Money Smart for Small Business in Action
Small businesses often need help maximizing their financial potential, so Liberty Bank in Middletown, CT, created its own academy. In 2016, the Liberty Bank Academy for Small Business began engaging local start-ups and businesses less than three years old. The Academy’s 10-session program features training modules from Money Smart for Small Business. Pam Days-Luketich, Assistant Vice President and Community Outreach Officer, offers these tips for other financial educators based on the bank’s experience.
- Work with a partner organization. For example, the bank partnered with SCORE to provide mentoring to participants in the months before and after the training.
- Encourage participants to use one another as a resource through networking. “I once saw a cleaning businesses enlist the services of a classmate who was a bookkeeper as a result of our session,” said Days-Luketich.
- Make it easy for attendees to build a strong relationship with a banker. For example, bankers can help conduct training, attend the classes, and follow-up with attendees afterwards.
- Use subject matter experts to enhance the material. “Money Smart is the bones of the program, experts add the meat and flavor,” said Days-Luketich. For example, an insurance agent can tell some real life stories as to why insurance is essential to the business.
- Connect people with a local support system “We engaged a local women’s business center to offer longer-term business counselling and assistance,” said Days-Luketich. She added that the 1:1 counselling on matters such as refining a business plan complements the general education provided through the Academy.
- Provide “seed” capital to launch opportunity. Besides the education, consider offering a business line of credit to qualified participants upon their completion of your course.
- Be flexible. The bank pivoted to virtual training during the pandemic. Days-Luketich reported that staff and participants effectively adapted, as participants were just as engaged on screen and found the new set up more convenient.
More than 330 people have graduated from the academy since 2016. And, 195 loans were originated because of it. This is yet another example of how Money Smart provides a tool to bring banks together with other local businesses and residents to create stronger communities.