Regional Support for Micro-Enterprise Grows

Patty Cantrell
October 28, 2020

The U.S. Small Business Administration has awarded one of 30 national microenterprise assistance grants to West Central Missouri Community Action Agency. The one-year, $98,000 award will support West Central’s work with affiliate community development corporation New Growth and other regional START HERE Business Acceleration Network partners. START HERE works to help rural businesses start up and grow with technical assistance and alternative financing.

“Capital is king for any aspiring or current entrepreneur, and the SBA is committed to providing critical funding to small businesses,” SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza said. “Retaining jobs – and creating new ones – is essential this year, and we are proud to award this year’s PRIME grants to assist entrepreneurs with the necessary training to create thriving sustainable businesses.”

Small businesses. The SBA Program for Investment in Micro-Entrepreneurs (PRIME) award buttresses regional START HERE efforts to increase business training and assistance in west central Missouri, build more bankable business borrowers with credit-building resources, and launch microenterprise financing through the new START HERE Revolving Loan Fund. The loan fund targets startup and small businesses that have solid plans and potential but are unable (yet) to obtain bank loans.

The Missouri Small Business Development Center at State Fair Community College is a START HERE Business Acceleration Network member, offering classes and no-cost business counseling in the region. Director Kelly Asbury said many clients need the smaller-dollar micro-enterprise loans that the START HERE Revolving Loan Fund offers.

“Traditional funding is not always an option, so we are excited to be part of building and promoting this new opportunity,” Asbury said.

Alternative financing. The statewide Show Me Capital report on financing for entrepreneurs highlights the need for micro-enterprise lending, especially in rural areas, said Alexces Bartley, Network Building for entrepreneur support organization and Show Me Capital report author MOSourceLink.

“Developing alternative loan funds, specifically in rural areas, and maximizing the use of those funds by increasing their visibility to a steady stream of qualified entrepreneurs will fill a critical gap that exists in the funding infrastructure for early-stage businesses,” she said.

Sheridan Garman-Neeman is Executive Director of west central Missouri’s seven-county Kaysinger Basin Regional Planning Commission, another START HERE Business Acceleration Network member. Kaysinger’s regional economic development work includes assistance to rural small businesses.

“The SBA PRIME grant and collaborative work surrounding it give our economic development team a powerful tool to use in addressing regional challenges. Through START HERE business assistance and microenterprise financing, we will not only be a lender to the entrepreneurs we support, we will be their partner,” Garman-Neeman said.

Regional network. Lisa Zimmerman is West Central’s Chief Economic Inclusion Officer and works with community development corporation New Growth to manage the START HERE Revolving Loan Fund and related technical assistance and entrepreneur credit-building work, which the SBA PRIME grant will support.

“SBA’s support is a testament to the hard work and collaboration of many partners in this region to get our rural economy going and growing with support to startup and small businesses,” she said.
West Central’s application was one of 30 funded nationally out of more than 120 SBA PRIME grant proposals. More here:

West Central Missouri Community Action Agency is dedicated to empowering people to make a positive change by coordinating and administering resources. West Central’s service region includes the counties of Cass, Bates, Benton, Cedar, Henry, Hickory, Morgan, St. Clair, and Vernon. Learn more at
New Growth is a regional community development corporation affiliated with West Central. Learn more at