Entrepreneurial Development Services Helps Individuals Grow Businesses in Oregon
Historically, the majority of AFI participants have used their savings to purchase homes, and business capitalization has been the least popular of the three eligible asset purchases. Few AFI grantees specialize in business capitalization as an asset purchase. Entrepreneurial Development Services (eDev, formerly Lane Microbusiness) in Eugene, Oregon, is one of those grantees.
Started in 1998 as a collaborative program of Lane Community College, Saturday Market, and O.U.R. Federal Credit Union, eDev formally organized itself as a 501(c)(3) non-profit microenterprise development organization in 2003. The organization’s evolving mission is to provide business development services to individuals who want to either start a small business or to build their existing business. eDev typically provides services to approximately 300 clients each year through one-on-one technical assistance, classes, or access to capital.
Many of eDev’s participants are using the program as means to start a new career. 40% of their clients are over the age of 50 and are highly educated, having completed at least some college. A large percentage of them are single parents who are trying to supplement their income, or are trying to become entrepreneurs so they can have more flexibility to meet their family obligations. Roughly 20% of the organization’s clients report having a disability. Word of mouth has been a particularly powerful tool for eDev; 70-80% of their clients are referrals from existing clients.
Keys to Success
eDev operates under the philosophy that everyone’s situation is unique with different needs and time limitations. Thus, they help people “where they are” and not in a preconceived notion of where they ought to be. For example, eDev work with many clients through phone and email because many of their clients don’t have the time or resources to meet in an office. They use different technologies such as Skype, to improve interaction during meetings. Their clients appreciate how much eDev tries to accommodate their different situations. The organization attributes their flexible approach as especially critical to the success of individuals living with disabilities in their programs.
In addition to having a flexible approach to IDA participant needs, eDev requires all IDA applicants to participate in a 3-month pre-saving program, and they require individuals to apply for the IDA program afterwards. The pre-savings program requires each applicant to make a minimum $25 deposit into an account for three consecutive months. During that time, applicants may not make any withdrawals from the savings account. The IDA program application also requires the individual to conduct a feasibility study on their business model. eDev credits this additional preparatory work to its IDA program termination rate below 1%, much lower than the national average.
To learn more about eDEV, visit their website.
This article originally ran in the IDAresources.org Update Newsletter on 2/9/12 and is available for archival purposes.