REAP Award Recipients | 2010

This spring we were honored to hand out 4 awards to special people who were involved with REAP and made a tremendous difference in 2010. Awardees included: Connie Harvey, Norma Avalos, Edgar Gutierrez, and the College of Business & Technology at the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

Center for Rural Affairs 2010 Entrepreneur Award
Connie Harvey, Efficiency Counts, Hastings, NE

Connie Harvey was employed at a local bank in McCook, Nebraska. She recognized the bank’s small business customers needed help setting up their accounts. Connie acquired an accounting degree from Mid-Plains Community College and started Efficiency Counts in the back of a computer store in 2004.

In 2007, she and her husband Larry moved to Hastings, where Larry serves as Pastor of First Baptist Church. Connie opened the doors to Efficiency Counts in a small office near downtown Hastings in April 2008. Accounting Support, Customized Databases and Software Training services are provided to clients within 150 miles of Hastings. The business has grown steadily over the last 6 ½ years in customer base, income and recognition.

REAP networking and the MarketPlace conference have been tremendously valuable. Two grants helped Connie to upgrade technology resources and to create a “Bookkeeping Basics for Business Success” curriculum. Most recently, Efficiency Counts was awarded a $12,500 contract through REAP to go out to small businesses statewide and work with them to set up or correct their bookkeeping systems. Connie recently moved the business to a much larger office in the building and hired 2 new employees.

Connie Harvey is shown receiving her award from Jeff Reynolds, REAP Program Director.


REAP Women’s Business Center Entrepreneur of the Year 2010
Norma Avalos, Taqueria Max, Lexington, NE

Norma Avalos owns Taqueria Max in Lexington, Nebraska. She has years of experience in cooking and decided to open her business in 2003. Taqueria Max offers authentic Mexican food including quesadillas, gorditas and sopes along with other traditional meals.

In 2008, Norma attended the REAP Women’s Business Center Business Plan Basics training in Lexington and also received technical assistance from REAP Hispanic Business Specialist Nancy Flock. Norma is a member of the Roundtable Group Centro de Negocios Lexington, where she continues to receive ongoing training.

A REAP loan is helping with working capital to expand the restaurant and allow more seating. The family works together to operate the business, and the REAP loan helps in managing the cash flow and improving their opportunity to operate with a profit.

Norma Avalos is pictured receiving her award from Nancy Flock, REAP Hispanic Business Specialist.


REAP Hispanic Business Center Entrepreneur of the Year 2010
Edgar Gutierrez, Edgar’s Japanese Auto Repair, Lexington, NE

Edgar’s Japanese Auto Repair opened in Lexington, Nebraska in May of 2002. Prior to that, Edgar Gutierrez ran his business for 12 years in the Los Angeles area. He and his wife decided to move to Nebraska to give their children and themselves more opportunities than the metropolitan area offered.

Edgar’s specialty is providing an affordable Japanese Auto Repair service. Business was steady and growing until 2008, when the building was completely destroyed by a fire. While some might have given up on their business in such an event, the Gutierrez’s were determined to get going again.

Slowly, Edgar rebuilt the shop, and it reopened in the spring of 2010. Customers are returning and he is attracting new ones. With his building experience, Edgar has also launched a construction business within his existing shop. The Gutierrez’s plan to build larger customer bases in both businesses. As business grows they also plan to hire 2 to 3 employees.

Edgar Gutierrez is pictured holding his award. Standing next to him is Juan Sandoval, REAP Hispanic Business Center Director.


REAP Friend of the Year 2010
University of Nebraska at Kearney
College of Business and Technology, Kearney, NE

Financial literacy with elementary school students, statistical analysis by college students, market research for individual small businesses, and volunteer help with conferences and projects, these are but a few of the things the College has done with REAP.

The Center for Enterprise Education (Mary Rittenhouse), Minden Exchange Bank and First Bank & Trust of Minden partnered with REAP on Financial Literacy activities at East Elementary school in Minden. This activity won an award with the Nebraska Education Association.

A UNK Statistics Class (Dr. Michelle Fleig-Palmer) reviewed and analyzed data from the 2008 REAP Small Business Needs Assessment study. A 200-level stats class reviewed the raw data from the 2010 study and presented their results. The Center for Rural Research & Development (CRRD) Advisory Council (Shawn Kaskie) provides market research to REAP clients.

The Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) Team (Shawn Kaskie) assisted with our MarketPlace event. The SIFE team is also working with the Center for Rural Affairs on a project with Cody Kilgore High School students on a student-run grocery store for the community.

Dr. Timothy Burkink, Dean of the College of Business and Technology at UNK is pictured receiving the award from Dena Beck, REAP Business Specialist.