The Micro Business Incubator (MBI) was developed in 2002 as a joint project by Upper Albany Main Street, the University of Hartford and the Metro Hartford Alliance. The MBI program brought training, development, resources and support to businesses throughout the Upper Albany neighborhood of Hartford. The philosophy that drives the MBI is “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.” The MBI program matches micro-enterprises in Upper Albany with students from the University of Hartford’s Barney School of Business to cultivate business capacity using a on-site one-on-one training model that enables students and business owners to work together in areas that include:
Each assigned student visits the business location and assist the business owner using a “train the trainers” philosophy that helps to improve local entrepreneurs’ business skills in areas such as technology, business planning, marketing, merchandising, financial literacy, customer service, e-commerce and internet/website development. The student also help to cultivate Upper Albany entrepreneurs’ business acumen by applying concepts acquired from the intellectual capital developed by the University of Hartford and a series of seminars devoted to the specific areas of need identified by conducting a needs assessment.
As part of the mutual learning experience, students obtain hands-on, real world understanding about owning and operating a small business as well as first-hand exposure to diversity through this unique service learning initiative. At least 365 students have participated in the program and a staggering total of over 46,950 hours of training have been served to the merchants of Upper Albany.
The MBI served 10 businesses during its first year of existence. It currently provides service to 25 micro-enterprises in Upper Albany and has worked with a total of 83 different businesses over the course of the past 10 years. As a direct result of the MBI program, 28 businesses have received computers and training, 34 businesses received loan assistance totaling over $2,430,000, more than 183 new jobs have been created in the neighborhood, 4 businesses significantly expanded their operations by opening satellite branches and more than 93.3 million dollars in private investment has been infused within the community of Upper Albany.
In 2013, the MBI provided continuous training, consulting and support services to more than 30 businesses in the North End of Hartford. In 2004, the MBI was recognized as the “Best Economic Development Program” in the State of Connecticut and was featured in BusinessWeek’s SmallBiz in 2005. The MBI initiative is a unique, innovative public-private partnership that helped to illuminate the understanding that the Upper Albany gateway is critical to the success of revitalization efforts throughout Hartford.