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LiftTN: Microenterprise

Overview

TNECD is accepting applications for funding under its LiftTN: Microenterprise, Rural Edition and Urban Core Edition initiatives until August 16, 2017. The goal of the LiftTN initiatives is to foster microenterprise development. Grant recipients will provide education, tools and resources to underserved and underrepresented existing and future microenterprises located in and/or whose current/future owners reside in eligible areas of Tennessee. This is a reimbursement grant initiative and a combined total of $1,250,000 is available for award.

What are the LiftTN: Microenterprise, Rural and Urban Core Editions?
LiftTN is a microenterprise development initiative.

What is a microenterprise and why?
For the LiftTN initiative, a microenterprise is a business with five (5) or fewer employees including the owners. Microenterprises comprise the largest number of business enterprises in Tennessee and are a critical aspect our state’s diverse business climate. Find out more here.

How did LiftTN get started?
TNECD launched the Rural Edition as a pilot program in February 2015 with $400,000 in total grant money awarded over a two-year contract to five grantees.  The program, funded through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) chose to meet the national objective of low to moderate income (LMI). At the time of its launch, Tennessee was the only state using this approach with HUD’s Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) dollars. In FY2017, the Urban Core Edition launched its first round of funding, which was made available through state dollars.

LiftTN: Microenterprise, Rural Edition

LiftTN: Microenterprise, Urban Core Edition

The Rural and Urban Core Editions

The LiftTN: Microenterprise, Rural Edition and LiftTN: Microenterprise, Urban Core Edition initiatives align, but have key differences in requirements related to eligible beneficiaries of the reimbursement grant dollars due to their respective service areas – see LMI and urban core descriptions, funding sources, and contract length. See the Eligibility section for more details.

*DBE: DBE refers to businesses owned by women, minorities, veterans and persons with disabilities; as well as businesses operating in areas of low income and high unemployment in the state.

Eligibility

Eligibility is broken into three sections: (1) the items that relate to both Rural and Urban Core Editions, followed by what differentiates the requirements by the (2) Rural Edition and (3) Urban Core Edition.

 

LiftTN: Microenterprise, Rural and Urban Core Editions

Who can apply for funding?
Eligible organizations include existing nonprofits, city/county governments and educational institutions duly registered and in good standing in the state of Tennessee.

Who must the funding serve?
The beneficiaries of the funding are underserved and underrepresented existing and future microenterprises located in and/or whose owners reside in one of the designated areas.

  • “Microenterprise” is a business with five (5) or fewer employees including its owners.
  • “Underserved and underrepresented” populations may include women, minorities and veterans; individuals with disabilities; previously incarcerated individuals; and areas of low- to moderate income* (LMI).

Can an organization apply for rural and urban core editions, multiple programs or multiple areas?
The short answer is, yes.

This is a reimbursement grant program. How does that work?
That means that you have to spend dollars according to the agreed upon budget, document what you spent, and then submit a request to be reimbursed for the dollars you spent. This is why it is critical for applicants to be in the fiscal position to complete this type of grant.

The grant application must be submitted and administered by the sponsoring existing nonprofit, city/county government or educational institution.  All expenditures must take place within the timeframe of the grant period as designated by the grant contract. The grant period begins when all contracts are signed and returned to TNECD for final execution.

Grantees may use up to 10 percent of the funding for grantee administration; see the budget for the respective percentages. All expenditures must be requested by reimbursement requests on official forms provided by TNECD. Reimbursements may not pre-date the start date of the contract.

The not so fine, fine print:

  • The grant application must be submitted and administered by the sponsoring nonprofit organization, local government or educational entity.
  • Partnerships, collaborative work and leveraging funds encouraged!
  • LiftTN is a reimbursable grant program. That means you spend the money as agreed upon for eligible activities, submit respective receipts and other documentations, then we reimburse you.
  • All expenditures must take place within the timeframe of the grant period as designated by the grant contract.
  • Two key differences between the Rural Edition and the Urban Core Edition:
    • Amount of money available
    • Contract period


LiftTN: Microenterprise, Rural Edition

Which areas are eligible for Rural Edition?
Non-entitlement areas in Tennessee.

This initiative is funded through U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) dollars, which means some federal guidelines must be met.

What are Entitlement Communities?
State CDBG funds cannot be used in Entitlement communities including Shelby County and Memphis, Jackson, Clarksville, Davidson County, Murfreesboro, Oak Ridge, Knox County and Knoxville, Chattanooga, Cleveland, Morristown, Kingsport, Bristol, Franklin, Hendersonville, and Johnson City. Entitlement communities receive funding directly from HUD; these communities are encouraged to work with their local governments to access their annual CDBG funds. The state and other communities can be of assistance in setting up this program.

How much can I apply for in the Rural Edition round?
You may apply for up to the maximum amount allotted.

Here are the dollar amounts:

Rural Edition Funds:

$1,000,000

 

Single region projects

up to $50,000

 

Multi-regional projects*

up to $150,000

 

Statewide projects*

up to $150,000

 

Region refers TNECD’s nine regions: Northeast, East, Southeast, Upper Cumberland, Southern Middle, Northern Middle, Southwest, Northwest and Memphis Area.

*Rural Edition: Multi-Region/Statewide: You must submit an Intent to Apply synopsis and be approved before submitting your application for this category. In order for us to review your request, your Intent to Apply needs to include the geographic areas to be covered with a brief paragraph describing the project. Submit your Intent to Apply no later than August 10 by email to ecd.bero@tn.gov with “LiftTN Intent to Apply” in the subject line.

Applicants must be able to demonstrate a need, a viable action plan (including that the resources needed to execute the plan are available) and the projected positive results.

What is the contract period for the Rural Edition?
The contract period is 24 months; the execution of the project is to take place in months 1-18 with reporting/observation from months 19-24.

 

LiftTN: Microenterprise, Urban Core Edition

Which areas are eligible for Urban Core?
Urban core eligible areas are located within Chattanooga, Clarksville, Jackson, Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville and the Tri-Cities (Bristol/Johnson City/Kingsport)

What is a designated Urban Core (UC) city/consolidated metro?
“Urban core” refers to those businesses located or whose owners reside within the city boundary/consolidated metro in Low-Mod Block Groups as designated by the HUD.

To determine if the business owner(s) residence is located in a qualified Low-Mod Block Groups, go to egis.hud.gov/cpdmaps, then click on “Layers, ” then expand “Boundaries,” then expand “Other,” and check “Low-Mod Block Groups.”  From there you can zoom in and out easily to see streets.

Tell me more about Urban Core and LMI.
Meeting HUD’s national objective for the definition of *LMI is highly encouraged for the Urban Core Edition, but not required. See LMI information in the Rural Edition section.

If it’s not required, then why do you want to meet HUD’s LMI national objective? 
The urban core areas are located in “entitlement communities,” which means that HUD allocates their CDBGs funding directly to areas and does not go through the State. HUD strongly encourages economic development projects, and specifically, microenterprise projects. So, if you are already aligned and in compliance with LMI, it will be easier for you to make a case for additional CDBG funding from your respective urban area since you are meeting HUD’s LMI requirements.

How much can I apply for in the Urban Core Edition?
You may apply for up to the maximum amount allotted in each urban core area.

Here are the dollar amounts:

Designated urban core (UC) city/ consolidated metro funds:

$250,000

 

Memphis

80,000

 

Nashville 

80,000

 

Knoxville

25,000

 

Chattanooga

20,000

 

Clarksville

15,000

 

Jackson

15,000

 

Tri-Cities (Bristol, Kingsport, Johnson City)

15,000

 

Applicants must be able to demonstrate a need, a viable action plan (including that the resources needed to execute the plan are available) and the projected positive results.

What is the contract period for the Urban Core Edition?
The contract will run from the time it is fully executed (projecting October 1) and all activities must be completed by the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2018.

Program Guidance

There are a few approaches that worked especially well in the previous Rural and Urban Core Editions. Here are a few items of particular interest, but are in no way the only education, tools and resources that we are looking for from applicants of the LiftTN: Microenterprise initiative.

Various kinds of education, tools and resources may include, but are not limited to these:

  • “Deep” technical assistance refers to a combination of education, assistance and resources that take a business through complicated, often time consuming processes that enables them to work in a new way. It is not a broad overview where you hand the business a stack of papers or a flash drive and say, “Good luck!” A couple examples:
    • Procurement: going step-by-step through a local, state and/or federal registration/ certification, learning how to read and complete a bid, setting up a bookkeeping system that encompasses the respective contracting entity, specifying services to target industry clusters like manufacturing, construction, in high demand, etc.
    • One example is a Sub-to-Prime program initiative in which a subcontractor obtains the knowledge and resources to move their business to a level in which it is able to compete as a prime contractor.
    • Planning: Businesses need to go through resiliency and succession planning, but they don’t like to do it. Succession planning can enable a business to be sold if no one in the family is in line to take it on. Resiliency planning can be the life line for a business.
  • Mentor-protégé programs where the microenterprise is mentored by a larger, well-established business.
    • One example: Propel at the Knoxville Chamber
  • Economic Gardening® targets second-stage companies already operating in a community. It helps these existing businesses grow larger by assisting them with strategic issues and providing them with customized research.
  • Worker cooperatives Management/employee buyout programs
  • Youth: STE(A)M opportunities with  (i.e. coding classes/workshops/camps with an entrepreneurial element like, if you learn how to make a game, you then learn how to market or sell that game)

Process

How does this process work?

Apply:

  • Application period opens July 3, 2017 and closes August 16, 2017
  • Submit application online

Review

  • Applications are reviewed and any follow-up questions addressed
  • Final recommendations made to the Commissioner of Economic and Community Development

Select

  • Grantees selected and notified: September 2017 (updated 9/5/2017)

Contract

  • Obtain pre-grant (includes W9, ACH, etc.)
  • Takes approx. 30 days

Execute

  • Grantee training, late 2017
  • Launch all projects: October 2017

Complete

  • Contracts end:
    The reimbursement grant contract periods (projected):
    • Rural Edition: October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2019
         (Note:  Execution of project is to take place in months 1-18 with reporting/observation from months 19-24.
    • Urban Core Edition: October 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018
         (Note:  Execution and reporting of project may take place over whole project period.)
  • Final reports and reimbursement requests submitted within 60 days of end of contract
    There will be two webinar sessions: Urban Core Edition: mid to late July – Check back for details

Evaluation Criteria
Applications will be reviewed according to the following criteria:

  • Description
  • Project Need (30)
  • Project Impact (30), (+10)
  • Project/program Plan (30), (+10, +10)
  • Budget (10)

 

A few other notes:
Applications will be reviewed, recommended and then approved by TNECD’s Grant Committee. All contracts will be sent directly to grantee for signature and returned to TNECD for final signatures and approvals. Contracts must be signed by all before work can be performed. No cost may be incurred before the grant is fully executed.    

Organizations participating in this grant program will be required to submit proper documentation of all grant expenditures. Failure to follow specified uses or accounting requirements may result in loss of program participation.

Please note any applicable “soft” commitments from government agencies, non-profits and/or private business and industry may also be included.

Apply Now

Your application must be submitted online. Save time on your application by being prepared with all of the requirements before you begin. Plan to cut and paste your responses directly into the online format. Other than uploading your budget document, no images or additional documents may be uploaded with your application. You must use the budget document provided on the application. You can save your application. When you save your application an email is sent to you with a link so you can access it later.

We held two webinars, one session each for the Rural and Urban Core Editions, where you could ask questions about your application. You can access them below.  access them later if you’re unable to attend.

Rural Edition: Rural Edition: August 1, 10am CDT/11am EDT | Recording

Note: Rural Edition Multi-Region/Statewide applicants You must submit an Intent to Apply synopsis and be approved before submitting your application for this category. Your Intent to Apply includes the geographic areas to be covered with a brief paragraph describing the project. Submit your Intent to Apply no later than August 10 by email to ecd.bero@tn.gov with “LiftTN Intent to Apply” in the subject line.

Urban Core Edition: August 1, 2pmCDT/3pm EDT | Recording

Questions: Please email us at ecd.bero@tn.gov with “LiftTN: Microenterprise Question” in the subject line.


Review Application (PDF)

Application period: July 3 to August 16, 2017

 

The application period has closed.

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

The grantees from the past rounds have some thoughts to pass along that may help as you consider your application for this program. You will note that there are some commons threads – take them in account.

What they recommend:

  • Be proactive, don’t assume, and communicate as you go along.
  • Encourage partnering among grantees – some programs dovetail each other.
  • Think through the guidelines (uses of dollars) and logistics on the frontend.
  • Understand your capacity and its limits – the plan is only as good as the participants.
  • Run the grant through your organization like a for-profit business – understand what you can and can’t spend your dollars on before you spend them! 

Where they found challenges:

  • Getting the word out and ramping up the program took longer than anticipated
  • Didn’t think through grant thoroughly enough (logistics, etc.)
  • Alignment of time, opportunity and expertise

Where they found successes:

  • Knowing you could reach out (to TNECD) with questions
  • The check-in calls – hearing the other grantees discuss their challenges and what they learned
  • Program promotion by TNECD through newsletters, social media, word of mouth, etc.
  • Reimbursement is easy, not cumbersome