The Castle and the Moat: Building a Supportive Micro-Enterprise

By: Taryn Oesch – 03/19/2018

In our micro-enterprise class, we use the analogy of a castle to describe a micro-enterprise. Around the castle is a moat that consists of the supports that protect the business and help it grow. Each member of the class, just like any other entrepreneur, relies on his or her talents and supports, like family members and friends, as well as volunteers from organizations like The Power of the Dream and the Autism Society. A micro-enterprise needs the entrepreneur’s talents, whether that’s creating art, working with people or making soaps – but it also needs support to succeed.

What does this support look like?

Most successful entrepreneurs will tell you that they “couldn’t have done it” without the support of their family and friends. That’s true of the micro-entrepreneurs who take our class as well. First and foremost, the importance of having the emotional support of a family member or close friend who provides encouragement can’t be overstated.

In addition to these people, many micro-entrepreneurs with disabilities also have what we call “key supporters,” or people who are with them every step of their journey. (A key supporter might also be a friend or family member.) Key supporters are … well … key to the success of a micro-enterprise, as they help the entrepreneur learn about business and provide coaching and support with tasks they may struggle with. Along with friends and family, key supporters are the part of the moat that stays closest to the castle.

Further out in the network are professionals who provide services like accounting and financial management, marketing support, or even help with things like driving to pick up supplies or deliver products. Again, these people may also be friends or family, or they may be volunteers or consultants who believe in the entrepreneur’s business and want to be a part of seeing it succeed.

Business coaches and educators are also important here. Whether it’s our own micro-enterprise instructor, Anna Cunningham; a SCORE business coach; a financial literacy instructor; or a market research expert, these people provide the information and resources micro-entrepreneurs need to develop and maintain a successful business.

At the outermost parts of the moat are the happy customers who, through repeat purchases and word of mouth, help the entrepreneur build his or her confidence – and profits. They may not provide direct support, but any business needs a loyal customer base, and from what I’ve seen of the current class of micro-entrepreneurs’ work, I don’t think a lack of happy customers will be a problem.