Gaynelle Adams Jackson

An Interview with AMEN President, Gaynelle Adams Jackson

On the Record Q&A with Gaynelle Adams Jackson, President of Alabama MicroEnterprise Network (AMEN)
Gaynelle Adams Jackson is a passionate advocate for microenterprises, small businesses with five or fewer employees. In a Q & A interview, Adams Jackson, owner of Advanced Planning Services in Birmingham, shares her thoughts on AMEN and why microbusinesses are such an important part of society.

1. For those unfamiliar, exactly who is the Alabama MicroEnterprise Network (AMEN) and what is a microbusiness?

Gaynelle Adams JacksonAdams Jackson: Alabama MicroEnterprise Network (AMEN) is a 501c(3) organization that speaks with one voice to serve, educate and empower Alabama’s microbusiness development organizations and the entrepreneurs they represent.Microbusinesses, defined as enterprises with fewer than five employees, including the owner, are the small businesses on Main Streets and cross streets all over this country and they cover the full gamut of economic activity.

Based on information from the October 2012 Opinion Poll, The Role of Micro Businesses in our Economy:

• 75% of microbusiness provide the sole income for their families
• Over 50% of microbusiness have been in operation for 10 years or more
• Over 50% have employed a contractor or 1099 employee and nearly a third hired a full time employee in the past year.
• More than six in 10 spent over $50,000 in payroll and over 50% spend more than $10,000 annually on non-payroll expenses.
• 74% do all or some of their business in their local community

By the NumbersThink of a small law firm with two attorneys and a paralegal; the owner of the corner grocery, stock assistant and clerk; the after-school tutor; a computer technician; or an independent truck driver. Microbusiness activity is everywhere.

2. Why are microbusinesses so important?

Adams Jackson: Microbusinesses are the country’s largest segment of small businesses. There are 25.5 million microenterprises across the country, nearly 6.5 million in the Southeast and over 355,000 in Alabama, representing 88% of all business in the state.
Microbusinesses are responsible for more than 41 million jobs in this country. Median microbusiness wages are greater than – often double – the minimum wage level. Microbusinesses create a variety of positive social impacts by providing income, wealth and upward mobility across racial, ethnic and gender lines.

3. Why are microbusinesses so important to Alabama?

Adams Jackson: The Association for Enterprise Opportunity reports that if one in three microbusinesses hired an additional employee, the US would be at full employment. That same trend can work for Alabama. With access to the right mix of capital and resources, Alabama microbusinesses could be the engine of job creation and economic recovery for Alabama.

4. What does the Alabama microbusiness community need to help our microbusinesses make a substantial impact on our state’s economy?

Adams Jackson: AMEN seeks to advocate on behalf of the microenterprise industry, to build the case for supportive policies and practices that support a progressive microenterprise development policy agenda.

Key elements to this approach include:

• Launching a policy communication infrastructure to educate legislators, state agencies, municipal governments, chambers of commerce, business associations and other identified stakeholders.

• Developing a policy agenda for microenterprise to include funding to support microenterprise development program operations, entrepreneurship training and loan capital, including the following:

o Inclusion of microenterprise as an eligible use on the state’s CDBG consolidation plan
o Utilization of Workforce Investment Act funds to support microenterprise development
o Revision of guidelines for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)
o Implementation of a Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) Program
o Funding of the State Microenterprise Network (SMA)

5. What are some common misconceptions about microbusinesses?

Adams Jackson:

• That we are simply hobbyists, earning a little extra cash, selling handicrafts.
• That our businesses are generally side projects that help provide a second household income.
• That we come from low-income communities.

Microbusinesses look like me and many others. We are everywhere, in affluent communities, middle income and low-income neighborhoods.
Historically regarded as too small to count, microbusinesses are bigger than once thought of – and too important to ignore.