WILLMAR, Minn. – Entrepreneurs Ya Chaw and Hteh Hteh Hta Rue are opening Chaw’s Asian Market in downtown Willmar with help from Southwest Initiative Foundation’s (SWIF) Microenterprise Loan Program and DEED’s Minnesota Emerging Entrepreneur Loan Program.
As a teenager in Myanmar, Rue worked in her parent’s family-owned market. She recognized a growing need for Asian groceries in the community of Willmar, with its blossoming Asian population. Rue will be the sole full-time employee at the new business, while Chaw maintains a separate full-time job. They are renting a building at 810 Litchfield Avenue Southwest owned by Willmar Municipal Utilities and plan to renovate the space for the store.
Rue recently graduated from the Elevate Community Business Academy, gaining hands-on training in business planning and management tailored to underserved entrepreneurs. Kandiyohi County & City of Willmar Economic Development Commission are offering the Elevate course at no cost to entrepreneurs in Kandiyohi County with funding from Southwest Initiative Foundation.
“I don’t speak English, so I think I’m not going. But it’s very good for business. So then, OK I try. This Elevate class is very useful for business (owners) who are starting business or owning business. We like it. We love it,” said Rue, who was in the first class of the new program.
SWIF and DEED loan funds will be used to purchase equipment and inventory and make building improvements, as well as for working capital. Microloan clients also receive free technical assistance from SWIF staff to improve their business management skills. Areas of support include business planning and financials analysis, QuickBooks training, marketing assistance and other training opportunities for the life of the loan.
“Adding this small business to Willmar represents an opportunity not only for customers and the community, but also for Ya and Hteh to build something for themselves. We’re happy to be there to support their business dream,” said Jackie Turner, SWIF Economic Development Officer.
Loan programs have been a key function of SWIF since its inception to support communities and businesses throughout southwest Minnesota. In 2001, microlending was added to existing programs as a tool to support small businesses and people looking for self-employment opportunities.
This microloan program receives funding assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more information, contact SWIF at 800-594-9480, 320-587-4848 or [email protected].
The Minnesota Emerging Entrepreneur Loan Program (ELP) supports the growth of businesses owned and operated by minorities, low-income persons, women, veterans and/or persons with disabilities. DEED provides grant funds to a network of nonprofit lenders which use these funds for loans to start-up and expanding businesses throughout the state.
About Southwest Initiative Foundation
Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) is a nonprofit community foundation connecting people, investing in ideas and building communities to create a southwest Minnesota where all people thrive. Since its founding in 1986, SWIF has distributed more than $97.8 million through its grantmaking and business finance programs.