September 2006  Issue No. 24                    REAP HOME PAGE         A publication of the Center for Rural Affairs

Rural Enterprise Reporter

That's Impressive: REAP Member Activities
Trainings and business expansions continued to provide educational and business opportunities for REAP members during the year

>> During the fall of 2005 the South Sioux City Latino Business Association co-sponsored a Computer Training with Northeast Community College to help business owners improve their computer skills. The training was conducted in Spanish with 25 participants registering. After the training the association gained several new members.

>> Madison was the site for a REAP Basic Business Training conducted in September and October. Co-sponsor for the training was the Elkhorn Valley Economic Development Council. Eleven Hispanic business owners attended the course. After the training was completed the participants elected to form the second REAP Madison County Hispanic Business Organization.

>> Greg Suhr, O’Neill, Nebraska, purchased Jensen Western Wear, O’Neill in February 2004. Greg’s previous employment for several years involved working for a hearing aid company testing individuals for hearing loss and servicing hearing aids. To insure the success and viability of Jensen Western Wear, Greg felt starting a hearing aid business combined with the store would provide that avenue to success.

Greg obtained his Federal Hearing Aid dispensing license in May 2006. Greg is in the process of installing a soundproof room for testing in the O’Neill store. Satellite offices are already in operation in Verdigre and Neligh. Ord is the site for another office to open in the near future, with Valentine and Ainsworth to follow.

>> The Saunders County Independent Business Network (SCIBN) was able again this year to raise funds by having a Food Booth at the Fourth of July celebration in Wahoo. The SCIBN association met at the members’ places of business to better acquaint themselves with business entities.

>> The Crossroads Rural Entrepreneur Network (CREN) invited Ruth Karlsson of the Nebraska Department of Revenue to present on sales tax issues which now affect service businesses as well as retail businesses. Michelle Paschke, IRS, presented information to the CREN group about IRS requirements, audits, records to keep, etc.

CREN members also participated in the REAL COLORS Personality Profile instrument to facilitate better communication with others. One CREN member included the exercise in a Staff Meeting to allow staff to learn more about themselves, co-workers, and to enhance customer relations. CREN also hosted the Business Plan Basics again this year.

>> The East Central Small Business Association (ECSBN) co-hosted a regional Marketing Session where Gene McCoy, CEO, President of KLNV AM/FM Radio and Gene McCoy Advisory Services, presented marketing tips and techniques. Several ECSBN meetings were at members’ locations, which was very helpful in understanding each other’s business.

>> Heritage Candle Company – Sometimes it takes five years for a dream to magically become a reality. Six years ago Kris and Kim Vrtiska began making candles in their kitchen as gifts for teachers and friends. Today they can produce over 1,000 premium soy candles a day. In May 2005 Kris opened a retail store, Heritage Falls Candle Company, in Falls City, Nebraska.

Candles are shipped nationwide and are currently in stores in nine states, but much of their business is with fundraising organizations such as school groups, scouts, etc. Kris is currently the chair of the local REAP group in Falls City, Richardson County Business Development Association (RCBDA). Kris’s husband Kim is a teacher at Falls City Middle School. They have three young children.

>> The Loan Tree Small Business Association (LTSBA) hosted Jeff Reynolds, who presented “Improving Chances of Business Success.” Missy Hillmer, REAL Life Portraits and LTSBA member presented “Marketing Ideas” at one meeting. Kim Brown, CCOnline, and LTSBA member presented information on Microsoft Excel for members.

>> Two and a half years ago Sherry Miller and Cindy Geu of Sidney, Nebraska, were having some great fun planning to open the “Borders Quilt Shop,” which had been a dream of both for several years. They were being assisted by Jerry Terwilliger, REAP Business Specialist for the Nebraska Panhandle region.

After several months of putting together a business plan and working on getting a rented building, remodeling, and painting, their opening was planned for May of 2004. Everything was in place and the plan had been put in motion. Sherry would work part time in the business and still hold onto her accounting position, and Cindy would work the store during regular hours.

About the time they were ready to open the business, Cindy’s husband Larry was diagnosed with cancer. This meant a lot of Cindy’s time would be needed at home with Larry and commuting to doctors and hospitals. After being open for several months, it was apparent Sherry would have to quit her job and be available to run the business full-time, with Cindy helping out when she could find the time. In September 2005, Larry passed on, and after some healing time, Cindy was able to return to working with the Quilt Shop she dearly loved.

In the fall of 2005, Sherry and Cindy had the opportunity to move their business to a larger building and a location in the central business district of Sidney, which they accomplished just as the Christmas holiday was approaching. They were looking forward to a great holiday sales season.

Unfortunately through a painting accident of the building’s owners, they came to work one day and found all their inventory of cloth and supplies covered with a dusting of paint from a paint sprayer. After visiting with the insurance company, it was decided that the entire inventory would have to be replaced, and the long-arm machine they used for quilting would have to be shipped back to the factory for cleaning. All this during their Christmas sales season.

Because of the problems they were having, and after the holiday season, it was decided they needed to move again. They found another location in downtown Sidney. The move was made, (the second in four months) and they have been doing business at their present location at 1038 Illinois Street. They have developed their own web site, www.bordersquiltshop.com  and report they are still having fun. Sherry and Cindy are looking forward to a better holiday season this year.

Contact: Jeff Reynolds, REAP Program Director at 402.656.3091 or jefff@alltel.net for more information.

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