Women's Initiative for Self-Employment III

Spring-Summer 2003
Project Type
Full team
Project Focus
Earned Income
Organization Type
Human Services,


The Women’s Initiative for Self-Employment (WI) serves high-performance, low-income women. The mission of WI is to build the entrepreneurial capacity of women to overcome economic and social barriers and achieve self-sufficiency.

Project Objectives

An ACT team was commissioned by WI to determine the feasibility of developing research and evaluation consulting as an earned income stream.

Project Overview

The ACT team’s work on this project took place in two phases. First, the team assessed the internal and external environment. Internally, the team reviewed WI’s potential product offerings and capabilities and interviewed key stakeholders to assess available internal resources. Externally, the team examined the market need and barriers to entry within the microenterprise industry and studied the competition and possible substitutes.

In the second phase, the team helped WI develop potential business models and scenarios for each, looking at the range of service offerings, pricing levels, and organizational structure required, as well as the potential for revenue growth and organizational impact.

Key Recommendations

  • Do not develop a distinct research and evaluation (R&E) business, due to opportunity costs given the lack of profitable scenarios, the management required, and potential distraction from WI’s mission
  • Drop the idea of profit-generating R&E activity completely
  • Relax profitability criteria and re-evaluate business model over the applicable timeframe
  • Search for foundation sponsor and re-evaluate business model when specific foundation support (in terms of money or clients) is captured

Final Report Outline

Final Report

  • Project objective
  • Project work elements
  • Feasibility study; market findings; criteria; concept/option evaluation
  • Business model assessment
  • Financial breakeven calculations
  • Consulting scenarios
  • Training scenarios
  • Concerns about R&E business concept
  • Benefits of partnering with a foundation
  • Conclusions
  • Recommendations
  • ACT project team


Final Report

  • Concept evaluation worksheet: sample worksheet to assess the feasibility of potential earned income options
  • Business model assessments: sample assessments for two earned income scenarios
  • Foundation partnership: benefits of partnership model


  • Guide to designing feasibility studies: review of the 3-step process and sample work plan
  • Breakeven analysis: sample breakeven analysis for various scenarios
  • Guide to identifying foundation partners: criteria, necessary steps, and sample evaluation worksheet
  • Useful research resources for pursuing R&E business opportunities