Micro Business Development Program

Have you ever considered launching a business?  Do you have a business but still have questions and would like to learn more about business management?From startup to long-term sustainability, we support new and established entrepreneurs to make their dreams and aspirations a reality.

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The Micro Business Development Program can provide you with training and technical assistance if you are planning to start or expand a small business.

Take advantage of numerous opportunities to network with other entrepreneurs, ongoing classes and group workshops, our technology resource center (with computers and business development resources), or meet one-on-one with our experienced business counselors.

Learn how to:

  • Develop and test your business concept

  • Select the best business entry option

  • Organize and manage your business

  • Research and market your business

  • Understand and get your financials in order

  • Finance for your business

Since 1988, we have assisted more than 3,000 low-income individuals with planning the startup or expansion of a small business, including over $2 million in financing leveraged for businesses.

We are not currently offering in-person business workshops due to the Covid-19 virus concerns. WE ARE STILL PROVIDING ONE-TO-ONE BUSINESS COACHING BY PHONE. Please see the "contact us at Micro Business" page for details on how to get in touch. 

If interested in speaking to a business counsleor in the central Vermont area, contact Capstone Community Action at 802-479-1053 and leave your name and number. Someone will get back to you.

The MBDP operates statewide through each of the five Community Action Agencies in Vermont.

  Funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. SmaFll Business Administration



We offer the following support to current and aspiring entrepreneurs:

Business Workshops:  The Micro Business Development Program of Capstone Community Action offers a “Business Building Blocks” workshop series.  Business experts will present information on a number of topics including assessing business opportunities, writing a business plan, balancing work and family life, record keeping and tax planning, determining insurance needs, setting the right price for your product or service, strategizing with cash flow projections, and developing a marketing plan.

One-to-one business counseling: Experienced counselors, who have owned their own businesses and intimately understand the challenges and rewards, can offer support from the start of your vision, through the planning stages, all the way to launch day.  From there, our counselors can offer continued support to help you meet your goals and maintain and grow a successful business.  For clients who have established businesses, we can offer assistance specific to your needs.

Financial Education:  If you have ever wondered how to read your credit report or why your credit score matters, we can help.  We offer financial education to help people establish credit or build their credit score so that they can begin to build assets and become financially secure.

We are still offering one-to-one business counseling and financial education by phone and online. Please see the "contact us at Micro Business" page for details. 


Upcoming Workshops at Capstone (Free):

All in-person workshops have been suspended for the time being due to Covid-19 concerns. 


Funding for  workshops is made possible in part with a Rural Business Develoment Grant from USDA Rural Development.


MBDP Funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration


Contact Us at Micro Business

To discuss your business vision or to request counseling on an existing business, contact Margaret Ferguson at mferguson@capstonevt.org or Laura Sudhoff at lsudhoff@capstonevt.org if you are in the Barre area. Or leave your name and number with our receptionist at 802-479-1053. 

Contact Mary Johnson, The Money Coach, at 802-760-8209 or mjohnson@capstonevt.org if you are in the Morrisville area.

Our counselors are working with folks by phone and online during the Covid-19 pandemic. All our coaches can help you naviage through these tough economic times and access dedicated business funding which has come through due to the coronavirus. 


Capstone Community Action Receiving $200K Grant

Release Date: 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

BARRE, Vt. -- Capstone Community Action is receiving a $200,000 grant from the Small Business Administration’s Program for Investment in Micro-Entrepreneurs across Vermont. PRIME assists low-income entrepreneurs who lack sufficient training and education to gain capital to establish and expand their small businesses.

The grant will fund the statewide Micro Business Development program run by Capstone and other organizations, including the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, Bennington-Rutland Opportunity Council, Northeast Kingdom Community Action and Southeastern Vermont Community Action.

The SBA placed special emphasis in this year’s competition on projects that will offer training and technical assistance to strengthen economically disadvantaged businesses, particularly those servicing entrepreneurs in rural areas and historically underutilized business zones. 

“Capstone and the Micro Business Development program have a great record of empowering low-income Vermonters who are interested in starting their own business. Aspiring entrepreneurs learn how to develop a business plan and become better prepared to take on the challenges that business ownership presents.  Capstone is deserving of this grant and I am looking forward to hearing about the inspiring success stories arising out of their efforts,” said Wendell Davis, SBA New England Regional Administrator. 

According to Capstone’s website, its mission is to provide comprehensive services to help people achieve economic well-being with dignity and develops partnerships to strengthen Vermont communities.  Capstone has a commitment to alleviate the suffering caused by poverty, to work with individuals and families to move out of poverty, and to advocate for economic justice for all Vermonters.

“At Capstone Community Action, and our sister-agencies across the state, our purpose is to empower economically disadvantaged individuals with the tools, resources and opportunities to rise out of poverty, states Sue Minter, Executive Director of Capstone Community Action. “The Micro Business Development Program is key to this effort. With one-in-four working Vermonters employed by a micro business, either as an employee or owner, Vermont’s economy, quite literally, is built one job, one small business at a time. Over the past three years this program has helped entrepreneurs launch 183 new businesses, creating 351 new jobs and accessing more than $4.3 million in capital from local financial institutions.” 

Capstone was one of 30 organizations across the United States to receive a PRIME grant. PRIME grants range from $75,000 to $250,000, and typically require at least 50 percent in matching funds or in-kind contributions. In total, over 130 organizations applied for PRIME grants in 2019.   

“The SBA is proud to help small businesses access capital while also ensuring they have access to the resources and training needed to create healthy, sustainable businesses,” SBA Acting Administrator Chris Pilkerton said. 

PRIME was created by Congress as part of the Program for Investment in Microentrepreneurs Act of 1999. Grant funds will be available Sept. 30. The project period for each grant is one year.

For more information about PRIME grants and a list of grant recipients, visit www.sba.gov/content/prime-grantees.

EMBRACE Micro Business Development COVID Relief Grants

Click HERE to apply!

The Micro Business Development Program (MBDP) is pleased to announce the Economic Micro Business Recovery Assistance for the COVID-19 Epidemic (EMBRACE) grant. The re-opened grant application will be available starting November 5, 2020. These grants will be awarded on a first-come-first-served basis. To qualify for the E.M.B.R.A.C.E. grant program:

1) You must be a Vermont state resident over the age of 18 with an active Vermont-based micro business and legally registered with the State of Vermont on or before 03/01/2020.

Micro Business Definition: A business with less than 5 employees including the owner

2) Your business needs to have been financially affected by COVID-19 between 03/01/2020 & 11/01/2020.

3) Your household income must be at or below 80% of Vermont state median household income. The application will automatically calculate this based on income and the number of people living at your residence.

4) Not engaged in the following: Cannabis-related services, Firearm Sales, Lobbying, Franchise / Chain, Consultant / Service Provider with exactly 1 client.

5) Has not received a Vermont Emergency Economic Recovery Grant from another State of Vermont Agency or Department.

Timeline for Grant Disbursement: August thru November 2020. All disbursed funds must be spent by grant recipients by December 31, 2020.

Number of Grants to Be Distributed: Applications will be reviewed, and grants awarded on an ongoing basis until 1 million dollars has been fully distributed to Vermont microbusinesses.

Amount: From a minimum of $2,500 to a maximum of $5,000.


The application is an online form. Plan on allotting up to one full, uninterrupted hour to complete it. If you do not complete it in one sitting, your work will not be saved and you will have to start over. You will be asked to provide a written narrative for some of the questions. Consider writing your answers before you sit down to complete the application. Your responses should be as clear and concise as possible.

1. Business Description:

You will be asked to describe your business, the products or services you provide, and your organizational structure (sole proprietor, LLC, partnership, etc.).

2. How Has COVID 19 Adversely Impacted Your Business:

The sole purpose of this grant is to help qualifying micro businesses to recover from the harm caused to them by COVID-19.

Some examples are:

My business closed due to State requirements

Loss of revenue due to stay home order

Do not have an adequate online presence to replace lost business

Not having proper PPE equipment

Having to homeschool children or loss of childcare

Not having a business model that aligns with safety precautions

Loss of sales because customers don’t feel safe or are not spending

Only being able to conduct business at limited capacity

Not having a physical space that aligns with safety precautions

3. Funding Request:

You will need to provide a clear explanation as to how the use of this grant will help stabilize, strengthen, or revive your business. Consider how an infusion of $2,500 to $5,000 can help you recover from the setback caused by the pandemic: What investments were you going to make but didn’t due to the timing of COVID-19? What equipment, tools, or services would you purchase and what positive direct impact would they have on your business. You will need to be as specific as possible, so be sure to give this a lot of thought.

Although $5,000.00 is a substantial amount of money, it may not address all your business needs. Therefore, be strategic and careful as to how you prioritize your needs. Focus on what you need the most that will help move your business forward.

4. Providing a Photograph / Testimonial: EMBRACE Booklet

This funding opportunity has been provided by the State of Vermont through the federal CARES Act. The State of Vermont is the primary funder of the Micro Business Development Program (MBDP). Each year we have to advocate for the continuation of our program. We need to provide data that the distribution of these funds had a positive impact in our communities. We have decided that the best way to do that is to showcase your business and get testimonials so that your voice is heard. You will be a part of a collective group of over 200 MICRO businesses across the state!

The application process requires you to provide a photo of yourself. It is important to provide a picture that shows you engaged in your business. Start thinking about this now. You will need to upload a picture with the application.

At the end of the grant period, you will be contacted to provide a testimonial of how these funds have helped your business. It is important to participate in these two requests as this finished booklet will be distributed to our funders and community partners. It will be free advertising for you across the entire State of Vermont.

5. Direct Deposit:

In anticipation of distributing the grant awards using direct deposit to a bank account of your choice, you will be asked to enter the routing and account numbers associated with that account using a secure portal. Please confirm with your bank, the routing number, and your bank account number.

6. W- 9 Form:

You will be asked to submit a W-9 form. The link below is the form and instructions. Page 3 gives specific instructions for each question. This link is to help you prepare for the application; a w-9 forum will be included in the application process as part of the #2 secure application.



is important to keep your receipts of the purchases made with this grant. You will be sent a 1099 at the end of the year. The IRS requires you to report this as revenue, which you will offset on your business taxes (Schedule C) as business expenses.

Please be aware that federal or state funding authorities will randomly select 10% of the statewide grants for audit. This means you may be asked to show your receipts. YOUR RECEIPTS MUST EQUAL THE AMOUNT OF THE GRANT AWARD YOU RECEIVED. YOU WILL NEED TO MAKE ALL PURCHASES BEFORE DECEMBER 31, 2020.

8. Follow Up:

It is extremely important that you participate in the surveys we need to send out at the end of this project. It is important for our program to collect this data. It helps us to serve you better.

How You Can Help Other Neighboring Businesses:

Our goal is to reach as many businesses as we can. If you know of other micro-businesses that are struggling due to COVID19, please send us an email with the business name and town in which they are located so we can contact the owner(s). Thank you in advance for taking the time to think about how to help yourself as well as your neighbor.

Recent Blog Post

Release Date: Wednesday, September 25, 2019BARRE, Vt. -- Capstone Community Action is receiving a $200,000 grant from the Small Business Administration’s Program for Investment in Micro-Entrepreneurs across Vermont. PRIME assists low-income entrepreneurs who lack sufficient training and education to gain capital to establish and expand their small businesses.

Contact: Yvonne Lory, Capstone Community ActionPhone: (802) 477-5123Email: ylory@capstonevt.org  Morse Block Deli Celebrates a New Milestone

For Immediate ReleaseContact: Margaret Ferguson, Business CounselorPhone: 802-477-5214Email: mferguson@capstonevt.org Need a Career Boost?

National Small Business Week is May 4 -11 Small business owners power our economy….and our communities.  When I think about what I purchase from small business owners each week throughout the year, I’m amazed at the depth and breadth of their products and expertise.  In my opinion, every day is a day to celebrate our small business owners! 

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