Are you an entrepreneur and can’t seem to find financing for your business? Maybe you’re in the startup phase and have been informed by a bank that they don’t loan to startups. Possibly you’re an existing small business in need of financing to stabilize or expand your venture but just can’t seem to find any takers in the lending area.
One of the best kept secrets in the United States is the availability of microenterprise development programs. Many microenterprise development programs across our country have lending programs that help meet the lending needs of small businesses.
The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) is the national trade association for microenterprise development programs. According to the AEO website, a microenterprise is defined as a business with five or fewer employees, small enough to require initial capital of $35,000 or less. AEO estimates more than 24 million microenterprises are located in the U.S., representing 18 percent of all private U.S. employment and 87 percent of all businesses.
The AEO website defines Microenterprise Development as a pathway to business ownership for underserved entrepreneurs that generates income, builds assets, and supports local economies in creating employment. Most microenterprise development programs provide core services including business training and technical assistance and access to capital. Other services may include access to markets and technology training.
So, if you are a micro entrepreneur in need of financing, the place you are likely to find opportunities is through a microenterprise development program in your state. You can find a list of U.S. microenterprise development programs on the AEO website. Visit www.microenterpriseworks.org, then look at Resources, Find an AEO Member Near You.
In Nebraska, the Nebraska Enterprise Fund (NEF) is the equivalent of AEO, but at the state level. A listing of microenterprise development programs in Nebraska can be found on the NEF website at www.nebbiz.org then click on Business Assistance.
Another key provider of financing for micro entrepreneurs in the U.S. is Small Business Administration (SBA) Microloan Intermediaries. A complete listing of available SBA Microloan Intermediaries can be found on the SBA website at www.sba.gov, then click Services, then SBA Loans, and finally click on Micro Loans. Then scroll down to the SBA Microloan Intermediaries link.
The above sources of financing are not an inclusive list, but are a great place to start. 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. More information on REAP services can be found at www.cfra.org/reap or contact Jeff Reynolds, REAP Program Director at 402.656.3091 or firstname.lastname@example.org.