The Center for Rural Affairs REAP Women’s Business Center Gives Boost to Nebraska Women Entrepreneurs

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Monica Braun,, Phone: (402) 643-2673
Lyons, NE – Six women-owned businesses in Nebraska will have the chance to boost their enterprises through the REAP Women’s Business Center and the Women & Co.® Microenterprise Boost program. The entrepreneurs will receive cash awards of $1000 or $2000 as well as business skills training from REAP Women’s Business Center to help them with the growth and development of their businesses. Boost Award Winners will be recognized at the GROW Nebraska Membership Meeting at Burchell’s Whitehill Farmhouse Inn near Minden on April 18, 2008.
The Women & Co.® Microenterprise Boost Program is designed to help low-income and moderate-income women who are owners of microenterprises (businesses with five or fewer employees). The program, now in its fourth year, is funded by Citi Foundation and managed by the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO), the national leadership organization and voice of microenterprise development.

The REAP Women’s Business Center is one of 13 organizations selected by AEO to serve as a local partner in the program and is responsible for selecting the six women in Nebraska to  receive the awards. Monica Braun, REAP Women’s Business Center Director, said REAP Business Specialists will select the equity award recipients from among their many clients.

“Being able to provide this “boost” to several of our women business owners the last few years has allowed them to increase efficiency and profits. This is an opportunity to make an impact in their businesses without adding debt. We are excited to be able to do this again in 2008!” said Braun.

More than 300 women entrepreneurs nationwide have received a total of more than $350,000 in equity awards since the Women & Co.® Microenterprise Boost Program began in 2005. The majority of recipients report an increase in sales, revenue, or customers after receiving the award. “The aim of this Women & Co.® program is to champion underserved women business owners who can truly benefit from this small infusion of cash and opportunity for business training” says Amy McKenna Luz, AEO president and CEO. “The program empowers low-to moderate-income women, particularly racial and ethnic minorities, who are often left out of other entrepreneur support services.”

Karen Runkle, owner of Lil’ Ladybug Greenhouse and Gardens, received the award in 2007. She was able to purchase equipment that saved a great deal of time preparing vegetables for the CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) boxes she filled for customers, as well as ready products for the Farmer’s Markets. Several other business owners were able to increase their marketing efforts and acquire new customers.
Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.  The Center’s REAP program, an AEO member, provides technical assistance, training and loan capital to small business owners in rural Nebraska. Historically, microenterprises have been considered the backbone of the U.S. economy. AEO estimates there are more than 24 million microenterprises in the U.S. representing 18% of all private U.S. employment and 87% of all businesses. In Nebraska, 144,252 microenterprises represent 86.10% of all businesses in operation in the state.

AEO’s hundreds of member organizations have helped more than two million entrepreneurs support themselves and their families and contribute to their communities through small business ownership. AEO members provide small loans, business training and/or technical assistance to aspiring or current owners of microenterprises, often with a special focus on underserved populations. These populations can include new Americans, Native Americans, ex-offenders, former welfare recipients, women head of households, veterans, people with disabilities, inner-city youth, and those living in rural communities. Learn more at

Citi, the leading global financial services company, has some 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 100 countries, providing consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, and wealth management. Citi's major brand names include Citibank, CitiFinancial, Primerica, Smith Barney, Banamex, and Nikko. Additional information may be found at or

Citi Foundation
The Citi Foundation is committed to enhancing economic opportunities for underserved individuals and families in the communities where we work throughout the world. Globally, the Citi Foundation is focusing its giving on Microfinance and Microentrepreneurship, which helps individuals become economically self-sufficient; Small and Growing Businesses leading to economic expansion and job creation; Education, which prepares young people for personal and professional success; Financial Education, which helps individuals make informed financial decisions; and the Environment with a focus on sustainable enterprises that generate jobs and stimulate economic growth while preserving the environment. In the U.S. and Canada, the Citi Foundation supports Community Development programs that help build and revitalize neighborhoods and Education programs that prepare students for college and careers. Additional information can be found at
Women & Co.®
Women & Co.® is an annual membership program from Citi designed to help women take control of their financial future while facing the many transitions life brings. Since each transition point in life calls for a new set of knowledge, Women & Co. offers a full range of educational services and resources to help women navigate each twist and turn. For more information, visit

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