Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program

Examples | How Does it Work? | Resources | Learn More

Helping You Be Your Own Boss

Main Street

Lyons, Neb. Home to the Center for Rural Affairs.

Update: This program launched in June of 2010 and applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Read further for more information on how you can benefit. To see a list of awardees, click here.

The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program is a new program that will that will invest $45.1 million for 2010 in organizations that provide training, technical assistance or make small loans to new and existing rural small businesses.

This program will accept applications on a rolling basis and make awards quarterly. The first deadline for awards is July 16th, 2010 and the second round will close on September 30, 2010. You can view the rules for this program here (opens PDF), and the notice of funding available here (opens PDF).


  • The Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) is a project of the Center for Rural Affairs. REAP delivers small business training, networking, one-on-one technical assistance, and microloans to rural entrepreneurs.
  • North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center's Business Loan Program provides loans to rural small businesses. Their loan program works in partnership with small business centers at local community colleges and technology development centers to provide technical assistance and business planning to microenterprises.

How Does It Work?

This program provides grants and loan funds to organizations that give technical assistance and/or small loans to rural small business owners, facilitate access to capital and access to services for rural microenterprises.

This program makes grants to organizations that work to develop rural entrepreneurs. If you are a small business owner looking for training, technical assistance or financing, there is a directory to find a program in your area.

Main Street

Blackwater, Missouri. Photo by Frank Thompson and used here with special permission.

The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program provides funding for three areas of work:

  • Loans to microentrepreneurs through applicant organizations: $36.2 million will go toward providing loans of less than $50,000 to rural entrepreneurs for the development or start-up of successful microenterprises in rural areas.
  • Grants to organizations to assist microentrepreneurs: $7.6 million will be granted automatically to organizations that receive the loan funds (above) to provide marketing, management, and other technical assistance to microentrepreneurs who received or are seeking a loan from the microenterprise development organization.
  • Grants to support microenterprise development (not connected to loan funds): Funding to organizations who do not make loans to provide training, operational support, business planning, market development assistance, and other services to rural entrepreneurs.


Organizations eligible to apply for funding include nonprofit organizations, public institutions of higher education, and tribal governments that are not served by a nonprofit development organization.

Applicants should have a demonstrated record of delivering services to rural microentrepreneurs or an effective plan to develop such a program. Applicant organizations do not need to be located in a rural area, but they must serve rural entrepreneurs. Microenterprises can be food or agriculture-related but are not required to be.

The farm bill defines organizations meeting the above qualifications as Microenterprise Development Organizations (MDO).

Applications must meet the following standards:

  • Federal share of the cost of a project funded by this program shall not exceed 75%
  • MDOs must match at least 15% of any grant amount
  • Not more than 10% of any grant received may be used for administrative expenses


The Babbs: Owners, Sandhills Glass & Garage Doors (Ord, NE) from Creative Counsel on Vimeo. This clip is from a documentary that Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) developed to show the importance of microenterprise development in the United States. AEO is the trade association for microenterprise development programs in the United States.



For the purposes of this program, the following definitions apply:

  • Microentrepreneur: an owner and operator or prospective owner or operator of a rural microenterprise unable to obtain sufficient training, technical assistance or credit
  • Microloan: a business loan of not more than $50,000
  • Rural: any area other than 1) a city or town with 50,000 or greater population, or 2) an urbanized area contiguous or adjacent to a city or town with 50,000 or greater population
  • Rural Microenterprise: sole proprietorship or business with no more than 10 full-time equivalent employees
  • Microenterprise development organization (MDO): an organization that is a nonprofit entity, Indian tribe (that is not served by an MDO), or public institution of higher education that provides training and technical assistance to rural microentrepreneurs, facilitates access to capital and services to rural microenterprises and has a demonstrated record of delivering services to rural microentrepreneurs or an effective plan to develop such a program.


Learn More

For more information on the Rural Enterprise Assistance Project, contact or call 402.687.2100.