Research Report Connecting Financial Capability and Small Business Supports
Findings from the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund’s Small Business Boost Pilot
Mark Treskon, Alexa Kort, Brett Theodos
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This report examines an initiative designed to support the personal financial needs of small business owners: the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund’s Small Business Boost (SBB) pilot. This pilot, involving five localities and funded by the Principal Foundation, explores how one-on-one, free professional counseling services offered by Financial Empowerment Centers (FECs) could help entrepreneurs and small business owners improve their personal finances and better position them to achieve their business goals. This study examines questions on pilot implementation, take-up and retention, and the role of personal financial counseling in small business development. It uses data from the CFE Fund’s case management system and interviews with FEC counselors and managers, partner organization staff, and clients.

During the pilot, SBB clients identified and made progress on a range of personal and small business goals, and interviews with both clients and counselors indicated that in successful engagements, participants saw a clear link between personal and business financial well-being. The study also produced several lessons for small business and financial capability integrations, showing the value of targeted and ongoing counselor training and peer learning, clear referral pathways and robust interorganizational communication, and a clear assessment of the scope and nature of the local small business support ecosystem. The pilot illustrates the role that free, one-on-one financial counseling can play in supporting small business owners and small business support ecosystems and the relevance of personal financial issues, including credit, debt, and separation of business and personal finances, to small business owners.

Research Areas Economic mobility and inequality Nonprofits and philanthropy Race and equity Wealth and financial well-being Workforce
Tags Asset and debts Community and economic development Credit availability Economic well-being Employment Families with low incomes Family credit and debt Family savings Financial knowledge and capability Financial products and services Financial stability Inequality and mobility Job markets and labor force Labor force Racial inequities in economic mobility Racial wealth gap Small businesses Workforce development
Policy Centers Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center
Research Methods Data analysis Data collection Performance measurement and management Qualitative data analysis Quantitative data analysis
States New York Pennsylvania Oklahoma Michigan Iowa
Cities Rochester, NY Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA Pittsburgh, PA Tulsa, OK Lansing-East Lansing, MI
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