Small businesses benefit from some ‘MicroConsulting’

Small business owners, no matter where they live, wear multiple hats. They are experts in their trades, managers, advertisers, legal navigators and accountants, and often at times even mothers and fathers. In between the thousands of tasks they have to do, they also have to come up with a strategy to grow and sustain their businesses. That’s why Accion East launched its first-ever MicroConsulting Program.

Accion East and its Microfinance Council, a volunteer network that advocates for Accion East, matched volunteers with Accion East-supported business owners based on their needs. The volunteers focused on one achievable project that would lead to growth. With two volunteers per business owner, they worked over a seven week period to provide the business owner with a deliverable.

At the end of the seven weeks, the Microfinance Council and Accion East’s staff, board members and supporters celebrated the accomplishments of the program participants at the PIMCO office.

As I arrived to PIMCO, each business owner had a table showcasing their business. I tried a cupcake from Kicky’s Kitchen, a samosa from Masala Wala and lathered on lotion from House D’Marsh. Also on display were beautiful hand-made leather journals and bags from NadiraBag, bangles and earrings from Crusoe Jewelry and cookie cakes from Fatty Cakes. Then, the volunteer-client pairs gave short presentations on what they achieved together.

Read on for descriptions of the businesses showcased and the support that the MicroConsultants provided!

Christie MacKinnon is the owner of Kicky’s Kitchen a boozy cupcake catering business. She was ready to expand her business from catering to retail, but she didn’t know who would buy or sell her boozy cupcakes and cupcake kits.

  • Solution: Her volunteers researched online and retail distributors that would best fit her brand and products. They proposed a plan to distribute her cupcakes through Etsy and Whole Foods.
  • Volunteers: Nanette, Senior Consultant at Ernst & Young and Suhail, Associate at Grant Thornton

Roni Mazumdar is the owner of Masala Wala, a local Indian restaurant in the Lower East Side. Roni’s accounting system was literally a shoe box filled with receipts. It kept Roni up at night, but he didn’t know what to do instead.

  • Solution: The volunteers transferred all finances since inception of the restaurant to QuickBooks. They sifted through receipts, created a chart of accounts and trained staff on how to use the software. Now, Roni can sleep a little bit better knowing his finances are well-managed and under control.
  • Volunteers: Chloe, a Healthcare Research Analyst at JP Morgan Chase and Susie, Global TMT Coverage & Advisory at Deutsche Bank

Glenroy March is the owner of House of D’Marsh, a fashion company that boasts two couture collections along with stylist and runway services. With his business rapidly growing, Glenroy needed management skills to lead an effective team.

  • Solution: The volunteers created structure for Glenroy’s employees by revising job descriptions and creating an employee manual. They also implemented a system to track employee performance.
  • Volunteers: Linda, Menswear Planning at Macy’s and Ruchika, Senior Business Analyst at CHANEL

Nadira El Khang is the owner Nadira Bag, a handmade leather goods retailer. (For Nadira’s business story, read my previous blog “Make Your Dream Come True”). Nadira wasn’t even sure what her problem was: she was growing quickly but lacked infrastructure. She needed a website, studio space and a system for tracking her business finances.

  • Solution: While Nadira had already found a company to create her website, the volunteers had identified a website developer who would save her hundreds of dollars each month. The volunteers also found affordable studio space and transferred her finances to Quick Books.
  • Volunteers: David,  Attorney at Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman and Tina, Associate at Grant Thornton

Jennifer Taylor-Miller is the owner of Fatty Cakes, a cookie company specializing in the craziest concoctions you’ve ever heard of or tasted. Jennifer wanted to utilize her social media channels to engage her fans, but didn’t know how to best do that.

  • Solution: The volunteers created a “three-pronged approach”. They formulated a plan to increase followers on all social media channels. They implemented #fattyfridays, a raffle for a free cookie cake and re-envisioned the focus of her blog.
  • Volunteers: Nameeta, Marketing Consultant and Alyssah, Mutual Funds Internal Wholesaler

Maya Ahluwalia is the owner of Crusoe Jewelry, a maritime-inspired jewelry company. Maya was using Quick Books, but didn’t know how to use it to create a strategy for growing her business.

  • Solution: The volunteers created a financial model for Maya’s business and taught her how to fully utilize Quick Books to understand her business, like creating a profit and loss statement.
  • Volunteers: Rhema, Director, Corporate Banking at CIBC and Ross, Associate, Futures & OTC Clearing at Bank of America

Check out more pictures from the celebration event at PIMCO and read more about (and “like”) the Accion East Microfinance Council on Facebook.

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