Demand for small business capital is strong

Note: This is the third in a series from our small business program, Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP), highlighting activities from Sept. 1, 2016, to Aug. 31, 2017. Our staff placed 124 loans totaling $2,541,952 in that time period. To apply for a microloan, click here. Click here for the first story and here for the second story.

The unexpected passing of Jeff Reynolds, long-time director of the Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP), made 2017 a year of change and transition for our small business development work. 

Jeff was committed to rural small business development, and to each and every small business owner we ever worked with. Since becoming program director in 2000, Jeff led a dramatic expansion of our small business lending, training, and technical assistance work. 

He fundamentally believed in small business development as a strategy for small towns. He helped design, campaign for, and win both state and federal programs that now provide resources to other small business development organizations. His impact extends far beyond Nebraska.

We miss Jeff’s dedication, his good spirit, his can-do attitude, and his uplifting presence, and we dedicate our work with Nebraska small businesses this year to him.

Lending for the year

Demand for small business capital is strong in rural Nebraska. When traditional lenders aren’t meeting the need, we do our best to serve rural entrepreneurs. 

From Sept. 1, 2016, to Aug. 31, 2017, our staff placed 124 loans totaling $2,541,952. Total outstanding loans have climbed to $6 million. Just five years ago, that number was $2.6 million. Our small business loans range from $1,000 to $150,000. The growth is a reflection of demand from the field and dedication of the staff.

One area of growth is from Latino entrepreneurs. Latino borrowers now account for 30 percent of our loan portfolio. As the demographics in rural Nebraska shift, we are dedicated to ensuring that new immigrants can become full participants in their communities, including as small business owners.

Our clients are everyday, rural people

Borrowers include individuals such as Ana Gonzalez, who always dreamed of starting her own business. Her dream became reality when she opened The Enchanted Bakery in Grand Island, Nebraska.

Previously, Ana operated a home-based bakery, but with growing demand, she knew she needed a storefront. Our staff was able to assist Ana not only with a loan, but also with training and hands-on help to get the business up and running.

The training and hands-on assistance we are able to offer small business owners are a hallmark of our program. We offer trainings on QuickBooks, online marketing, financial literacy, and other topics to business owners across the state. We also work one-on-one with clients to help them develop business plans, and provide business coaching.

Business ownership remains one of the key ways for individuals to build assets over time. Across the nation, there is a significant, unmet need for alternative financing such as ours.

Mission-driven and community-oriented control of capital will be a key strategy to help everyday rural people build a future for themselves and their communities in the coming decades.

Feature photo: REAP clients include individuals such as Ana Gonzalez, who always dreamed of starting her own business. Her dream became reality when she opened the Enchanted Bakery in Grand Island. Our staff assisted Ana with training, hands-on help, and a loan. | Photo submitted

Photo: Rachel Pittner, owner of the Groomin’ Room in Minden, Nebraska, has always loved dogs. She opened her business in Minden in 2013. REAP helped Rachel with a loan in 2015 to purchase a building after her existing location, which she rented, was sold. | Photo submitted