Credit building program builds pipeline of bankable borrowers

A new small business development program in rural west central Missouri has reached its first-year goal of making 25 individuals more bank-ready with significant improvement in credit scores. The credit building program is a free service of community development corporation New Growth. It is also part of New Growth’s work building rural businesses with parent organization West Central Missouri Community Action Agency and other partners in the regional START HERE Business Acceleration Network. The START HERE entrepreneur support team aims to build a pipeline of bankable business borrowers through technical assistance, credit building, and micro-enterprise financing.

Since October 2021, 26 individuals have improved their credit scores. Improvements totaled 875 points, with a top entrepreneur achievement of 108 points. New Growth’s credit building program has been funded through a grant from the Small Business Administration (SBA) Program for Investment in Micro-Entrepreneurs (PRIME).

Financial Mainstream

The purpose of credit building is to bring more rural people and businesses into the financial mainstream, said Lisa Jones, Chief Economic Inclusion Officer at New Growth. “More than bad credit, we find that many in our area just have no credit history; they have never used credit or have avoided it because they don’t know how to use it.” In those cases, the program can bring an individual’s score into the high 600s within six months, she said.

Credit building is a process of developing positive credit history by adding active “trade lines” through very small loans and secured credit cards. It also includes strategic work clearing negative credit history if necessary. Another key component of the program is New Growth’s ability, through membership in the national Credit Builder’s Alliance, to report borrowers’ positive repayment to credit bureaus. This ensures good credit history shows up and adds up.

Business Expansion

Lynette Black, owner of Changes N Time Cafe in Stover, Missouri, improved her credit score by more than 50 points through the program. She also expanded her business last year despite the global Covid-19 pandemic, and even opened a second location in Versailles. This was made possible with financing through the START HERE Revolving Loan Fund.

Operated by New Growth, the micro-enterprise loan fund is designed to assist entrepreneurs who have solid businesses but who cannot get bank loans due to low credit scores, or because their businesses are too small or new for banks to work with. START HERE partners across the region also work to provide the business counseling and other assistance rural entrepreneurs need to succeed.

“Lynette had a great pay history on her first loan, which adds a positive trade line to her credit report and positive credit history,” said Michelle Smith, Revolving Loan Fund Manager at New Growth. This is how the program builds the credit scores and financial histories that small rural businesses need for eventual work with traditional banks.

Thriving small businesses like Changes N Time Cafe are key to thriving rural communities. It’s what Lynette Black wants to do. “I see myself running these two successful businesses and providing services to both communities that we serve.”

More Information

Contact Revolving Loan Fund Manager Michelle Smith for more information on New Growth’s credit building program and START HERE Revolving Loan Fund:

Tune into this Hometown Revival podcast  for a discussion of the New Growth credit building program:


New Growth is a regional community development corporation affiliated with West Central Missouri Community Action Agency. It is home to the START HERE Business Acceleration Network, the START HERE Revolving Loan Fund, and the New Growth Women’s Business Center. Learn more at

West Central Missouri Community Action Agency is dedicated to empowering people to make a positive change by coordinating and administering resources. Programs include housing, emergency services, energy conservation, employment and training, and credit building. West Central’s service region includes the counties of Cass, Bates, Benton, Cedar, Henry, Hickory, Morgan, St. Clair, and Vernon. Learn more at