low to moderate income. The program was implemented by the Cayuga Economic Development Agency (CEDA). The goal of the program was to encourage and support the microenterprise business community of Auburn.
The program consisted of educational sessions, mentoring, and networking. Presenters included subject matter experts from HR One, Hancock Estabrook LLP, Canandaigua Insurance Agency, Maple Seed Creative, In House Graphic Design, Inc., Dermody, Burke & Brown, CPAs LLC, Lean on Me Business Solutions, and Tompkins Trust Company. Five of the participants successfully completed the program and were awarded grants upon completion. Some small business owners who did not qualify for the grant program, still chose to complete it. In an effort to support these businesses past the initial program, mentoring, monitoring and networking continue. The goal is to see these business owners through their first three years of business, which is often the breaking point of many start-ups. Building up this network of vibrant microenterprise businesses also creates a supportive environment for new microenterprise ventures. One where there is strong peer-to-peer mentoring, community support and successful role models to encourage new entrepreneurs. We encourage you to learn more about and support the businesses who benefitted from the program’s grant and/or educational sessions:
- Anthony Vanderwerff Powerwashing – (315) 406-5170
- D&R Landscaping and Rubbish Removal – drlandscaping315.com
- D&T Painting – dtpainting.business.site
- Divine Coverings – accessories and products with dazzle – divinecoverings.com
- Less is Moree – event planning – facebook.com/LessIsMoreByLessieVillalba
- Louis Legacy – online business development – louislegacyllc.com
- MBK Music Group – music and video production
- Mercato 35 – gourmet food retail – Coming soon!
The City of Auburn has decided to renew the program and CEDA is currently accepting applications for another round of the Microenterprise Program. The program has been expanded to 12 weeks to allow for more sessions on Financial Literacy, Pricing & COGS and Time Management. There will once again be educators from our local community, as well as mentors, networking and resource materials. The program is open only to Auburn residents who meet the low to moderate income requirement. For those who do not meet the requirement, there is still the option to audit the educational sessions. The application deadline is August 9th. Additional information and applications can be found at cayugaeda.org/microenterprise.