Micro-financing helps make it happen!
By Patty Cantrell
Lynette Black of Changes N Time Café in Stover, Missouri, is one of those locally owned and locally rooted small business owners who do so much more than make and sell things. Anybody, say McDonalds and Hardees, can make hamburgers. But who keeps money circulating in the local economy? Who shows up when the high school graduating class needs a hand?
Locally owned and rooted businesses! That’s who the New Growth community development corporation is working to support with rural small business development and flexible micro-financing programs.
Lynette Black used New Growth’s smaller-dollar financing to actually expand Changes N Time Café during the coronavirus pandemic. She began offering take-home meals and opened a second location in nearby Versailles.
Now, more growth: Five years since starting up as a home-based cake-making side gig, Lynette is re-opening her hometown Stover café location in her own brand new building. New Growth and The Citizens-Farmers Bank in Stover teamed up for the financing needed to make the new location happen. [Check out grand re-opening festivities Aug 5 and 6.]
Changes N Time Café is helping Lynette’s hometown of Stover grow strong, not only with sales but also with love and leadership. The small business resources and teamwork that helped Lynette along the way are an essential part of more rural communities celebrating similar successes.
Hometown Asset Building
Until Changes N Time, there were no restaurants in Stover’s recent history. Now, area residents have nearby places to eat, and to gather.
“A group of ladies meets here every Tuesday morning,” Lynette said. “And there’s a group of men who meet here every single morning. That’s when the stories fly.”
In addition, Lynette is helping other local entrepreneurs by hosting food trucks at Changes N Time’s new location when the café is closed. Her brother in law also last year opened a barbeque place in town.
These new food stops are adding to the local economy as tourists stop to buy gas after breakfast on their way to Lake of the Ozarks. The food options are also adding to the town’s potential; other entrepreneurs may begin to think Stover has enough traffic for them to set up shop.
Then there are the fundraisers for local families in crisis, the donations to kids’ activities, and Lynette’s work cleaning up the town and promoting other local businesses. She’s making space at the café to showcase other businesses’ wares, for example. Building her new location included clearing and improving a lot along the highway that had been a town eyesore with abandoned and decrepit trailer homes.
None of this shows up in economic statistics. But locals understand and appreciate the community commitment and contributions.
Brice Lake, vice president of the Versailles Area Chamber of Commerce, is one. He explains why the group honored Lynette Black recently as Business Person of the Year-2022.
“From the first day (Changes N Time opened its Versailles location), she jumped on something like a cancer benefit. The next week she was doing a benefit for Shop with a Cop. Just constantly every time you turn around they’re raising money for a family in town or an organization in town,” he said. “She’s from Stover, but she jumped right into Versailles; she didn’t miss a beat.”
Business Credit Building
All of Missouri’s small towns have entrepreneurs like Lynette. But they all do not have the resources they need to grow.
“When we first opened 5 years ago, I literally had no funds,” Lynette said. “New Growth’s smaller loans helped us build our credit so we could get to where we are at now.”
Lynette bootstrapped her café’s startup and growth with an income tax return, business earnings, and then a small $1,800 loan in 2021 from New Growth. She used it to add equipment she needed for Meal Solutions by Changes N Time Café. The take-home meal enterprise, set up during the pandemic shutdown, is still going strong.
Lynette then had the opportunity to take over a closed restaurant in the neighboring rural community of Versailles, said New Growth Loan Fund Manager Michelle Smith. “It was all set with things like tables and chairs. She just needed initial operating costs and some additional equipment.”
New Growth was there with that smaller dollar amount, just $6,000, which larger banks often cannot provide. Corporate and regulatory guidelines generally restrict their business lending only to those in operation at least two years. Smaller dollar amounts are also difficult for banks because of processing costs; it’s more cost-effective for them to handle larger amounts.
Bankable Business Building
Addressing this financing gap, by building up small rural businesses so they can obtain traditional bank loans, is what New Growth’s micro-financing is designed to do.
Loan amounts from $500 to $50,000 are in the “micro-enterprise” range that banks often do not cover. New Growth’s average loan size is $12,000. Collateral requirements are flexible, with no collateral needed for loans less than $3,000.
In addition, credit scores are no problem. Nonprofit community development corporation New Growth works with each borrower to build good credit histories and address any bad credit issues, at no cost.
Hometown lenders like The Citizens-Farmers’ Bank in Stover are more likely to make smaller loans to business owners they know well. For example: Citizens-Farmers’ Vice President Curtis Oelrichs has complete confidence in Lynette Black: “She has a good plan. She is qualified. Customers would follow her no matter where she went.”
Yet teaming up with New Growth makes sense to Oelrichs.
“There’s no doubt that without New Growth’s help (Lynette’s new location) was able to go faster,” he said. “By the time we got our processing done, she already had concrete poured.” New Growth’s role in getting Changes N Time to that point was also a benefit. “It’s definitely an advantage to me for her to get (micro loan amounts) from you,” he said, noting the processing time and cost involved.
Teamwork like this is needed to help more rural entrepreneurs and their communities move forward.
Ultimately, rural entrepreneurs like Changes N Time, will feature greatly in the revival of rural Missouri as a place where people and businesses want to be.
“I’ve lived here my entire life. We don’t have a lot of things,” Lynette said. “Anytime we want to do something we have to go to other towns to do it … I want to make things better, so people want to live here and have a place to call home.”
The New Growth community development corporation is home to New Growth Capital and the New Growth Women’s Business Center.
New Growth Capital provides micro-financing and credit building services for rural entrepreneurs.
The New Growth Women’s Business Center serves men and women across 15 rural Missouri and Kansas counties.
New Growth also convenes the regional START HERE Business Acceleration Network of resource partners pulling together to leave no rural entrepreneur behind.