La Grekka After
La Grekka After

$1.6M For Small Business Support

The Entrepreneurship Center AWARDED $125,000 grant from MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) Local program. 

This funding will empower CTI, particularly its Entrepreneurship Center, to conduct a comprehensive assessment of local businesses in Lowell’s Acre neighborhood. The aim is to identify action-based recommendations for increased profitability and utilize the grant to implement these measures, fostering local business growth. 

Stay tuned for more information!

Government Contracting Seminar
Government Contracting Seminar

Exploring Certification & Government Contracting


Starting in 2024 Seminar Sessions: 1/26 Let’s Get Social: An Entrepreneur’s View on Using Social Media

Get ready to supercharge your online presence!

Join us on January 26th from 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM. Unleash the secrets to mastering social media strategies, dive deep into the world of digital engagement and discover innovative tactics to captivate your audience featuring guest speakers from Rise Social Relations!  

Mark your calendars and gear up for an immersive workshop that will transform the way you conquer the digital realm. Don’t miss out on this exclusive opportunity to learn from the experts!

Reserve your spot today:

Rise Social Relations Webinar

The Entrepreneurship Center at Community Teamwork has been awarded the highly competitive SBA PRIME Grant

The Entrepreneurship Center at CTI has been awarded the highly competitive SBA Prime Grant, allowing them to become one of just two organizations chosen in the entire New England region. PRIME funds will be utilized on aiding small businesses to spread the knowledge of the 5 essential functions of the business rubric: Managment, Marketing, Finance & Accounting, Info Technology, and Operations.

The E-Center will establish partnerships with community organizations and will offer curriculum in the many different languages spoken in Lowell in their respective communities. Together with our partners we will identify and assist where needed. Ani Vong will be leading this initiative and partnering alongside LatinX Center, Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association (CMAA), The African Community Center of Lowell (ACCL), Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS), THRIVE, and MassHire Lowell Career Center with Seminars to commence in 2024.

CharlesSmith CTI x
CharlesSmith CTI x

U.S. Small Business Administration to Fund Entrepreneurship Center

The SBA has awarded Community Teamwork Inc. with $200K through the PRIME Grant

Lowell, MA – The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recently awarded Community Teamwork Inc. $200K for the sake of funding its Entrepreneurship Center. The funding will allow staff of the Entrepreneurship Center to work with entrepreneurs on developing their financial capacity to increase their business viability by hosting trainings, seminars, and peer-to-peer learning. Staff will also use the funding to offer expanded opportunities to constituents of the center to access technical assistance services in a linguistically accessible and culturally competent design.

The Entrepreneurship Center, formerly known as the Merrimack Valley Small Business Center, was founded in 1998 to provide technical assistance for low and very low-income entrepreneurs to help them create, sustain and grow micro-enterprises. Since its rebranding into the Entrepreneurship Center in 2019, its services have expanded through out Middlesex and Essex County, and refocused its program offerings and service model to better serve the diverse needs of its disadvantaged micro-enterprise clients.

The Prime Grant was created as part of the Program for Investment in Microentrepreneurs Act of 1999, also known as the PRIME Act. This act authorized the SBA to establish a program for the purposes of providing training and technical assistance to disadvantaged entrepreneurs, providing training and capacity building assistance to microenterprise development organizations (MDOs) and programs, aiding in research and development of best practices for microenterprise and technical assistance programs for disadvantaged entrepreneurs, and for other activities as determined by the SBA.

“We are thrilled to receive this SBA Prime grant. It will enable us to expand our work to help our local small businesses, especially those who are low income and disadvantaged, thrive in our community”, stated Charles Smith, Director of the Entrepreneurship Center.

The SBA was founded back in 1953 under the administration of President Eisenhower alongside the signing of the Small Business Act. It offers programs that cover federal contracting and business development, entrepreneurial development, and lending services, all for the sake of supporting small businesses across the country.


About Community Teamwork

Established in 1965, Community Teamwork is a non-profit Community Action Agency (CAA) serving more than 55,000 individuals and families in the City of Lowell and the seven surrounding towns of Billerica, Chelmsford, Dracut, Dunstable, Tewksbury, Tyngsboro, and Westford. Community Teamwork also serves as a Community Development Corporation and as the Regional Housing Agency for the Merrimack Valley and the rest of the Northeastern Massachusetts, including 71 cities and towns inclusive of the North Shore and Cape Ann. Community Teamwork is a catalyst for social change. We strengthen communities and reduce poverty by delivering vital services and collaborating with key stakeholders to create housing, education and economic opportunities. Our vision is a community whose institutions, systems, and people support everyone’s opportunity to thrive.

Movie Grant Flyer
Movie Grant Flyer

Announcing MGCC’s Independent Movie Theater Grant

Ends April 28th

For more info, email:


The Entrepreneur Center at Community Teamwork Announces New QuickBooks Program for Small Businesses

Charles Smith
Charles Smith

Community Teamwork’s Entrepreneurship Center Hires New Director

group of young people
group of young people

Entrepreneurship Center AWARDED $200,000 SBA PRIME grant!

Ani Vong
Ani Vong

Welcome to the Entrepreneurship Center Ani Vong

In Ani’s words…

I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand as a result of the Cambodian genocide in the late 1970s. Lowell became our new home around 1983. Since I was younger, I’ve always drempt of owning a boutique because I loved clothes, styling and meeting new people. Working in retail my whole life, I then became a manager of the cutest boutique in our area, Humanity. When the opportunity came to take it over, I thought long and hard about it. Sure, it would mean my dreams were coming true, but I had no educational background in business nor the financial backing. One thing I kept thinking about was, “in ten years, if someone asked me what is the one thing I regret – it would be not taking over Humanity. I knew that I had to take a leap of faith and just go for my dreams.”

 Any small business owner in Downtown Lowell will tell you it isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. And there were so many times I thought I would have to close up for reasons outside of my control. Throughout all the challenges, I knew that if I kept thinking outside the box, bring in new exciting products, collaborate on projects and be involved in the community – that however the business turns out to be, I will have succeeded in knowing that I gave it my entire all. Humanity is now strictly online and a pop-up shop (when its safe to do again).

Now 7 years later, I am transitioning into my new role as the STAT Program Coordinator at The ECenter @CTI. From a small business owner wanting to develop and enrich my community, I am now able to give back in a different way. I have always supported other small businesses and now I get to directly help them through COVID and beyond and hopefully help make a greater impact.

Why Ani Is Our Hero

Our heroes are people who apply great business skills, who contribute something of value to their community, and invest in themselves and others.

Ani Vong is certainly all of these things, plus more.  She is a young Cambodian American woman who is gutsy, kind, irreverent sometimes, and lighthearted, and yet she is a girl boss who takes her life obligations very, very seriously. She wants a lot for herself and she wants even more for her community. She puts her money and time where her mouth is, and she does the things that we all want to do and say we’re going to do. 

She is our local hero because:

  1. She trusted herself to take action on her dream before she “felt” ready because she knew the opportunity would not last forever.
  2. She did not let insecurity limit her impact, even when she couldn’t fully imagine herself in a position of power and business ownership, she still said “yes”
  3. She did not limit herself to someone else’s vision.  She took the vision of what existed and improved upon it, adding her own personal touch.
  4. She persevered during very challenging times as a boutique owner in a struggling downtown.  Even during the most difficult times, she kept evaluating, adjusting, and trying new ways to improve her chances of success.
  5. She prepared for the inevitable future.  Downtown retail has been difficult for decades, despite a great desire for vibrant downtowns, the reality is something else.  Ani did not continue to bang her head, instead, she developed a “pop-up” model, which allowed her to move into other businesses to sell her products, effectively building a business within a business, and reducing her reliance on foot traffic.  
  6. She helped other businesses make money.  Humanity’s online presence and marketing reach made it possible for Ani to bring new customers into the businesses in which she held pop-ups. In this way, she created opportunities and exposure for other businesses.
  7. She chose a job in service. After moving to a fully online model, she decided to go to work.  Instead of chasing the highest-paying job, she chose a job of service.  Serving others is the fastest way to integrate life lessons and she wasted no time offering her skills to others.

Small Business Resources Ani Was Able to Access

One of Ani’s skills is her willingness to seek help and willingness to learn from others.  The Entrepreneurship Center is one of many local resources for small business owners, and Ani was wise enough to gather as much assistance as possible. Ani was able to take advantage of the following resources from the Entrepreneurship Center, plus other community resources.

  • SBA Microloan – Funded Inventory and branding upgrade (Entrepreneurship Center @CTI)
  • Lowell Downtown Venture Fund loan – Funded inventory and operating expenses (Lowell Development Financial Corporation)
  • Launch Your Business Now Certicated – provided education to help her move her business online (Middlesex Community College)
  • Everyday Entrepreneur Venture Fund – provided grant funding to increase her inventory for online sales (Middlesex Community College)
  • MGCC Professional Services grant – helped her hire a professional to support her online business (Entrepreneurship Center @CTI)
  • SBA Debt Relief program – helped her manage her debt due to the impacts of COVID – (Entrepreneurship Center @CTI)
  • Business Coaching, including Operations and Finance – (Entrepreneurship Center @CTI)