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In For the Count

Sharing the wealth is what it's all about.

When Iris J. Burnett and Nell Merlino received a call from a representative for Jordan's Queen Rania regarding microenterprise development, it was another validation of their innovative program called Count-Me-In. Burnett and Merlino created the program to revolutionize the way woman entrepreneurs raise money.

"We want to build a national community of women who'll invest in themselves and other women by donating to our fund," says Burnett. So far, Count-Me-In has raised about $1 million.

The money will be used to make $500 to $10,000 loans to women. The loan application that entrepreneurs complete is markedly different from traditional forms.

"We have redesigned credit scoring to accommodate for situations women find themselves in," explains Burnett. "Instead of asking how many years they've been in business, we ask, 'How many years have you been selling your product or providing a service?' We know a lot of women have been doing [business-related activities] on the side for five to 10 years but don't think of it as a business."

To qualify for a loan, women must make a donation to the fund and have experience providing their products or services, although they don't need to have a licensed business already. And you don't have to apply for a loan to make a tax-deductible donation. For more information or to apply online, visit www.count-me-in.org or call (888) 856-9806.

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This article was originally published in the September 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: In For the Count.

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