Authors: Amanda Blondeau, Northern Initiatives
This Co-Learning Plan proposed to develop training videos based on the 10 training areas of the FDIC Money Smart for Small Business program. Assessments were built in and pre/post-tests examined whether learning took place. The videos are now available at http://www.northerninitiatives.org/business-services/small-business-videos/
Project Updated As Of September 30th, 2014
Amanda Blondea, Northern Initiatives
Leveraging ten years of community development experience, Amanda Blondeau became the inaugural Director of Northern Initiatives newly launched Business Advancement Center in 2010. As the Center Director, Ms. Blondeau is responsible for the development and implementation of services and resources for microenterprises in 46 counties of rural Michigan and five Wisconsin Counties. Ms. Blondeau manages a team of staff, interns, and contractors to provide assistance centered on marketing, financial performance, social networking and e-commerce to over 100 businesses annually. Prior to directing the Business Advance Center, Ms. Blondeau was a business coach specializing in E-Commerce and Information Technology for Northern Initiatives for four years. Ms. Blondeau provides expertise in information technology assessment and strategies, project management, e-business development, and marketing.
"Expanding Economic Literacy by using the Money Smart for Small Business Curriculum" was an REI-funded Co-Learning Plan authored by Amanda Blondeau with Northern Initiatives. Initially founded as an academic program at Northern Michigan University, Northern Initiatives uses lending as its primary tool to revitalize the region's rural landscape. They also provide technical assistance and individual business support to improve financial literacy and the overall business strategy.
While most of Michigan had made substantial progress towards an economic recovery after the recession, Northern Initiatives' rural service area was struggling to keep up. Jobless rates are higher there than in Michigan or the United States as a whole, and the population has been on a steady decline. Ms. Blondeau and Northern Initiatives saw this as an opportunity to compliment the hard working, reliable attributes that the region already possessed, with access to the technical skill training programs that the area desperately needs. This inspired the vision for a series of Money Smart training videos.
They highlighted skills that new business owners tend to be less familiar with that can sometimes become barriers to running the company as efficiently as possible. Money Smart topics include insurance, tax planning and reporting, financial management, risk management, and credit reporting. The project team then created an online training portal to address different needs of client businesses in a scalable manner. The portal officially launched in September 2014.
In total, 25 small businesses received training through this model. This project also resulted in $147,000 in public and private investment.