We review all applications to determine whether a person is eligible and has a business goal that is a good fit for our program.


CIE gives priority to applicants who:

  • Belong to an underserved or traditionally excluded community (e.g, women, people of color, minorities, ESL immigrants, people with a disability),
  • Are low income (80% of area Median Income, which is less than $69,300 for a family of 4),
  • Are unable to find business support elsewhere.

Low income applicants are presumed to be underserved. Applicants who are not low income but who self-identify as experiencing barriers preventing access to main stream business development support service will be considered on a case by case basis. 

Good Fit:

Our focus is on helping people start or grow a very small business (sometimes called a micro business or microenterprise). Generally, a very small business is one that:

  • Is operated by the owner,
  • Has no more than 5 employees, and
  • Requires less than $50,000 to launch or expand.

Are you already in business? Many of the people we help are working to start a new business. But we also help people with existing businesses become formal, profitable, and ready to grow. Click here for a copy of our Grow Ready Checklist. Note: For people with an existing business, we can sometimes waive the First Step course and get right to work.  

There are some types of businesses that we generally DO NOT consider a good fit:

  • Franchises – Too complicated and restrictive for us to help.
  • Multi-Level Marketing Schemes – MLMs sell opportunities to sell opportunities to sell opportunities to sell. You get the idea. Our focus is on businesses that create value that builds community wealth.
  • Hobby or Break-Even Businesses – Our focus is on businesses that contribute in a meaningful way to a person’s financial self-sufficiency. Hobby businesses help support a hobby.
  • Nonprofits – Starting a nonprofit is a whole different ball of wax from staring a business. We’ll make an exception for nonprofit “social enterprises” that are self-financed through a revenue generating business.