MICROENTERPRISES: Developing South Memphis, Inside Out, written by Vanessa M. Cross and submitted in partial satisfaction of the Poverty Law Seminar (Prof. Lee A. Harris, Faculty of Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis) on April 30, 2006.
Give a man a fish; he'll eat for today.
Teach a man how to fish; and he'll eat for a lifetime.
Trickle down economics, or top down development, has been the prevailing policy in the United States to combat poverty in the past decades. Rather than focusing on economic relief to large industry to encourage job creation, this essay advocates empowering communities through support of small businesses, or microenterprises. A “microenterprise” commonly refers to an individual business of less than five employees that is customarily organized as a sole proprietorship or family business. Microenterprises have been started for several reasons, namely, to supplement low wages, for flexibility to balance work and home life, and as an alternative to low-wage jobs where certification, licenses or non-felony status is required. This paper argues that microenterprise assistance programs4 (MAPs), by implementing inside-out development strategies through support of microenterprises can help revitalize impoverished communities. A look at the history of microenterprises in the United States and at a particular MAP in Memphis, Tennessee will give the reader greater insight into the viability of these community development initiatives in fostering economic growth in poor communities.
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