The Entrepreneurship Center was founded to provide entrepreneurs from ethnically and economically diverse groups with the education, tools and access to SBA micro loan products necessary to launch, expand and sustain small business.
DREAM TEAM @ the Entrepreneurship Center
Ani Vong, Small Business Coach
I believe it takes a village to nourish a community; one which supports each other and is kind and uplifting.
Being a retail and e-commerce business owner myself, I have a deeper understanding of small business owner’s struggles and challenges, and opportunities. Growing up in Lowell and knowing the parts of Lowell and witnessing its changes and progress, I also have a deep connection and understanding of what it takes to build a hyper-local community-based business.
I am proud of my ability to get a group of different people to come together to support causes that we believe in. I am proud of my ability to rally people to make a positive impact in our community.
My professional goals are to make a difference in my community by amplifying unheard voices using my platform and to inspire young girls to dream big and become leaders. I am also committed to never stop learning and listening.
My goals at the Entrepreneurship Center are to support entrepreneurs, as well as to educate the public about what it really means to be a small business owner, including understanding all the beauty and ugliness that comes with it, so that they can support their local small businesses effectively.
Jessica MacDonald, Small Business Coach
Jessica is a long-time resident of downtown Lowell. She has been an active member in the community for many years with an enthusiasm to help her city thrive.
Jessica has over 25 years of experience in the service industry that began at a young age, and has continued to evolve. These roles have included almost all aspects of restaurant operations from dishwasher to General Manager. She understands the “real time” work ethic, small business and grassroots success, and the invaluable necessity of good leadership.
One of her most rewarding roles included being the Director of Training and Development, where she was instrumental in opening multiple restaurant locations from inception to their highly profitable achievement.
Jessica looks forward to continuing to be of service in a coaching and mentoring capacity. She believes strongly that it is important to share our experiences, life lessons, and knowledge in order to raise each other up, support each other, and help foster success through pride of ownership.
In addition, Jessica is currently working on taking her skills, expertise, and creativity to the next level by eventually opening a business of her own. She is passionate about music, travel, herbalism, and crafting natural products for home and body care. She plans to integrate these personal passions into her business elements.
Jessica finds inspiration, and direction from this mantra:
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
Small businesses received 3,846 hours of technical assistance support from the Entrepreneurship Center
Business Coaching / Consulting
We provide business coaching, consulting, and funding to honor the work of our local entrepreneurs, ensuring that our community-based businesses thrive! We provide business coaching in many forms, including one-on-one, workshops and daily zoom calls. We also work with partners including SCORE, EforAll and other small business consultants. We’re a microlender, providing much-needed mission-based funding to small businesses at all stages. Our programs evolve over time, so please come back often to learn more about our coaching programs.
Virtual Business Coaching
We provide virtual business coaching as part of our comprehensive business support. We can discuss everything from pre-launch ideation, business plan development, business funding, site evaluation, business exit and everything in between. After completing your Intake Form you will receive details for how to sign up for your initial Assessment coaching call. From there you will be assigned a Lead Coach and would work with your Lead Coach to determine next steps which might include a referral, a loan, grant application support, or additional coaching.
Lowell Makes Entrepreneurship, a Digital Media & Printing Studio and Marketing Coaching program, in partnership with the Entrepreneurship Center @CTI and Lowell Makes Entrepreneurship is open.
Entrepreneurship Center @CTI clients can access this studio *free of charge as part of their membership with the Entrepreneurship Center @CTI. The studio includes digital equipment to produce marketing content, audio and video podcasts, as well as several high quality printers. If this membership is the right fit for you and your business, you will review a link to apply after your initial Assessment call.
Digital Media Studio includes:
- Video production kits for offsite video production that can be checked out – these kits include everything you need to produce high quality content, including a DSLR camera, 3-point lighting setups, microphones and a camera gimble. *a security deposit may be required before checking out these tools.
- Photographer setup for product photography, including cameras, lighting and various backdrops
- Small studio space to produce video podcasts
- Fully equipped audio recording technology to produce podcasts and voiceovers for content creators
Printing Studio includes:
- Large format printer for large printing projects, including banners and signs
- UV printer to create branded products, including the capability to print in braille
- High quality Laser and Inkjet printers to print branded materials
- Label printers to print branded product labels
*businesses will need to provide/ or cover the cost of the raw printing materials
Many of our clients request a full scope of services, which we, unfortunately, cannot provide as part of our regular service. With that said, we are happy to introduce you to a paid consultant or discuss what it would cost for us to provide these services for a fee.
- Business Plan Development: this includes writing the business plan, although we are happy to review a written business plan and provide feedback.
- Bookkeeping Services: this includes data entry, although we are happy to review financial statements to support your education.
- Marketing Management: this includes developing marketing campaigns, taking photographs and video, etc., although we are happy to provide an assessment of your existing campaigns
- Website Development: this includes the conceptualization and development of your website, although we are happy to review and provide feedback.
- E-commerce Development: this includes building your e-commerce site and populating it with content, although we are happy to review and provide feedback.
- Operations Review or Development: this includes evaluating and assisting in the creation of effective and efficient operations and systems, although we are happy to provide an assessment and guidance.
Small Business Funding
Affordable, flexible capital is essential to launch, operate, grow and scale your business. Funding that is accompanied by business coaching is an added bonus. We offer both with our mission-based SBA Microloan, and ACRE Catalyst Fund. We fund all stages of business, including startup. We are able to fund individuals with poor or limited credit, depending on the credibility of the business plan, financial projections and the entrepreneur’s ability to operate the business and pay back the loan.
The SBA Microloan provides mission-funds for local small business owners. The Entrepreneurship Center service area includes Middlesex & Essex County. The SBA Microloan is part of the Cares Act Debt Relief program.
- Loan Terms: Up to 6 Years
- Loan Amount: Up to $50,000
- Interest Rate: 7.75% Initially, Reduced to 5.25% after completing 20 hours of business coaching.
Qualifications: Business must be located in the Entrepreneurship Center’s SBA Service Area. All interested applicants must complete a New Business Intake Form as well as an SBA Eligibility Form.
ACRE Catalyst Fund
The ACRE Catalyst Fund is a loan fund, in partnership with the Entrepreneurship Center JDCU and Working Cities Challenge. These funds are earmarked to support ACRE neighborhood businesses and residents.
- Loan Terms: Up to 5 Years
- Loan Amount: Up to $20,000
- Interest Rate: 6%
Qualifications: Businesses or Business Owners must be located in the ACRE Neighborhood of Lowell, MA. All interested applicants must complete a New Business Intake Form as well as an SBA Eligibility Form.
Small Business Grants
This service varies based on the availability of grant funding. The Entrepreneurship Center is a key partner with MGCC and the State of Massachusetts, offering support on grant applications, cure, and follow up.
We also work with the City of Lowell, Town of Chelmsford and other institutions to support businesses apply for small business grants.
If we learn of a new grant opportunity we will send the information through our newsletter. Please sign up for our newsletter and social media to stay informed.
We are grateful to these partners whose generosity makes it possible for us to serve our local entrepreneurs.
More About This Program:
Our purpose is to serve our small business community.
We do this by providing education, coaching, business capital, and of course LOVE to our local entrepreneurs. Local entrepreneurs are our hero’s because they (you) create the communities we want to live in. You are our neighbors and our friends; you feed us, clothe us, fix our cars, chimney’s and roofs; you create art for us, make music for us, and dance with us; you serve us. We serve you.
If engaging with the entrepreneurship center for the first time, start here. (You must fill out the new business intake form prior to speaking with us)