A new way to give back with MicroBusiness Mentors

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Business majors aren’t the only BYU students who can give back to the community in financial terms.

MicroBusiness Mentor and BYU student JT Adlard helping during the MBM fireside in February.
MicroBusiness Mentor and BYU student JT Adlard helping during the MBM fireside in February. (Photo courtesy of Francesco Loli)

MicroBusiness Mentors (MBM), a nonprofit organization started by BYU students more than a decade ago, helps local Hispanics who are looking to start their own business by providing one-on-one mentoring and free training. Volunteers are mostly BYU students, but they don’t have to be a business major, they just have to speak Spanish.

Keven Stratton, president of MBM, said the organization makes a difference not just by providing training, but by also giving microloans of around $500.

“Our motto is dream big but think small,” Stratton said. “So we take that big vision (of a start up) and we break it up into smaller pieces.”

MBM asks what a client can do right now with what they have today to make money tomorrow. For example, if a client wants to start a landscaping company, they can start with a lawn mower and going door-to-door. Then, once a client reaches the point of needing capital, they can take out a microloan, which keep clients from getting into deep, unnecessary debt.

Clients tend to be people who are underemployed, or those with jobs that still have a hard time making ends meet. Looking for a way to supplement their incomes, these clients usually try to start their business part time.

Stratton shared the story of one woman who came in and started making costume jewelry that she sold at a farmer’s market. When her husband lost his full-time job, this woman’s income carried the family until her husband got another job.

Stories like this remind JT Adlard, a BYU student who has worked as an MBM volunteer for several semesters, that he is making a difference by volunteering at MBM.

“It’s nice to see that you don’t have to go far, you can find opportunities here to still make an impact,” he said. “It helps me see on a smaller scale how (clients) can be successful and how that can transfer to my future career.”

Warner Woodworth, a BYU professor in the Marriott School of Business who helped found MBM and more than 30 other microfinance non-governmental organizations (NGOs), said MBM is a laboratory for BYU students to learn how to do microcredit.

“The idea of microcredit sounds so simple, you just find some poor people and give them tiny loans, but students find out it’s not that easy,” he said. “You have to design an approach to the poor that makes them feel like they are worthy of a loan and that they can handle a loan and do some good with it.”

Student volunteers learn beyond the business school curriculum, Woodworth said.

“It’s a great opportunity for them to see how an NGO in our own community operates … how service to the poor can be effective and not just simply be a handout. We’re not just giving them money, we’re giving them a dream that they can become a micro-entrepreneur,” he said.

Stratton said MBM is still looking for Spanish-speaking student volunteers. Multiple positions are available, including marketing, fundraising, outreach programs, etc.

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