Troy entrepreneurs cooperate to overcome poverty
Three Troy women are participating in an innovative business incubator for disadvantaged entrepreneurs, founded by the nonprofit Margination. The businesses – a daycare, a cleaning company and an architectural restoration company – are being developed through a pioneering system of family, business and peer-to-peer supports. Margination and its partners are helping the women navigate legal, accounting and insurance issues. In addition, the organization is working to provide access to capital, housing, childcare, and other services.
Tiffany Nesmith started Tiff’s Healthy Village when she couldn’t find an affordable option for her own children. Catherine Ricker began Aunt Margie’s Cleaning Service when she finally found the support she needed. Sarah Vadney went into business for herself after a workplace injury left her living on $100 per week. Woman and Her Wood, her architectural and furniture restoration company, is booked for the next three months.
Margination has rallied the Capital Region’s business community around Nesmith, Vadney and Ricker. Nixon Peabody LLP is a major contributor, providing pro bono legal services to the incubator. “It is a privilege to be working with Margination in supporting these entrepreneurs,” said Todd Tidgewell, partner at Nixon Peabody. “This is the heart of the American economy. We need to figure out how to make small business accessible to people again.”
The women meet once a week to talk about ways they can support each other, and others like them, in their quest for financial independence through business ownership. All three women are low-income. Each believes they have the potential to train and employ others who are looking to work their way out of poverty.
“Small business is the leading job creator in this country,” said Margination’s Director, Jesse Marshall. “But working class people face enormous obstacles to entrepreneurship. It’s going to take a grassroots, cross-sector movement to restore local business and local assets to poor communities like North Troy. That’s what we’re building.”
Margination’s infrastructure is designed to fill the most common gaps experienced by new and growing businesses. For Vadney, keeping up on administration while meeting her demand was impossible. Woman and Her Wood needs to add people to be sustainable, but that requires capital, legal restructuring and insurance. “I was caught in a Catch-22: needing to grow to free me up, but being too busy to do it. Margination is smoothing the transition for me. I’m sleeping better at night.”
Just as important as the technical expertise is the supportive environment. “So much of the challenge is feeling like you are on your own,” said Ricker. “There’s no safety net for people like us who want to better our lives and our community. If we can get together we can share the risk.”
Margination’s mission is to lower the obstacles to entrepreneurship and homeownership for disadvantaged people. It is pioneering a system of family, business and peer-to-peer supports, including facilities, housing, financing and a network of partners and mentors.
Its partners include Nixon-Peabody, Wojeski & Co, EYP Architecture and Engineering, the Commission on Economic Opportunity and Siena College, among others.
Margination is currently raising funds to support disadvantaged entrepreneurs with low-cost financing, training and affordable facilities. It is supported by the Bender Family Foundation, the Messing Family Foundation, the Workforce Development Institute and donors around the country.