Now That’s Impressive: Entrepreneurs & Trainings Abound

Small Business Happenings – Marvin and Candy Blecha purchased the hardware store in Humboldt, NE, in fall of 2006. Prior to their purchase, store hours were sporadic and supplies and inventory were limited. Marvin, a machinery mechanic, saw a way to keep Humboldt’s downtown square alive with business and to help his hometown economy grow. Marvin is a native of Humboldt, and his wife Candy, a special education teacher at HTRS Schools, is a native of Adams, NE. They understand the importance of supporting their community and growing the business economy in Southeast Nebraska.

Connie Kirkpatrick saw an opportunity when she came across an existing personalization business. For several years, she has operated a sewing and alterations business. Since there is some overlap in the markets, combining the two made sense. Her business, RCK Creations & More, worked with REAP to help expand. Connie was also referred to GROW Nebraska for marketing help. Check out her products and imagine the possibilities at http://rckcreation

As travelers traverse the soon to be open railroad overpass into Thedford, NE, a bright red and yellow Burlington Northern Caboose on the north side of Highways 2 and 83 will be visible. The caboose houses Dawn E. Bryant Originals, a business offering custom jewelry design, original stone, silver and wire wrap jewelry, cleaning and repair and watch batteries. Dawn, a REAP client and owner of the business, is an accomplished photographer and artist. Her work is displayed at the Thedford Art Gallery and has been exhibited in shows across Nebraska. Learn more about Dawn here.

Technical assistance and loan activities in western Nebraska resulted in a number of business transitions and start-ups. These included a start-up by Spencer McMurtry, d/b/a Infinite Graphics, providing various marketing designs, including automobile wraps. Spencer, a 2008 high school graduate of Bayard, NE, is getting his feet wet as a young entrepreneur. Bobby Felton in Chadron purchased an existing fence building business providing services to ranchers in northwestern Nebraska. Bobby looks forward to expanding into commercial and residential fencing. Rick Camacho started a new mechanical business in Scottsbluff offering commercial and residential plumbing, heating and air conditioning.

Elaine Mullin was a recipient of a $3,000 award provided by the Women & Co.® Microenterprise Boost Program and distributed through REAP. Elaine owns and operates Elaine’s Hair Studio in Pawnee City, NE, and has built a clientele of over 150 people in the area. She has over 30 years of experience working as a hair stylist. Elaine’s Hair Studio offers haircuts, perms, shampoo and sets, hot wax treatments, coloring and highlighting services, beard trims and ear piercing along with a retail line of hair products.

Training & Assistance – Last year saw a 100 percent increase in businesses in the Nebraska Panhandle requesting assistance with bookkeeping, especially the QuickBooks accounting program. Jerry Terwilliger conducted five QuickBooks training sessions in collaboration with WNCC Community College. Classes in Gordon, Alliance, Bayard, Sidney and Scottsbluff used REAP’s Mobile Laptop Lab. The QuickBooks training was a great success, and is available to any town or village in the Panhandle. Classes repeat again this fall at the same locations, and a new training will be added in Kimball, NE.

The Crossroad Rural Entrepreneur Network (CREN) hosted the first QuickBooks training session with the Mobile Laptop Lab in October of 2008. Several members recognized the advantages of using this program to assist with recordkeeping and tax preparation.

The East Central Small Business Network (Butler County) hosted e-Business - Selling on the Internet, an introductory workshop for those contemplating taking their business online. ECSBN also hosted a QuickBooks training using the Mobile Laptop Lab. Those involved saw the benefits of keeping accurate records to assist them in creating and maintaining successful businesses or organizations. Members participated in the local ESI Camp (EntrepreneurShip Investigation) by visiting with camp participants about their businesses and what is involved in running a small business.

Last fall, a two-day Accounting Basics Workshop in Spanish was held in Grand Island, NE. The workshop had a total of 12 participants, mostly entrepreneurs; the group also included participants looking to start their own business in the future. Instructor was Javier Arizmendi, and the workshop was sponsored by the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce.

A Tax Literacy Workshop was held in Columbus and South Sioux City, NE. The workshops were designed to assist business in gathering all documentation for filing taxes. Funds were received from the NMFP - RCDI grant to conduct the training. REAP contracted the services of Karen Mavropoulos, Omaha, to assist with developing and facilitating the workshops, and 23 business owners attended.

The Burt/Cuming County Economic Development organizations and REAP sponsored a Business Plan Basics session in fall of 2008. Sessions were rotated among four communities. Participants included existing businesses, new businesses, expanding businesses, potential businesses and nonprofit organizations. Networking opportunities proved beneficial to all.

A Business Plan Basics Training was held this spring in North Platte. Ten participants met weekly for five sessions to learn about Marketing, Customer Relations, Financial Management, Advertising and Promotion and Goal Setting. The course was taught by Cathy Nutt, Mid Plains Community College Business Instructor and sponsored by Mid Plains Community College-Center for Enterprise.

The Business Plan Basics Training was also held in September and October in Lyons, NE, with 16 business owners attending. The training was co-sponsored by the communities of Lyons, Oakland, Tekamah, Bancroft and Decatur. It was held again in March and April in Creighton, NE, drawing 14 business owners and potential business owners. The training was co-sponsored by Knox County Economic Development and Creighton Community Foundation.