April  2006      Vol. 15, No. 4  REAP HOME PAGE  A publication of the Center for Rural Affairs    
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Center for Rural Affairs Annual Awards Honor Rural Leaders

During the Center for Rural Affairs Annual Gathering and Small Business Fair held in Kearney, Nebraska in February, several individuals were honored for their efforts, integrity, and leadership. The recipients of the awards have demonstrated great leadership and/or entrepreneurial skills in their communities and have been integrally involved in the Center’s programs over the last year.

Entrepreneur Award, Missy Hillmer, Central City, Nebraska

Missy Hillmer, real life portraits, Central City, Nebraska, has been photographing for over 14 years. She started with family, friends, and landscapes – just for fun. She knew she loved photography, but didn’t know where life would take her and to what extent she would use it. After graduating from the University of Nebraska-Kearney with a BFA in Fine Arts, she continued photographing.

In 1992 she married husband Bill and settled in Central City, Neb. Her goal was to stay home with their children when that time came. In 1998 she started photographing out of their home part-time while working in Grand Island. In 2000 they decided it would be a full-time venture and converted a one-car garage into a studio. Missy continued her education by participating in workshops and seminars and taking lots of photos. Word-of-mouth advertising was working. She was becoming busier and busier. It was time to update and expand her studio.

In November 2002, Missy participated in the Business Plan Basics course sponsored by REAP/WBC and the Hamilton County REAP Association in Aurora. She completed her Business Plan for Hillmer Photography and determined she could afford to expand. In October 2003 construction began on a new 40’ x 60’studio on the Hillmer home site. Missy is able to take advantage of their 20 acres for outdoor photos, new studio backgrounds, and expanded electronic image capability.

Missy’s passion is black and white photography – particularly candid shots of people, especially kids. She also does weddings, senior class pictures, children, families, and special events. Her competitive advantage is finding the uniqueness in her subject.

Missy is a wife and mother of three active children. Missy has served as the Chairperson of the Loan Tree Small Business Association. She participated in REAP’s Women & Co Equity Award project in 2005 which helped boost her business, especially with newborn picture package sales through the use of her new laptop computer. On many occasions Missy has been a spokesperson for REAP, including being a panel member of women entrepreneurs at the Nebraska Women in Agriculture conference in 2005. She is a member of the Professional Photographers of Nebraska (PP of N) and is a member of the Central City Chamber of Commerce.

Missy’s advice to anyone thinking of starting a business is to “do whatever it takes to follow your dreams. God didn’t put it in your heart if it wasn’t meant to happen. But be prepared to work hard!”

REAP Officer of the Year 2005, Nancy Bohaty, Bellwood, Nebraska

Nancy Bohaty, Bohaty’s Gourmet Grass-Fed Beef of Bellwood, has served as the Secretary/Public Relations Officer for the East Central Small Business Network (ECSBN) serving Butler County and adjacent counties since its inception in 2003. She has worked closely with the Chair, Bruce Bostelman, to provide educational topics at their regular meetings. Nancy notifies members and potential members of meetings through email postcards. She has placed flyers in businesses in the community and provided information to the local newspaper. 

Nancy promotes REAP and ECSBN to others on a regular basis. She recruited business owners for the Business Plan Training Course that was held during the Fall, 2005. 

Nancy goes above and beyond normal responsibilities and provides delicious cookies, gourmet beef hors d’oeuvres and other treats for meetings! 


REAP Friend of the Year 2005, Pat Fritz, O’Neill, Nebraska

Pat Fritz has been the O’Neill Chamber of Commerce Director for over 20 years. In 1997 Pat was instrumental in forming the Peer Association in Holt County. Pat also supported the first Basic Business Training for the association by recruiting several participants and has supported additional business trainings in the region.

Since 1996 Pat has been a strong supporter of REAP in the O’Neill area referring many potential clients for loans, TA, and any type of assistance REAP may provide for small businesses.

Pat is always willing to serve on REAP loan calls and has participated numerous times.

Pat works with all sizes of businesses in her position as Chamber Director. She is a strong supporter of small and start-up businesses and realizes the importance of any new business for the community of O’Neill and the surrounding area.

If all Chamber Directors in communities where REAP services are available referred potential clients and supported REAP as Pat, micro development in rural Nebraska communities would be greatly enhanced.


REAP Small Business of the Year 2005, Jan McNichols, O’Neill, Nebraska

Dedication, perseverance, strong work ethics, and a positive attitude are all characteristics needed for a business owner to survive in rural Nebraska. Jan McNichols owner of The Emerald Spa in O’Neill has exhibited all these characteristics and more as a small business owner.

In 2000 Jan was faced with the necessity of changing direction in her working career with the closing of a business where she had been employed for several years. There was no possibility of leaving the O’Neill area (Jan’s husband owns a heating and AC business there). Faced with the reality of finding a position that would compare compensation-wise with the previous job, Jan decided a change in occupation was needed. She began taking classes in massage therapy and graduated in 2002.

With the assistance of REAP, The Emerald Spa was opened in the fall of 2002. In 2003 Jan was diagnosed with leukemia necessitating the closure of the business while going through treatments. All equipment and furnishings for the business were put in storage. In 2005 Jan decided she would be able to reopen the business. Securing a new location to reopen the business was assisted by REAP through the Women and Company Microenterprise Boost Program.

Due to Jan’s competence as a massage therapist and public relations skills, soon after opening Jan had all the customers she was able to handle.

Jan was a panelist for REAP at Women in Ag sharing her thoughts and feelings.

Jan is being awarded for small business of the year as an example of a business that is surviving due to the owner’s perseverance, strong work ethics, positive attitude, along with that never give up attitude (requirements of survival for the majority of small businesses in rural Nebraska). 


ABCDE Award: Above and Beyond the Call of Duty and Expectations Award

Kelly Kahman, Stephanie Shrader, Kendall Scheer

REAP awarded three of our experienced business planning instructors with the ABCDE Award. Those receiving this award include: Kelly Kahman (left), Kahman Cents Consulting of Fairfield; Stephanie Shrader (right), of Business Services, Inc., of Nebraska City; and Kendall Scheer (not pictured) of Highpoint Business Services, formerly of Stanton, Nebraska, now residing in Davenport, Iowa.

REAP believes they’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty and expectations (ABCDE) in helping REAP facilitate and instruct our REAP Basic Business Plan courses across rural communities in Nebraska.

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