First Children’s Finance provides loans and business-development assistance to high-quality child care businesses serving low- and moderate-income families. In response to a growing shortage of child care slots and more Minnesota communities recognizing the economic development consequences, First Children’s Finance expanded what had been the Greater Than MN Project into the Rural Child Care Innovation Program (RCCIP).

Access to food is a problem in the country and in Minnesota. Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation is working towards a solution by supporting local foods businesses and small farms.

Bluff Country Co-op began in 1972 as a small grocery store located in Winona, Minnesota with various local and organic foods. Since then, love for the co-op has not ceased. In 2015, they bought the whole 10,400 square foot warehouse, yet needed some financial assistance to expand into the new space. To complete the expansion, Bluff Country Co-op recently received a loan from Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) through SMIF's revolving loan fund.

On May 31, 2017 the Children’s Defense Fund of Minnesota (CDF-MN) gave a presentation at Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) on early childhood access to care. Over 20 community members ranging from early childhood professionals to interested community members from across the southern Minnesota region gathered to hear what the Children’s Defense Fund had to say.

With the help of a loan from Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation and loan partner CEDA, Caleb and Blake were able to expand the inventory and update their equipment at Parkway Market & Coffeehouse. The store offers a variety of local and organic produce. They stock goods from many local vendors, contributing to the vitality of the community by supporting others.

J-C Press, printing and marketing company in Owatonna, Minnesota, received a loan through a Business Development Loan Request from Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. J-C Press recently acquired the equipment from Clear Lake Press in Waseca, Minnesota. This loan helped them expand their services and add new employees.

Collage Saint James, retail store in the heart of downtown Saint James, received a loan from Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) through the Small Enterprise Loan Program. Collage Saint James used this loan to make a successful transition of ownership and update the store.

Deaf Friendly Biz (DFB) is a web-based directory of Minnesota’s deaf-friendly businesses, as well as a platform for such businesses to advertise to the Deaf community. DFB's goal is to teach businesses how they can offer a deaf friendly customer service experience. DFB was formed by CEO Jamie Duncan to create an empowering marketplace for consumers within the deaf, hard of hearing, and signing community through educating businesses in Minnesota about how to offer a deaf-friendly customer service experience. Duncan, a child of deaf parents, has a lifetime of experience with the Deaf community and how to serve its members. She saw the opportunity to bring this expertise to the business sector, where she frequently noticed clients like her parents often didn’t receive as much information as other clients and consequently were less equipped when making decisions.

One of SMIF's newest loan clients, Chabelita's Yummy Foods and Fruits, brings more dining options to Le Sueur residents. They started out with candy and fruit salad, but a full menu of Mexican dishes is coming soon!

In 2011, SMIF President & CEO suggested that his son Marcus explore a year of service through SMIF's AmeriCorps LEAP program. Marcus was on-board and he shares his experience in a blog post for where he currently works, National Youth Leadership Council.

SMIF AmeriCorps LEAP member Sarah Fitch is currently in her second year of service at Three Rivers Community Action Preschool in Northfield. She shares her thoughts on challenges and rewards of preparing our youngest generation for kindergarten.

Kristy Baker, owner of Just Kneaded Massage in Mankato, received a loan through SMIF's Small Enterprise Loan Program. "SMIF's loan will give me ability to acquire the tools to expand on my practice."

SMIF has several new offerings to help minority and under-represented demographics including people of color, women, veterans, persons with disabilities and/or low-income populations.

SMIF's Preserving Our Heritage farmland retention program provides a win-win solution to help local communities retain the wealth generated by this land and landowners a way to ensure it stays locally-owned and tillable.

This year's report, "Tipping the Scales in Early Childhood," focuses on early childhood and features research on the importance of early childhood development, data on the status of Minnesota's youngest citizens, and programs and policies that support success in early childhood and throughout adulthood.

Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation's grant to Grow North MN, a social enterprise offshoot of Minnesota Cup, the state's largest business competition, has helped to create a one-stop-shop resource navigator tool for food entrepreneurs.

Jan Joannides is Executive Director of Renewing the Countryside. In this guest blog, she gives an update on the collaborative Grow a Farmer Fund, a new loan fund that will give lower-interest loans to small-scale, sustainable farmers in southern Minnesota.

F-Town Brewing Company is a microbrewery located in the historic downtown district of Faribault in Rice County. In 2014, they approached SMIF for a start-up loan. After a strong start, F-Town Brewing is hoping to triple their sales this year and are distributing statewide.

Spring Valley Area Community Foundation's Little Huskers Race drew nearly 300 children ages 2–12 in 2016 and is primarily a way for their foundation to raise awareness and give back to the community.

Members of the second PI Training Cohort had the opportunity to meet for 2 days to receive hands-on business education, network with other business owners, assess their current business situation and set goals for the future.

A day-long training aimed to increase business knowledge among Somali-owned small businesses attracted more than 40 attendees to learn from business leaders, academic instructors and services providers.

Meg Steuer is the new Economic Advancement Coordinator at SMIF. Welcome, Meg!

Eric Kyllo Speaks on being a SMIF donor and Peer Council member for Small Businesses

SMIF’s grant allows more SMART Training sessions to take place

Parenting Matters Training Sessions come back to Jostens in Owatonna after three years

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