What is the name of your organization?
Freedom In Me Business Showers, Inc
Is your organization registered as 501(c)(3) status with the IRS?
In what city, town, or region and state is your organization headquartered?Charlotte, NC, USA
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address? [Select up to 2]
What is the name of your solution?
Freedom In Me Business Showers
What is your solution?
The Business Shower is a two-day annual celebration and broad networking event. The event is the culmination of successful completion of 16 weeks of high-impact, virtual business training. 80 (+) finalists compete for 12 resource awards. A business plan and pitch presentation of the business idea is required to qualify for a business shower. Finalists are scored and the top 12 are selected as honorees. Honorees are gifted with industry-specific gifts, cash-awards, marketing services, entity application filing, fees and more. Those who don’t receive a Business Shower, still end with a business plan.
Each week a business-plan section is taught, and CEO work assigned. Coaches evaluate assignments against training objectives and provide corrective feedback. Clients receive 1:1 coaching sessions to ask questions and discuss implementation of critical aspects of their plans.
Training includes multiple modalities: small and whole group live training, slides review and recording playbacks. Weekly Q & A sessions provide coach and peer support; and, flexible formatting offers a client-centered approach to learning.
During the last 4-weeks of training, industry-specific business partners train on implementation strategies to focus on sales, marketing, income-producing activities, financial literacy and funding sources. In addition, key services are put in place, as needed: payroll, accounting and legal services. We use the Kajabi training platform to deliver our program. The platform can be used on desk-top or mobile devices. This provides flexibility to working adults who are also managing active family lifestyles. Moreover, our platform allows clients to discuss assignments and exchange peer support.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
Freedom In Me Business Showers leverages multiple forms of technology in the delivery of our program. The following core technologies support us day to day in our work. These and other strategies are introduced to our honorees during the 4-week implementation phase, as viable resources to achieve greater efficiency in business.
Kajabi-Learning Management System- Kajabi is a Learning Management System (LMS) that allows us to organize content, track learners' progress, facilitate communications, provide timely feedback and answer questions. In addition, the platform allows the inclusion of multiple training modalities: training slides, CEO work, live recordings and a convenient way to upload homework assignments. This is particularly useful for our demographic, since our data has shown that our clients are typically middle-aged women who still work a full time job, while also starting a business. Moreover, marketing features of Kajabi allow us to create sales and marketing materials to engage existing and new audiences.
Zoom- Video Conferencing Platform- Zoom gives us the ability to host live training meetings. In addition, the breakout room function offers an opportunity for smaller groups, which gives a more personalized experience. This technology enables us to extend our reach and access broader communities of customers, partners and sponsors.
Dubsado- Customer Management System- Overall, Dubsado offers a comprehensive suite of features that support is in managing various aspects of the business: streamline operations, improve client interactions, and save time by automating repetitive tasks, as it enhances efficiency and professionalism. Below are some common ways that we incorporate this technology:
Client Management- Dubsado provides tools to manage client information, communication history, and project details in one centralized location. This allows us to remain organized and provide a better client experience.
Automation- The platform allows automated workflows for tasks like sending contracts, invoices, and follow-up emails. This saves time and ensures consistency in business processes.
Scheduling- We have integrated Dubsado with our organization workspace email and calendar, enabling clients to schedule appointments based on real-time availability. This is particularly useful during recruitment when we encounter a large number of applicants. In addition, this CRM tool allows for easy scheduling of coaching sessions throughout the program year.
Contracts- Clients, vendors and partners can electronically sign contracts. This speeds up onboarding processes and reduces paperwork.Invoicing and Payments
Invoices-Dubsado generates and sends invoices and sets up automated reminders for payment. Dubsado supports various payment gateways, making it a convenient and flexible option for the organization.
Facebook/Instagram Insights & Analytics- Performance/Audience Insights/demographics: content performance, conversion tracking, ad campaign analysis, page insights: engagement metrics, follower growth and more.
Business Website- User Behavior: traffic sources, analyze how users navigate through the website, which pages they visit, how long they stay, and where they drop off. This helps us to be able to optimize our website's user experience Conversion Tracking: track specific actions taken on our website, such as form submissions, purchases, and downloads. This helps us measure the effectiveness of our call-to-action strategies.
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?
A new business model or process that relies on technology to be successful
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
Who does your solution serve, including demographics, and how does the solution impact their lives?
Freedom In Me Business Showers increases the success rate of new minority and women-owned businesses by combating top reasons, stated by the SBA, and supporting data, as to why new businesses fail: “… lack of finances, inadequate management, business plans and poor marketing strategies (SBA, Frequently Asked Questions, Dec. 2021, pp2).
We offer early-stage technical support to help clients sustain business pass their first three years, which is where they commonly fall off.
Clients are mainly 34-55 years old, African-American women, low to middle income, who seek to use life and work experiences to start a new business. Educational levels are high-school through Ph.D., with product and service-based, for-profit, and nonprofit business structures.
There are major gaps in minority and women business ownership relative to their population sizes. 12.6% of the U.S. population is black, yet only 2.1% of small businesses with employees are black-owned. Hispanics are 16.9% of the population, yet own only 5.6% of businesses” (Utah State University, 2019). A huge barrier is access to credit. “…inability to access credit can be detrimental because it can restrict (start-up options, and) expansion. The Federal Reserve Bank’s 2016, Small Business Credit Survey notes that 64% of small businesses who apply for credit do so to expand business opportunities…” “ Research shows that minority small business owners are denied credit from traditional banking services at higher rates than white small business owners.” (Asiedu, Freeman, and Nti-Addae, 2012; Bates and Robb 2015). We’ve aligned our services to the educational, financial, operational and technical needs, as documented by relevant research in order to provide clients with training, technical support and alternative funding and services needed to be successful. We maintain open communication with our demographic to increase our knowledge of their struggles and successes; this informs our service and process changes.
Explain how the problem you are addressing, the solution you have designed, and the population you are serving align with the Challenge.
The following components align with the application description of Business Development and Procurement, showing how those services address the problems.
#1- Lack of Training- We provide comprehensive training. Topics include identifying an ideal client, business structures and models, SMART goals, mission and vision and elevator pitch. SWOT analysis, sales and marketing strategies, income producing tasks, operational planning, finances and more are covered. Resource partners teach critical areas, including financial literacy, funding options, banking and legal services: payroll, accounting and legal consults.
#2- Lack of Funding- We provide industry gifts, in-kind services or monetary awards as alternative funding. These services may include logos, website design and hosting, marketing services, cash awards, brand development, and the financial value associated with 16 weeks of training, coaching and business plan development.
#3- Lack of a Business Plan- The first 12-weeks of training prepares clients to write a fund-ready business plan. They are taught how to write a pitch and deliver it to a professional audience.
#4- Lack of Marketing Plan- Marketing is interwoven in our service delivery: in the training curriculum and reinforced more specifically during the implementation weeks: 13-16.
#5- Increasing Networks- Partners provide services at free or discounted rates. The 2-day Business Showers event offers multiple networking opportunities. Day One: VIP- Clients network, meet new people and promote their businesses. Day Two: Main Event- A large scale, formal program is held in their honor. Partners, sponsors, community, family and friends give support. Clients set up service tables with their business marketing materials.
What is your theory of change?
Goal: To increase the success rate for small business owners within the first three years of business, by combating some of the top reasons new businesses fail: lack of training, money and people resources, marketing strategies, and business plans.
Impact Statement: Business Showers graduates possess the knowledge and skills to sustain in businesses past the first three years.
1). Outcome- Clients will complete a fund-ready business plan.
Weekly trainings on each business plan section
Provide 1:1 coaching to provide guidance.
Clients complete business plans that show strategies for financial growth and sustainability.
2). Outcome- Clients develop operational plans that support productive and profitable day to day business.
Training on operational strategies for completing daily, weekly and monthly tasks, including supply chain management and product delivery.
Provide information on technological tools that support day to day business operations.
Clients run smooth, customer-focused, revenue generating business operations.
3). Outcome: Establish Financial Sustainability
Guidance on writing short and long term financial goals and objectives.
Training on sales plans, market expansion and growth models.
Clients create comprehensive growth plans that align with long-term financial goals.
3). Outcome: Develop Innovative Marketing Plans
Training on the 5 Ps of marketing: price, product, position, promotion, people.
Training on the importance of market research related to target audience: demographics, psychographics and socio-graphics.
Training on developing business models, including pricing strategies.
Clients adopt marketing approaches that drive customer engagement, expand market reach and generate revenue.
4). Strategic Partnerships and Alliances:
Facilitate conversations on building strategic partnerships, collaborations, and alliances for mutual growth.
Clients establish meaningful business connections that enhance competitiveness, innovation to extend its service reach.
Clients are committed to ongoing learning and growth.
Clients will apply the knowledge provided in the program.
The Program is able to secure skilled partners in advanced business concepts who are willing to offer services in-kind or reduced.
Clients are motivated to explore partnerships
Monitoring of participant progress and implementation of business plans.
The completion of the final business plan and the pitch presentation.
Tracking business milestones during years 1-3.
What is your solution’s stage of development?Growth: an established product, service, or business model that is sustainable through proven effectiveness and is poised for further growth into additional communities.
What is your organization’s stage of development?Growth: A registered 501(c)(3) organization with an established product, service, or business model rolled out in one or, ideally, several communities, which is poised for further growth and has a proven track record with an annual operating budget
How many small businesses does your solution currently serve?
In the current program year we served 40 businesses in our finalists program.
In one year, our goal is to recruit and serve 60 businesses in our finalist program.
In five years our goal is to recruit and serve 80 businesses in our finalist program.
How do you define the community you serve, and who are its stakeholders?
The Charlotte, NC community is a thriving entrepreneurial hub. There is a growing number of individuals seeking to start new businesses. In addition, many organizations provide support to businesses at varying stages of development. Our organizational strategy is greatly influenced by our current grant-maker: The City of Charlotte, as we implement strategies, such as recruitment tactics and enrollment numbers within our target audience. In addition our Board of Directors, advisory committee members and staff provide valued input on decisions, such as fundraising efforts and monetary goals for the year. Moreover, in an effort to engage in continuous improvement, we solicit the feedback of employees, past and present participants, partners and sponsors to refine our processes.
How do you build trust within the community your organization serves and among small business owners?
Our program builds trusting relationships within the community using a multi-faceted approach. We actively participate in community networking, information sharing and mutual support. These behaviors allow us to build lasting business relationships, creating a sense of unity with a common goal to support new businesses. In addition, Freedom In Me Business Showers shares no-cost business tips and information through it's social networks. This showcases our commitment to empowering others without hidden agendas. We practice open, timely and friendly communications, which fosters trust and active engagement within the communities that we serve. Our website transparently shares information about all services, requirements, and ways to get involved. Our small business owners enjoy supportive communications with their cohort. The use of accountability partners builds friendships within their ranks that go beyond the training and program period.
What are your impact goals for the current year and the next five years and how will you achieve them?
Current Year- Over the remainder of the year, participants will implement the business plans they created, leading them to a clear path to sustainable, profitability and growth.
Participants will increase self-confidence and leadership skills, with 90% reporting enhanced decision-making abilities.
By the end of the program year (November 2023), participants will adopt and implement digital technologies that lead to increased operational efficiency and customer engagement.
2024- Within one year of completing the program, participants will increase their revenue by at least 10% through effective sales and marketing strategies learned during the training.
Within the first year post-program, participants will secure funding for business expansion, with a target of at least 25% successfully obtaining external financing.
20% of honorees will return to volunteer at a Business Showers event.
2025- By the end of 2025, the organization will develop level-up, targeted business-related mini-courses to promote to the general public.
2026- 2028- Participants will establish a network of business contacts and partnerships that contribute to business growth, with at least two collaborative projects initiated.
Participants will develop and implement long-term growth plans, with 60% reporting continued success and growth three (+) years after completing the program.
We plan to achieve these goals by continuing communications with participants, providing support and nurturing relationships with them. In addition, our Program contract stipulates that cooperation with data reporting is required for three years post graduation. Milestone reports will be put in place, for all participants, especially those that receive cash awards.
Why are you applying to Truist Foundation Inspire Awards?
Small Businesses are the lifeline of innovation and economic vitality. By nurturing them with guidance, resources, and mentorship, we fuel job creation, drive local economies, and foster a culture of entrepreneurship. Investing in these budding ventures is an investment in the future, where bold ideas flourish, industries evolve, and communities, especially those in underserved communities see representation from people who looks like them.
Receiving the Inspire Awards would enable us to bolster our efforts in key areas. Firstly, we could significantly enhance the quality and reach of our initiatives by facilitating comprehensive financial literacy training for our business cohorts. Partnering with Truist to assist us in delivering this would empower small businesses with essential skills and knowledge, fostering their financial resilience and sustainability.
Secondly, capacity building by assisting with the addition of new, skilled staff. With increased targeted staff, we could elevate the scope and efficiency of our operations, ensuring that our support reaches a wider range of businesses in need.
Moreover, the influx of funding would enable us to invest in strategic marketing initiatives, thus increasing our organization's visibility. This heightened exposure would attract more businesses to our programs, creating a positive cycle of engagement and growth.
Winning the inspire award would be instrumental in expanding our gifting program, allowing us to channel vital financial resources directly into the hands of small businesses who need it most. This infusion of capital could be the lifeline that many enterprises require to navigate challenges and seize opportunities to launch and scale.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Please explain in more detail here.
Truist Foundation Inspire Awards would play a pivotal role in propelling our non-profit organization towards expansion and greater impact. Understanding where to go for support and receiving it in the early-stages is vital to an entrepreneurs ability to scale.
Facilitate financial literacy training to our business cohorts.
Assist with capacity building by adding new staff.
Increase visibility through marketing.
Expand our gifting program by helping to get financial resources into the hand of the small businesses.