Valley Gives 2014, Where will you donate?

Valley Gives 2014, Where will you donate?.


BDC Announces First Graduates of Youth Program

Congratulations to Lawanda and Dwayne, the first graduates of the NEBA Business Development Center’s youth business program!

The youth business program is focused on providing the skills and knowledge necessary to help youth plan a business concept and write a business proposal.

This program was made possible by a generous grant from the United Way of Pioneer Valley ( 

Client Profile: Lavek N.

Lavek was born and raised in the Forest Park section of Springfield, Mass. At the age of 23 he moved to Texas for a teaching position, and he returned to Springfield four years later to take a special education position in a self-contained behavior classroom. Lacking strong staff support, Lavek developed his own strategies to help students curb negative behaviors and focus on their positive traits. “Within the education system, I found that I was able to work effectively with behaviorally challenged students,” he said.

When other teachers noticed Lavek’s success, they sent him their behaviorally-challenged students. Using techniques based on respect, trust, and positive feedback, Lavek continued to see positive changes in the students he worked with. His approach worked in a variety of settings, until he took a position in Central Massachusetts where negative discipline was encouraged. “I found it difficult to work under those conditions, and that’s when I realized I could better help students if I started my own business.”

The mission of Lavek’s new business venture was to encourage educators to show respect for their students, build their trust, and steadily achieve positive change. “I knew what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know how to go about doing it,” he said. Lavek struggled for years, trying to get his business going, and when he arrived at the NEBA Business Development Center (BDC) his confidence was shaken. “I came in defeated,” he said. He credits the Center and its director, Colleen Moynihan, with providing the mentoring and encouragement he needed to complete his business plan and successfully launch his business, “Knowledge is Power”.

With the BDC’s guidance and support, Knowledge is Power went from a single focus to offering multiple services, including anti-bullying workshops, one-on-one teacher and student consultations, and comprehensive work with failing schools in Western Mass. In addition to operating his business, Lavek continues to practice what he preaches by teaching a class of behaviorally-challenged high school students in Springfield. “Focusing on unity and respect helps to create a more positive learning environment,” he said.  

For more information about Knowledge is Power, e-mail or visit

– Eric Fiedler, Outreach & Development Coordinator

Who Needs a Financial Plan?

Many of us would answer that only the very rich need a financial plan.

But, wait…..we are getting ahead of ourselves. What is a financial plan?

Everyone has done some financial planning in their lives. It could be as simple as saving for a vacation or making certain there is enough cash to cover the bills. Unfortunately, few consider planning out their money over many months or years to reach larger goals or have something for the future.

Everyone should have some sort of a financial plan, regardless of how small their financial world may seem.  One of the important guides in financial planning is the saying, “the young person provides for the old person”. This is a direct look at how one’s retirement income can be planned for when it is needed.  Saving when you are young means having when you are old.

Putting some money aside on a regular basis is the first step to having a plan. We are all capable of saving 10% of our income. This is the historical average for saving. Putting $5 a week away becomes a good amount of money quicker than one might think.  It is a habit that needs to be started sooner rather than later and requires taking some specific steps to assure the plan succeeds.

First, open a savings account at an institution that is easy for you to get to.  In today’s world working with a Credit Union is often a better way to save than with a regular bank.   Why?  Credit Unions are not for profit corporations. This means they charge fewer fees. The fees they may charge are usually lower than a regular bank.  They often give higher interest rates on money in a savings account. Credit Unions usually provide all of the same services a bank does.

Why is there this difference? A Credit Union does not have stock holders to whom a dividend must be paid so any profit can be put back into the Credit Union.  A bank usually has stockholders who expect to be paid a dividend every three months and a Board of Directors that usually receive a payment for serving on the board.

Once a savings account is opened, plan on depositing a minimum amount each payday.  Have your employer make a direct deposit to your savings account.  Automatic savings are the most successful way to save. This also means you do not have to go to the bank to make the deposit.

Someone once asked me, “Why save, seems I have to use it all the time.” Well, that is one reason to save; so there is money available if needed in an emergency. Ideally, saving has two different purposes:  saving for short term or an emergency and saving for long term, like retirement or a large purchase in the future.  Regardless of the reason, saving makes sense.

– Colleen M Moynihan, M Ed, CLU, CMFC
Director, NEBA Business Development Center

What Does “Employment First” Mean?

In 2009 and 2010, Connecticut and Massachusetts joined several other states across the country in adopting an “Employment First” policy. This policy establishes that for adults with disabilities, integrated, individual employment is the preferred service option and optimal outcome. NEBA is a strong supporter of this policy, and we have been achieving many of its goals since our inception.

In Massachusetts, the stated goals of Employment First are as follows:

    •  Achieve Integrated Individual Employment. Integrated employment has always been the focus of NEBA’s service model.
    • Offer Comprehensive Self-Employment Support Services: NEBA’s Business Development Center, one of the most extensive self-employment programs for individuals with disabilities in the country, enables individuals who are serious about starting their own businesses to write a business plan and receive ongoing support for up to three years.
    • Achieve Employment Based on Individual Preferences and Needs: NEBA’s individualized approach helps the individuals we serve find and remain in the job they desire. If the individual lacks a core competency that is required for the position they want, NEBA’s job skills training program helps them build their necessary skills.
    • Place an Emphasis on Natural Supports: NEBA works with employers to identify natural supports that will enable the individual to successfully complete their job duties.
    • Maximize Work Hours: NEBA believes that the optimal employment status should be one where individuals are working the maximum number of hours they are capable of working.
    • Use Community Settings for Non-Work Hours: In additional to employment services, NEBA works with a variety of community centers to provide opportunities for volunteerism and other activities that can result in greater inclusion in community life.

Implementing these goals results in measurable increases in employment of individuals with disabilities within the general workforce who are earning minimum wage or higher with benefits. NEBA is currently working with our legislature, employers, and community partners so that we can all more effectively make the goals of the Employment First policy a reality.

The NEBA Business Development Center and Self-Employment


Who might be the next Donald Trump?

For the NEBA Business Development Center (BDC) that person could be any one of the 30-plus entrepreneurs who have completed a business plan through our program.

Since 2007, 83 individuals have explored the possibility of starting a business through the NEBA program. Did they all complete the self-employment path?  No.  But each individual did discover what the right path might be for becoming self-supporting. The 39 individuals that made the commitment to own a business and become self-employed are striving to be self-supporting and self-directed.

How did these individuals become self-employed?

The BDC offers assistance to people with disabilities to establish their own business. The program provides entrepreneurial training from the development of a business concept, the writing of a business plan to assisting, as needed, in the actual implementation of the business.

The program started by serving five individuals with a spectrum of disability challenges, and now serves 51 active participants. Direct service hours have expanded from 50 hours in the first year to 1,122 hours in FY 2010-2011. To date 39 plans have been written.

Program participants come by referral and as “walk-ins”. Most are Social Security beneficiaries using their Ticket to Work benefit. The goal of the BDC program fits perfectly with the goal of the Ticket to Work program; to assist participants in being self-supporting.

Once accepted into the BDC program the participant begins a series of weekly meetings that continue for an average of 60 hours to complete a SCORE-based plan. (SCORE is a program of the Small Business Administration to assist new business owners).

The BDC curriculum develops a participant’s financial literacy based on managing business operating costs, monitoring cash flow and developing business equity. Computer competency, using Word and Excel, is another outcome of the program. Participants work to develop their business idea, complete a business plan and implement their business concept.

The course begins with the development of the business financials. Operating expense information gives the participant an understanding of what it costs to run the business they have in mind. Expense information reveals the product or service price needed to cover costs. Participants develop three years of financials and the narrative to explain the financials.

In the current economic environment self-employment growth from all sectors of the population is a critical component to the revival of the general economy. Ironically, any surge in new business development has historically been during times of economic recession.  This is true for the disabled as well as the non-disabled.

If you know anyone with a disability that is interested in being self-supporting, share this blog. The NEBA website provides information on both supported employment and self-employment.  Both paths lead to being self-supporting.

How can more individuals with disabilities participate in the current economic revival?

Explore the possibility of self-employment through a personal assessment.

Why is being self-supporting a benefit to all?

When the entire community is self-supporting, there is more for everyone.

Colleen M Moynihan,  M Ed,  CLU, CMFC
Director, NEBA Business Development Center