Working with Dr. Roxana Moayedi, associate professor of sociology, students at Trinity created an online resource for women in the Washington, D.C., region who want to start their own small businesses to attain economic security for themselves and their families. The directory is useful to those seeking information on organizations that offer micro loans, training and technical assistance, business plan development, and other resources critical to starting a successful small business.
The project was funded by the Washington Area Women’s Foundation through its Stepping Stones program. Moayedi worked with students in three of her courses over two semesters to develop, conduct and analyze two community-based research projects to benefit D.C.-area women.
“Trinity takes seriously its role as a member of our community,” said Moayedi, “and one of the ways we work to fulfill our social justice mission is by partnering with other community-based organizations to identify and address our area’s needs.”
“Our community work takes a number of different forms both on and off campus,” she noted. “Not only do we encourage our students to volunteer, we require students to engage in course-based service projects that benefit our community while reinforcing and extending what they learn in class. And, unusual for an undergraduate institution, we also provide opportunities for undergraduates to perform hands-on research – something which is usually limited to graduate students at larger universities. These opportunities not only introduce them to sophisticated and rigorous concepts and methods, but allows them to use their own community as a laboratory and a lens, adding depth, dimension, and a grounding in reality to their college educations. At Trinity, our students learn ‘in the ivory tower’ as well as ‘in the neighborhood.’”
The two community-based research projects conducted by the students had different, yet complimentary, focuses. In one course, Moayedi worked with her students to conduct three focus groups, bringing together low-income single mothers in the D.C. area to gauge their potential interest in starting their own small businesses.
The key finding of these focus groups was that these women believed that they would never be able to get ahead as someone else’s employee. They saw small business ownership as the only way they would ever be able to get ahead financially while balancing the competing (and often conflicting) needs of work and family. Trinity students compiled their research findings and analysis into a comprehensive report.
The research explored both the opportunities and advantages women envisioned when considering self-employment, as well as the obstacles they perceived to be keeping them from making the leap from wage employment to micro entrepreneurship. One of the biggest obstacles the research participants identified was a lack of information about resources to help them plan and then actually launch their businesses.
According to Moayedi, “This finding neatly segued into our second, parallel research project: an online directory of D.C.-area micro enterprise assistance organizations, a project that we researched and compiled over two semesters. My students and I developed a research instrument to find out specific information about each organization we studied. We compiled a list of local organizations to survey, and students tenaciously contacted these organizations, surveying them and then analyzing survey results to judge whether they met our criteria for inclusion. The Association for Enterprise Opportunity’s member directory served as the foundation for this asset-mapping project.”
The students identified 25 organizations in the Washington metropolitan area that provided micro loans, business training and technical assistance, and/or other relevant information and assistance that women in the community can use to make their entrepreneurial dreams a reality.
The online directory of D.C.-area micro enterprise assistance organizations can be accessed on the Washington Area Women’s Foundation web site. This directory can be searched or browsed.
For more information, contact Dr. Roxana Moayedi at firstname.lastname@example.org