Brad and Gina Babb Recognized at National Entrepreneurship Conference

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Jeff Reynolds,, (402) 656-3091
Lyons, NE - Brad and Gina Babb, business owners from Ord, Nebraska, were recently recognized at a national entrepreneurship conference in Washington, DC. This is just the most recent development in what have been several memorable years for the Babbs. And as with many compelling stories, this one began with tragedy.
In 1998 Brad Babb accepted a position with Sandhills Glass and Garage Doors, a small business in Ord owned in part by his step-father. Babb believes the arrangement worked well, and his step-father hoped he would take over the business when he retired. Unfortunately, Babb's step-father passed away unexpectedly in 2007, and the Babbs were faced with a dilemma - allow Sandhills Glass and Garage Doors to close for good, or find a way to buy out the company's other partner and move the business forward.

The Babbs' decision to continue the business, and their perseverance on their journey to success, is why the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) chose them to be among four outstanding American small businesses in a documentary video -- (see video at  ) -- demonstrating the importance of microenterprise development across America.

According to Gene Rahn, REAP Business Specialist with the Center for Rural Affairs, when AEO was searching for small business owners for their video, he knew immediately that the role should go to the Babbs. After the Babbs decided to purchase and re-open Sandhills Glass and Garage Doors, they prepared a business plan and secured a loan from First National Bank in Ord. However, it wasn't enough to complete the deal. That's when the Babbs first met Rahn.

"That's when someone suggested we go talk to REAP," said Brad Babb. "They were able to give us the last piece of the puzzle." Rahn helped the Babbs package their bank loan with two microloans from the Ord Revolving Loan Fund, which provided them adequate capital to re-open Sandhills Glass in the summer of 2008, nine months after it closed.

"Without those funds, we wouldn't have a business," added Babb. "Without them, maybe we would have moved out of the area and done something different."

Sandhills Glass and the Babbs have had continued business success, and in February 2010 they received the Center for Rural Affairs' Entrepreneur Award. Not too long after that Rahn approached the Babbs with another proposal - that the Center for Rural Affairs would fly the Sandhills Glass owners to Washington to represent small business recipients of microloans at the AEO's national conference.

"We loved every minute of it," said the Babbs.  "It was such an honor to represent rural businesses. That's something that's very important to us."

That's how Brad and Gina Babb found themselves in Washington, DC, introducing Ana Ma, Chief of Staff for SBA Administrator Karen Mills and telling their story to AEO conference attendees who rarely hear from rural small business owners who receive microloans. Ma spoke highly of Sandhills Glass, saying, "they have a great business model, so the fact that they were about to lose the business was heartbreaking." Ma also pointed out that help from microlending programs led to Sandhills Glass hiring more people, creating jobs for others in Ord and providing a glimpse at how a small business loan can provide a lift beyond mere figures on a balance sheet.

The Babbs hope to start an apprenticeship for young students in the area wanting to learn a trade, adding yet another dimension to Ma's point about impacts beyond a balance sheet.

For pictures of the Babbs visit:

(Accompanying Gina and Brad Babb in first photo is AEO Executive Director Connie Evans.  In the second photo 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.  In the third photo Jeff Reynolds, REAP Director, Eugene Rahn, REAP Business Specialist, the Babbs and Congressman Adrian Smith gather on the Capital steps.)

(Pictures courtesy of Center for Rural Affairs)