Small business owners: The training is on us
As a small business owner you try to do it all: producing a product or service, marketing to attract new clients, running a retail operation, and keeping on top of the books and financial reporting. It’s a lot, and there never seem to be enough hours in the day. However, the important part of any small business strategy should be the ability to step back and look at your business as a separate entity, not simply an extension of your life—that’s a strategy for burnout. The key, to quote Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth, is to learn how to “work on our business, not in your business.”
There are many ways to start building that capacity. At the Island Institute, we administer a program called Microgrants for Entrepreneurship and Community Impact (MECI). MECI grants are for professional development training for small business owners or anyone hoping to start a small business. These grants provide you with funding, so that you can take a breath, step away from the business, and build additional skills. What are some things you know you need some help with as a business owner? See the details and examples below to learn more about what MECI funding has been used for and how it might help your business.
What can MECI grants be used for?
What do we fund exactly? It’s really quite a list and including: courses, both in-person and online; software that would accompany such a course and then be used in the business; conference fees, travel to and from the conference as well as travel to in-person courses; and books and reference materials that will help you improve your business and the products or services you produce. I’m sure that I'm missing a few more, so if you have any questions about a particular need, just call us and ask.
Examples from MECI recipients
Examples can run the gamut from QuickBooks training for an aquaculture business at a local community college to apothecaries attending a convention on social media marketing. At the moment, we also have yoga instructors with grant funding taking their next level of yoga certification, and an island market gardener enrolled in an online permaculture class to build her skills so that she can eventually expand her operation and farm full-time.
Finally, a kelp farming operation is also using a MECI grant to provide dive training for its employees, so that in the future they can set screw anchors for their mooring lines themselves rather than contract with an outside dive firm. This will save the owner considerable money in the future as he expands their fields and resets lines, allowing him to use the savings in other areas of his business.
Another great example of a recent grant recipient is North Haven Brewing Co. Owners Jesse Davisson, Ben Lovell, and Liz Lovell used MECI funding to attend the annual New England Craft Brew Summit last month in Portland. During their time there, the partners were able to delve into topics that helped them look at new ways of marketing as well as ways to cut costs learned from peers who have been through the same process in their own breweries. In two short days, they gained more insight and tips than they ever imagined, which will help them as they tackle the brewery's third year in business.
How does the MECI application work?
We have a very short application that we are happy to walk through with anyone. All we ask is that the activity meet one or more of the impact indicators we use in measuring our work here at the Island Institute. The wonderful thing about MECI grants is that you can apply for the program more than once, and once you complete a MECI grant you can apply again.
When you receive a MECI grant we ask you to become part of our Island and Coastal Business Launchpad Program. It doesn’t add any additional work on behalf of the recipient—it simply links you into our small business network, so that we can keep you informed of any additional funding opportunities and conferences that might arise.
Other funding opportunities
This summer, the Island Institute will introduce a new investment program called the Tom Glenn Community Impact Fund. In addition, the Fund itself will serve as a comprehensive investment vehicle through which the Island Institute can more readily provide business owners with need-based professional development grants for projects that demonstrate community impact and catalyst loans to accelerate small business growth. In partnership with the Island Institute small business mentoring services, this new community development fund will help individuals with a new or existing business plan next steps in funding.
How we can help
The Island Institute’s Small Business team helps business owners with refining their business plan, and provides assistance in preparing essential business documents required to complete the loan due diligence process. This process will also prepare owners to confidently present their business model to other lenders and banks, making the quest for future funding through those types of entities even easier.
Do you have something you’d like to learn more about but simply don’t have the available funds to pay for—even though it could be a great benefit to your business and improve your bottom line? Give us a call—we'd love to figure out what we can do to help!
- MECI Grant Fact Sheet
- MECI Grant Application
- Michael Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It (2004)
- Island and Coastal Business Launchpad
What We Do
The Island Institute’s Small Business Team provides business and financial planning to help entrepreneurs navigate the complexities of starting and growing a business. For more information on our small business support services, feel free to contact Craig Olson.
Commercial Currents is an email and blog newsletter that shares buoyant stories from Maine’s island and coastal communities about economic stability and resilience. To find archived editions, go to islandinstitute.org/blog/economic.
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