REAP Increases Efforts to Reach Entrepreneurs Online

The Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP), a program of the Center for Rural Affairs, is well known for producing impressive results. We combine a willingness to try innovative programming with a penchant for applying unique methods, which often achieves extraordinary results. The term “innovative” can be defined in many different ways. For REAP, the three best definitions are “original” or “one-of-a-kind” and “on the cutting edge.”

REAP is one of a handful of microenterprise development programs in the United States that offers a comprehensive online lending system. The Online Lending System allows us to reach entrepreneurs in the most remote areas of Nebraska. With it, we can truly provide efficient statewide program coverage for Nebraska’s rural entrepreneurs.

We recently added an important upgrade to the loan system. It is now possible for an entrepreneur to fill out an online loan application in Spanish. The entrepreneur simply needs to click on “Espanol,” and the application questions will be displayed in the Spanish language. When the application is received, it is translated from Spanish to English, helpful for our REAP staff who are not bilingual.

Startup and existing entrepreneurs’ needs and the way they desire to receive entrepreneurial services are always changing. Our recently completed 2010 REAP Needs Assessment Survey asked “How do you prefer to receive entrepreneurial services?” Nearly 50 percent of respondents answered that they preferred one-time workshops. This was closely followed by online assistance (available when needed) and one-on-one counseling. The least preferred ways to receive services were classroom style with multiple sessions and online webinars with a predetermined time.

The one-time workshop preference by entrepreneurs is clear and is being met through trainings like the Center for Rural Affairs’ MarketPlace event held annually and through REAP-specifi c training events. Find out more about the 2011 Nebraska MarketPlace here.

We are developing more new and innovative online assistance options for entrepreneurs. These will be announced in early 2011. As has been the case over the past 20 years, the new REAP service options promise to be original, one-of-a-kind, and on the cutting edge.

The Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project is a full-service microenterprise development program operating on a statewide rural basis in Nebraska. For more information, browse http://www.cfra.org/reap.