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Small businesses benefit from some ‘MicroConsulting’

Small business owners, no matter where they live, wear multiple hats. They are experts in their trades, managers, advertisers, legal navigators and accountants, and often at times even mothers and fathers. In between the thousands of tasks they have to do, they also have to come up with a strategy to grow and sustain their businesses. That’s why Accion East launched its first-ever MicroConsulting Program.

Accion East and its Microfinance Council, a volunteer network that advocates for Accion East, matched volunteers with Accion East-supported business owners based on their needs. The volunteers focused on one achievable project that would lead to growth. With two volunteers per business owner, they worked over a seven week period to provide the business owner with a deliverable.

At the end of the seven weeks, the Microfinance Council and Accion East’s staff, board members and supporters celebrated the accomplishments of the program participants at the PIMCO office.

As I arrived to PIMCO, each business owner had a table showcasing their business. I tried a cupcake from Kicky’s Kitchen, a samosa from Masala Wala and lathered on lotion from House D’Marsh. Also on display were beautiful hand-made leather journals and bags from NadiraBag, bangles and earrings from Crusoe Jewelry and cookie cakes from Fatty Cakes. Then, the volunteer-client pairs gave short presentations on what they achieved together.

Read on for descriptions of the businesses showcased and the support that the MicroConsultants provided!

Christie MacKinnon is the owner of Kicky’s Kitchen a boozy cupcake catering business. She was ready to expand her business from catering to retail, but she didn’t know who would buy or sell her boozy cupcakes and cupcake kits.

  • Solution: Her volunteers researched online and retail distributors that would best fit her brand and products. They proposed a plan to distribute her cupcakes through Etsy and Whole Foods.
  • Volunteers: Nanette, Senior Consultant at Ernst & Young and Suhail, Associate at Grant Thornton

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Make Your Dream Come True

“Nadira El Khang came to the United States five years ago not knowing any English from a male-dominated society. Now, she speaks English, has a college degree and owns her own business. If that’s not the American Dream, I don’t know what is.”

This was my introduction to Nadira El Khang, which was given by an Accion volunteer, David, at Accion East’s MicroConsulting Program Celebration event last Wednesday at PIMCO’s New York City office. Accion East’s MicroConsulting Program, led by Accion’s Microfinance Council, pairs young professional volunteers with Accion East clients for a seven week consulting project with the goal of growing their business. (For more information about this program, I’ll be writing about that next week.)

Nadira owes her success to her talent. I can’t stop telling people how incredible her bags are. Standing in front of her exhibition table, I could see all of her talent manifested in the beautiful and stylish designs. Each of her handcrafted bags is soft to the touch and smells of rich leather. And, every bag is unique!

Nadira, showing off one of her fabulous bags.

Nadira, showing off one of her fabulous bags.

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New York City? Why, Yes!

Right after the Accion Ambassador Training in Boston, I returned to New York City, where I will spend the rest of my summer serving as an ambassador at Accion U.S. Network and Accion East, two partners of Accion’s U.S. focused partners. New York City is not Bombay, not Mexico City, nor any of the other exotic, international locations other Ambassadors are traveling to – but she does have her own soul.

Google map told me that I would be going to an office near the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and New York Stock Exchange, two blocks away from Wall Street in Manhattan. You may think that rents would be crazy in this area – especially for a non-profit organization. But, not really! After 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, most of banks moved from this area to midtown Manhattan, and now, the downtown area is much more affordable. Almost all offices in our building are rented by non-profit organizations.

But, now, I must go back to work (which I will share more about soon). I am so excited by just the few interactions I have had so far with my new colleagues. On Friday evening, when my colleague next to me said, “Have a great weekend,” I heard people singing in the office – I am sure I will, exploring this exotic city. Continue reading