Remarkable Year for Enterprising Couple

It has been quite a year for the owners of Sandhills Glass and Garage Doors, Brad and Gina Babb from Ord, Nebraska. From receiving a major award in February, to starring in a documentary video (as one of four businesses chosen nationwide), to addressing over 600 people at a national conference in Washington DC – it’s been a whirlwind start to 2010.

Brad and Gina were awarded the 2009 Center for Rural Affairs’ Entrepreneur Award in February. Shortly after, they were selected by the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) for a new documentary. (You can view it at http:// vimeo.com/11038957). The Babb’s were then invited to speak at the Association for Enterprise Opportunity National Conference in May.

Entrepreneurial Spirit Tested
Brad and Gina relocated to Ord in 1998 after accepting a position with Sandhills Glass & Garage Doors. Brad’s step father was part owner, and he was grooming them to take over when he retired.

Unexpectedly, Brad’s step father passed away in 2007. The other partner chose not to continue operating the business, preferring to sell and dissolve the corporation. Sandhills Glass & Garage Doors closed.

Brad and Gina started working on a business plan and pursuing options to purchase the business, leading to a collaborative loan package. Loan participants included a local bank, Valley County Economic Development & Ord Area Chamber of Commerce and REAP. The business reopened under Brad and Gina’s ownership in the summer of 2008.

Shining the Spotlight on Entrepreneurship
The Babbs are a prime example of what makes up the backbone of our economy in the United States – Small Businesses! In Nebraska, over 85 percent of businesses are small businesses with five or fewer employees, otherwise known as microenterprises. Most, if not all, successful small business people work day in and day out with little recognition and almost no collective voice at the State and Federal levels.

Brad and Gina have helped to shine a bright light on the importance of small businesses and what it means to the local community and region. The message is clear – small business develop¬ment at the smallest level needs to be made a priority at the State and Federal level.

Small business development isn’t the only answer, but it is a key to local and regional job creation and a main factor in whether a local community or region either grows or slowly withers away.

Programs Like REAP Can Help
As a result of past and current economic difficulties, small business lenders including banks and nonprofit lenders have really pulled back. Many are not lending to small businesses due to fears about the economy.

REAP has been working with startup and existing rural entrepreneurs during this critical time, substantially increasing loans and our overall efforts. The results of REAP over the past several years are impressive and clearly show the commitment to make a difference during tough times.

Programs like the Center for Rural Affairs’ REAP are needed now more than ever. The overall need for microenterprise programs that assist microenterprise size businesses (small businesses with 5 or fewer employees) far outweighs the capacity available to serve them.

Small businesses need various “tools” to increase their chances of success in business. These include access to “core” services, including access to lending capital, training and one-on-one counseling and business planning assistance. Small businesses drastically need these services in the best of times – even more so in the hard times, so REAP continues to stress all of these for our clients.

A Stronger Economy Means Job Creation
Brad and Gina Babb are an excellent example of the importance of entrepreneurship, including the significant benefit of having programs like REAP to assist both startup and existing small businesses. The end result is a stronger economy, stronger communities and job creation.

Our country was founded on entrepreneurship. Well over 200 years later, entrepreneurship remains the key to its economic engine. Thank you to Brad and Gina Babb for standing up for entrepreneurs and shedding a bright light on the importance of small business ownership and programs that assist in this area.

The Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) is a full-service microenterprise development program and operates on a statewide rural basis in Nebraska. Contact Jeff Reynolds, REAP Program Director at 402.656.3091 or jeffr@cfra.org for more information.

Brad and Gina Babb at the AEO Conference
Ana Ma, Chief of Staff for SBA Administrator Karen Mills, Brad and Gina Babb, and Eric Zarnikow, SBA Associate Administrator for Capital Access, pause for a photo at the AEO conference.