October  2004      Vol. 13, No. 9  REAP HOME PAGE  A publication of the Center for Rural Affairs    
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REAP Rural Business Roundtable
Pilot program debuts a new model of REAP business organizing and networking.

By Glennis McClure, REAP Women's Business Center Director

REAP is ready to launch our pilot program of organizing roundtable groups in rural Nebraska. We believe small Nebraska businesses can benefit from the networking opportunities and the ongoing education built into the format of the roundtable meeting.

Roundtable participants will have access to REAP member benefits, including lending products, technical assistance, other REAP training opportunities, the online member directory, and the REAP Business Update newsletter. Most importantly, roundtable members will know and can use the expertise of the REAP Business Specialist in their area.

Lively Discussions Planned
Every other month, REAP will post a discussion topic on the REAP website and publish it in the Update. The topic will provide some background information and possible discussion questions that may be used by local roundtable groups to help facilitate their networking meeting. (See the first REAP Roundtable Topic!) Active REAP Associations are also encouraged to use the discussion topics at their meetings to fill educational program needs whenever necessary.

Just as our long-time REAP Associations have been, the local roundtable groups will be locally led and driven (based on the needs and interest of the members). The biggest difference in formation of a REAP Rural Business Roundtable will be the absence of the need for fundraising for a local loan loss reserve and the peer lending component that was part of our REAP Association history.

REAP’s goal is to pilot at least four roundtable groups in rural Nebraska communities during our 2005 fiscal year (Sep. 1, 2004 to Aug. 31, 2005).

Gathering Round the Table
Here are the notes we’ve put together so far about the proposed REAP Rural Roundtable’s structure:

  • REAP Business Specialists can organize a roundtable group in a community that has expressed an interest and need. A roundtable group can include participants from multiple communities. Through the orientation process of roundtable formation, groups will adopt a set of by-laws and elect officers (if they so choose).
  • Roundtable meetings will generally be scheduled on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. Time of day is determined by group consensus. It is strongly suggested the meeting time be limited to no more than one hour.
  • REAP will post discussion topics every other month on REAP’s website (six per year) and publish those in this newsletter. The roundtable group may choose additional topics or speakers to fill out their monthly meeting schedule.
  • Roundtable members would be required to join REAP individually for a $15 annual membership fee. Individual member businesses must fill out the REAP Business Profile. The group may determine to collect additional dues, beyond the REAP membership fee, for its own special uses account and elect a treasurer to handle the flow of money paid in by group members. For example, the group may charge $25 annual dues and pay $15 for each member annually to REAP. Without the special uses account, REAP would collect the $15 annual REAP membership fee from each member directly.
  • REAP staff can arrange their travel schedules to attend roundtable meetings as time allows. The REAP Business Specialist will stay in communication with the leadership of the roundtables.
  • If the group wants to bring the Basic Business Plan training to their community, REAP would require at least half the cost of the training (approximately $600 - $700) be paid by the group or through community fundraising.

Add Your Point of View
The roundtable networking group concept will help REAP increase outreach to small business owners. We will evaluate the effectiveness of the roundtable concept and look to implement it fully after the pilot year.

REAP members will be invited to future advisory meetings to further shape and refine this new approach. The roundtable model could potentially serve as a future replacement for the current peer (association) model.

Please talk to your REAP Business Specialist or Glennis McClure, REAP WBC Director about the REAP Rural Roundtable idea!

Contact: Glennis McClure, REAP WBC Director, 402.645.3296 or reapwbc@diodecom.net 
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