HUTCHINSON, Minn.—Southwest Initiative Foundation’s (SWIF) Microenterprise Loan Program, in partnership with the redstar marketing un/academy, recently received recognition for their work helping small businesses in rural Minnesota overcome adversity.
In November, the Mid-America Economic Development Council presented its annual Economic Development awards at the 2021 Mid-America Competitiveness Conference in Chicago. This awards competition recognizes and stimulates the creative use of quality marketing and programs by economic development organizations throughout the council’s 13-state region.
SWIF’s Microenterprise Loan Program along with the redstar marketing un/academy received the award in “Overcoming Adversity” for the Business Reinvention program. The award recognizes a project or best practice that a community, region or state used to overcome a challenging situation.
The Business Reinvention program is a 10 week collaborative workshop that leads small business owners through a hands-on process, helping them navigate today’s challenges, build resilience and create a new vision for the future of their business.
“Being able to offer Business Reinvention to our loan clients has been tremendous. The transformations I witness as each entrepreneur goes through the program is so impactful. They finish the program with a renewed confidence in the future of their business and the communities they serve,” said SWIF Economic Development Officer Jackie Turner.
The training is funded by SWIF and provided to loan clients at no charge as part of the microloan program’s technical assistance.
“Our programs in partnership with redstar have had more impact and value than we could ever imagine. These initiatives advance economic mobility for historically undeserved entrepreneurs, in addition to helping create vibrant and welcoming communities,” said Scott Marquardt, who leads economic development work for Southwest Initiative Foundation.
Since 2020, 28 of SWIF’s loan clients have participated in Business Reinvention. The small businesses represent every type of industry in our region, from manufacturing to hospitality.
“We love our work because of the incredible small business and entrepreneurs we get to serve, along with the amazing partnership we have with Jackie and the entire SWIF team. It has transformed our programs and provided so many adventures,” said Betsy Bonnema, owner of redstar creative agency and founder of redstar marketing un/academy and the Business Reinvention program.
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.
Since then, the program has received four other awards, including:
2019 – Progress Minnesota Award
The “Progress Minnesota” awards program recognizes those individuals and companies who are driving business and industrial growth and economic development in Minnesota in unique and innovative ways. The awards are for those who are investing their time, energy and ideas, are having a significant impact on job creation, business development, and the overall economic health of the Twin Cities and the entire state.
2018 – SBA Minnesota Rural Lender Community Impact Award
The U.S. Small Business Administration recognized SWIF among 12 lenders throughout Minnesota committed to helping small businesses succeed. The award was based on lending volume and the impact that assisting those small business clients has on their rural communities and the region.
2013 – Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Dot.Org Award
SWIF was the recipient of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits 2013 Dot.Org award for program delivery. We were recognized for our innovative and creative work with technology.
2010 – International Economic Development Council Excellence in Economic Development Award
This award recognizes programs, policies, or initiatives that nurture and support individuals or emerging small businesses to develop their ideas, products, and/or services into viable, competitive businesses. SWIF’s award represented the Entrepreneurship category for communities with populations of 200,000 to 500,000.
The Microenterprise Loan 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].
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 $107 million through its grantmaking and business finance programs.