Summer  2008      Vol. 17, No. 3  REAP HOME PAGE  A publication of the Center for Rural Affairs    
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Small Business Needs Assessment

BY DENA BECK, REAP BUSINESS SPECIALIST

The history of microenterprise dates back thousands of years. The presentation of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize to Dr. Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank brought microenterprise to the surface in many areas of the world, including the United States. Recently, there is a lot of attention being paid to entrepreneurs.

Not everyone agrees on what is the key to success, the precise definition of an entrepreneur, or the solutions to the problems they face. One aspect that is agreed upon is that more research is needed, especially involving those small businesses who are not covered by unemployment insurance. Many of these businesses are the self-employed in rural areas, who are the prime market for REAP.

REAP was begun in 1990 by the Center for Rural Affairs as a response to growing poverty in the Midwest. It is now the largest full-service rural microenterprise development program in the United States, with nine employees, including two bilingual staff who provide services for the Hispanic Business Center. The program also hosts the stateís only Womenís Business Center, whose services are delivered by all staff. The REAP program consists of four elements including credit (microloans), technical assistance, networking, and small business training.

From January 25 to March 10, 2008, REAP conducted a statewide Small Business Needs Assessment, which targeted microenterprises, lenders, and service providers who work with entrepreneurs across the state. The self-administered survey was sent out to REAP clients and contacts and also made available through various listservs across the state.

The survey was also translated into Spanish and made available to Spanish-speaking REAP clients and other Spanish speaking business owners. Those who received the link to the survey were encouraged to send it to others they knew of that met the criteria. A total of 250 people completed the survey.

Preliminary results from the survey have already made a powerful difference in planning for REAPís future. For example, the survey asked what the greatest difficulty was with their businesses. Cash flow/lack of capital was by far the most popular answer (60 percent) out of 20 different responses for that particular question. The respondents were also asked how they would like training to be delivered. The number one answer was as a workshop followed by online training such as a webinar or podcast.

Full results of the survey will be released by the Center for Rural Affairs this fall. You can see a snapshot of who participated and some of their business characteristics by following the link.


Contact: Dena Beck, REAP Southwest/Central Business Specialist for more information, denab@gtmc.net or 308.528.0060.
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