Enhanced Money Smart Curriculum Helps Better Serve Small Business Communities
Money Smart for Small Business (MSSB) is an instructor-led curriculum that provides a practical introduction to key topics related to starting and managing a business. Developed jointly by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) in 2012, this free resource was recently expanded from 10 to 13 modules, and translated into Spanish. These enhancements were in response to requests by organizations that teach or support the delivery of MSSB and are members of the MSSB Alliance, which consists of Money Smart instructors who promote and teach the small business curriculum.
In this edition of our Money Smart Success Stories, we share experiences from three MSSB Alliance Members that illustrate how the curriculum can be used, marketed, and combined with other small business development resources.
The Office of Minority Business Development (OMBD) in Richmond, Virginia, a city government program that encourages minorities to start and grow enterprises through business development services, has been an MSSB Alliance member since 2012. The organization offers two to three MSSB sessions per year and “graduates” about 20 to 25 entrepreneurs per session. The classes are marketed through OMBD’s database of more than 20,000 minority business enterprises and a wide network of partners.
“A very important success factor is the emphasis on the graduation ceremony, which is an opportunity to engage the community — including the local media, corporate sponsors, and government agencies — into business matchmaking opportunities for the program participants,” said OMBD Director Pat Foster.
In Indianapolis, Indiana, small farmers, including those who use grow fruits and vegetables on vacant lots or other small plots of land to sell in their neighborhood, benefit from MSSB training offered through Purdue University’s Extension program. In the words of Naomi S. Bechtold, an Extension Educator based in Indianapolis, “There are many training programs on farming practices, but not business practices.” That also partly explains why entrepreneurs who enrolled in a four-week New Urban Farmer Business Plan class selected the new MSSB modules “Cash Flow” and “Planning for a Healthy Business,” along with the “Time Management” module. Participants indicated that they especially wanted an in-depth understanding of cash flow, which they consider a critical aspect of running a successful business.
Bechtold also praised MSSB as an adaptable tool that works with diverse audiences. “MSSB did not require a lot of customization to be used with urban and rural farmers,” she said.
ACE Loans, an MSSB Alliance Member based in Cleveland, Georgia, is a nonprofit community lender specializing in small business loans and business advisory services. Its mission is to serve low-income people and build wealth in underserved communities. ACE Loans combines funding from foundations, individual donors, and government agencies, including grants from the U.S. Treasury Department (as a certified Community Development Financial Institution) and an SBA women’s business grant.
Maria Peck, Director of ACE’s Women’s Business Center, told the FDIC that having “MSSB in Spanish was a critically needed resource for our community,” and that she recruited pro-bono instructors to begin teaching MSSB in Spanish starting in the summer of 2016. A successful entrepreneur who is interested in giving back to the community, Peck was motivated to teach some MSSB modules by using the fully scripted MSSB Instructor Guide and PowerPoint slides.
“Ready-to-use MSSB resources make the involvement of subject matter experts a lot easier to obtain,” Peck said. “They just need to facilitate a topic that they master by using materials that require minimal customization.”
ACE has previously provided MSSB training in English and recently redesigned their offerings by building in time for peer learning and one-on-one consultations with the instructor in between each class. The new MSSB course has eight classes once a week. Guest experts teach the combined “Risk Management” and “Insurance” modules, and an accountant provides instructions on the “Tax Planning and Reporting” module.
Based on what the FDIC has been told by these organizations, our staff offers the following tips that may help those considering MSSB training for aspiring and existing entrepreneurs:
- Use Money Smart for Small Business as a complement to other business plan training curriculums commonly used by SBA partners, including Women’s Business Centers, Small Business Development Centers, and Veterans Outreach Centers. Also approach these organizations to discuss collaborations.
- Recruit organizations for entrepreneurs — such as Chambers of Commerce, trade associations, and small business lenders — to help you market or teach your MSSB training.
- Design an MSSB program that offers a variety of modules multiple times during the year, widely publish your training calendar, and build a reputation in the community as a resource for small businesses.
Other lessons learned from MSSB Alliance Members are available in the Spring 2013 issue of Money Smart News and on the MSSB Town Hall Meetings records page.
Note: A list of MSSB Alliance members also is available on the FDIC website and is updated periodically as a reference for organizations or individuals wanting to know who is offering MSSB near them. There is no cost to join the Alliance, and it takes only minutes to complete the short online form (cvent.com). Since 2012, more than 11,000 MSSB CDs have been distributed nationwide, and since November 2015 there have been more than 7,000 downloads of the MSSB modules. The more than 60 organizations that have joined the MSSB Alliance meet quarterly to share their experiences during MSSB Town Hall calls.
Graduates of an MSSB class offered by the Office of Minority Business Development (OMBD) of Richmond, Virginia, take a picture with Dwight C. Jones (center), mayor of the city of Richmond. His office collaborates with the OMBD by providing marketing support, facilities for the MSSB training, funding for technical assistance, and procurement support to OMBD clients.