Payong Srithong, Professional Economic Empowerment Fellow from Thailand.
During the period of economic down turn in the United States, it was difficult for new graduates to find job or start business on their own; and Aimee McQuilken was not an exception. Graduated in Phycology from the University of Montana in 2005, Aimee and her husband struggled hard in order to maintain her family. However, as the Missoulian and some experience in retail shop, she perceived the potential of things like fashioned boutiques that people from all walk of life can access and wished to have a small shop in Missoula. Although there are various agencies, state or private, that provide loan credits to individuals and businesses, Aimee’s plan was not worth enough to get credit from conventional banking systems. She went to Montana Community Development Corporation (Montana CDC) for advice on how to make her dream come true. Aimee finally got supported from the organization in forms of training, business advice, and small loan which enable her family to start a small down-to-earth boutiques Betty’e Divine.
Montana CDC is a non-profit organization of which the mission is to provide financing that can transform the lives of individuals and strengthen community prosperity. Started in 1986 as a project of Women’s Opportunity and Resource Development (WORD), Montana CDC has been working to improve the lives of poor women in the Missoula area and eventually extended scope of activities to entrepreneurial training and business consulting that can raise the economic status of both women and men.
Montana CDC offers stand-alone loans and also bank partnership and bank participations. The organization provides business development services during the application, and over the life of the loan. Normally Montana CDC’s loan terms vary from 5 – 10 years and structures vary depending on the client. One good thing that makes MCDC different from conventional banking system is that their collateral requirements are flexible which is just only 5%, particularly for microloans (less than $50,000).
Located in the Hip Strip on Higgins street, nowadays, Betty’s Divine is run by 6 employees including 3 full-time positions with health benefits. The store has $20,000 annual purchases from local designers with $37,000 annual advertising and marketing in local community. As part of the community, the store sponsors numerous local non-profits including $10,000 donation in clothing to Missoula Youth Home.
Aimee also allocates her times to assist other people who want advice for start up their business out of charge. “I’ve got t free then I give it free” she mentions. Good for Aimee, Good for Missoula.