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The Inclusive Economy

Entrepreneurship: It’s Basically Our Middle Name

By Lauren Williams on 05/08/2015 @ 10:00 AM

Tags: Entrepreneurship

This post is part of a week-long series (May 4 – 8) to commemorate National Small Business Week, which recognizes the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Throughout this week’s blog series, you’ve heard our take on entrepreneurship as an asset, the financial challenges that plague the most vulnerable entrepreneurs and the imperative role of policy in positioning low- and moderate-income entrepreneurs for success. But what does that all mean? Why is it coming from CFED? And, more importantly, what are we doing about it?

Well, entrepreneurship is basically our middle name. Really. If you didn’t know: CFED stands for the Corporation for Enterprise Development and our earliest projects focused on new business development, especially among the poor and unemployed. We were founded by the visionary Bob Friedman (and are lucky enough to still have him involved, in a way, as our moral compass) on the belief that low-income families are too often deprived of opportunity, but rich in capacity and resilience. On top of that, we fundamentally believe in the value of all entrepreneurs and every job. Traditionally, a higher premium is placed on high-growth entrepreneurs and those who seek to realize big gains and employ hundreds of others. At CFED, we enthusiastically bestow the title of entrepreneur on any individual who takes the risk to launch their own venture, regardless of size or style or ambitions for growth. We acknowledge the contributions of all entrepreneurs as significantly—or at least potentially—influential for their households and communities more broadly.

Our approach for supporting entrepreneurship has evolved over the years. A few years ago, we reflected on an era of investments in leveraging the tax moment to empower low-income entrepreneurs. CFED had developed wide-reaching recognition for our asset-building and financial capability work. Our belief in the power of entrepreneurship was as strong as ever. But we needed a stronger foundation from which to connect those two platforms in a way that made sense for our work. So, two years ago we started a process to help us articulate the problem we want to solve, make connections between our brand and low-income entrepreneurs’ needs, and build out a new body of work to support solutions:

  • Defining Entrepreneurs’ Financial Capability Challenges. We started by defining the problem through research, asking low- and moderate-income microbusiness owners to identify their most significant financial challenges.
  • Exploring Policy Implications. We then explored the ways policymakers can support financially vulnerable microbusiness owners.
  • Mapping the Field of Existing Solutions. To avoid reinventing the wheel, we asked organizations, government agencies and private companies to share their ideas, products or services that help microbusiness owners address their financial challenges and highlighted innovative standouts.
  • Building Product & Service Providers’ Capacity to Design Solutions. Moving toward solutions, we decided to help organizations with innovative approaches improve their financial products and services so that they better meet the needs of the financially vulnerable business owners they serve.

What’s next for CFED's entrepreneurship work? Moving forward, we’re standing on In Search of Solid Ground. We will continue to explore and unpack the problems that were raised in our study to inform policy development, product and service solutions and CFED’s longer-term programmatic innovations.

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