Small Business Week: Don’t Leave it at Just a Dream

By Mary Kuhlman, Nebraska News Service

Small businesses are a key element of Nebraska's economy, supporting the jobs of nearly half of the workers in the state. Many resources are available to help wannabe small-business owners make their vision a reality. 

Among them is the Center for Rural Affairs' Rural Enterprise Assistance Project, or REAP, the largest rural-only microenterprise program in the country. As a Latino loan specialist with the program, Griselda Rendon explains that owning a small business takes desire and drive. 

"Don't leave it just at a dream,” says Rendon. “There is some funding needed on their side because everything is an expense. But if they take the initiative and they've decided that's what they want, there's a lot of resources out there for small businesses. It's just knowing where to go."

REAP provides business training, technical assistance, microloans and networking opportunities. National Small Business Week runs through May 5, and there are about 172,000 small businesses in the state.

Rendon says with the shifting demographics of Nebraska, REAP works to ensure new immigrants are able to own their own businesses. She notes Latino borrowers account for 30 percent of their loan portfolio.

"Latino entrepreneurs are getting to know the program, they're feeling comfortable, they're able to borrow to start their business,” says Rendon. “So that has grown, but we welcome any immigrant in the community."

The U.S. Small Business Administration in Nebraska also offers resources to help entrepreneurs. SBA district office director Leon Milobar says small-business ownership is a dream worth pursuing.

"We have people who come to this country and they take the classes, they find a mentor and they do the homework, and it can be done,” says Milobar. “You do not need any advanced degrees to be successful in business; you basically just have to do your homework."

According to the American Immigration Council, immigrant business owners generated more than $65 million in business income in Nebraska in 2015.