Couple Demonstrate Importance of Microentrepreneurs

It’s been quite a year for the owners of Sandhills Glass & Garage Doors, Brad and Gina Babb from Ord, Nebraska. It started when they received the Center for Rural Affairs’ Entrepreneur Award last February.

Brad and Gina’s business was honored again when they were selected by the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) for a documentary. It was one of only four businesses chosen nationwide. You can watch the video at

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In May, the Babb’s were chosen to speak to 600 attendees at the AEO national conference in Washington DC, and they were the hit of the event. So far, this has been a whirlwind year for Brad and Gina.

The couple hasn’t achieved this success without a lot of effort and a little help along the way. They moved to Ord in 1998. Brad’s step father was part owner of Sandhills Glass & Garage Doors, and he wanted someone to take over the business when he retired. After his untimely death in 2007, the business closed.

Brad and Gina began work on a business plan, pursuing options to purchase the business. Their efforts led to a collaborative loan package, including the Center’s Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP), Valley County Economic Development, and a local bank. The business reopened under the Babb’s ownership in the summer of 2008.

The couple is a prime example of the backbone of our economy in the United States – Small Business! In Nebraska, over 85 percent of businesses have five or fewer employees, otherwise known as micro businesses. 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 level.

Brad and Gina Babb are shining a bright light on the importance of small business to local communities and regions. The message is clear: small business development at the micro level needs to be a priority at all levels – federal, state and local. Small business development is critical to local and regional job creation and is a vital factor in whether a community or region grows or slowly withers away.

Small business lenders, including banks and nonprofit lenders, have really pulled back lending in the economic downturn. REAP has accelerated their work with startup and existing rural entrepreneurs and has substantially increased overall efforts. Small businesses need various “tools” to increase their chances of success in business. These include access to “core” services – lending capital, training and one-on-one counseling, and business planning assistance, all of which REAP provides. The end result is a stronger economy, stronger communities and job creation.

Contact Jeff Reynolds at 402.656.3091 or jeffr@cfra.org for more information. REAP is a full-service microenterprise development program and operates on a statewide rural basis in Nebraska; see www.cfra.org/reap.

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.