Posted December 12, 2016 by Daily Journal Online

Since 2013, the Southeast Economic Development Fund (SEED$) has been helping aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Parkland and surrounding counties establish, build and expand their businesses. The non-profit organization serves an eight-county area: St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Washington, Madison, Iron, Perry, Bollinger and Cape Girardeau.

The organization is committed to helping small businesses grow and create jobs in the region. One-on-one business coaching is available, along with technical assistance, group training and workshops that are held to benefit both start-ups and existing businesses. Training topics cover a range of issues, including “lean startup,” credit building, record keeping, cash flow and customer development.

The agency is also active in various community events that are related to promoting and supporting area entrepreneurs and small business owners, including one that took place in mid-November.

“On November 18, we took a group of people around to three businesses that have borrowed from SEED$ to show the impact we have had on the region,” said Patti Adams, SEED$ business and lending specialist. “We had a great meal at a new residential boys home, had homemade ice cream at a destination restaurant, and learned how to keep sawmill employees happy and safe, and somehow managed to keep dry on a very rainy day.”

Since its launch in 2013, SEED$ has counseled and trained more than 200 small business owners and entrepreneurs in a variety of industries, including service, retail, food, manufacturing and hospitality.

Additionally, eight loans totaling $362,500 have been approved with 54 full-time and two part-time jobs retained and/or created as a result of those loans.

“The last quarter we reported jobs created from businesses we have assisted that did not apply for a SEED$ loan — they received traditional bank financing with our assistance — were 15-plus that we know of,” said Adams.

Another 16 full-time and six part-time jobs are expected to be created with another loan closing early next year.

At least another 17 small business owners have secured financing through a SEED$ bank partner without any additional financing from SEED$.

SEED$ helps business owners learn the information they need to start, build or expand their small businesses. One-on-one coaching is tailored to meet the needs of the business owner or entrepreneur and is available at the place of business.

The majority of the time, the services are provided at no cost.

The organization also helps qualifying small and micro-businesses gain access to loans ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 for start-up and expansion, with Adams serving as SEED$’s loan officer out of the office in Park Hills.

“One of the reasons that we exist,” said Janey Radford, SEED$ business development coach, “is because there are a lot of people that are not able to get financing through the bank or other traditional means. Or maybe they’re able to get partial funding but it’s not enough … So that’s why we exist. We don’t compete with the banks (and) we don’t try to take loans away from them … We work together on (loans). Our relationship with the banks in the area has been wonderful. They make referrals to us and we make referrals to them.”

Although SEED$ follows strict criteria for business lending and financing, its guidelines allow for consideration of loans that are outside of typical bank requirements.

SEED$, a subsidiary of the East Missouri Action Agency, is partially funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development in addition to the Missouri Department of Social Services, Family Support Division.

The organization has also been awarded grant funding from multiple sources.

In August 2015, the Washington County Industrial Development Authority granted $250,000 to SEED$ to be used as loans to small businesses in Washington County.

In February, the organization received a $75,519 Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) through USDA Rural Development to assist in providing financial and business services to entrepreneurs, small and micro-businesses and job-generating agencies across Southeast Missouri.

SEED$ has also previously received funding from the Community Services Block Grant, the St. Francois Industrial Development Association and Parkland Properties.

SEED$ partners with several agencies and organizations in the region, including the St. Francois County Industrial Development Authority, numerous area banks, the Iron County Economic Partnership, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, local chambers of commerce and its parent, the East Missouri Action Agency.

For more information about the services available or to make an appointment with a business development coach, call 573-431-4296 or email jradford@eastmoaa.org. SEED$ is located at 5 Municipal Dr. in the renovated train depot building.

Amy Patterson is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3616 or apatterson@dailyjournalonline.com.