New Growth, a west central Missouri small-business support organization, expanded its physical presence with the March opening of a satellite office in Bolivar.
The rural community development corporation, which is an affiliate of El Dorado Springs-based West Central Missouri Community Action Agency, provides small-business assistance and microenterprise financing in a 15-county region. That includes Dallas and Polk counties in the Springfield metropolitan statistical area, as well as Barton, Bates, Benton, Camden, Cedar, Dade, Henry, Hickory, Morgan, St. Clair and Vernon counties. Additionally, New Growth serves Bourbon and Crawford counties in Kansas.
“It’s a small office, but we’re really trying to be here to serve the southern part of our coverage area,” said Patty Cantrell, New Growth’s director of outreach and development, about the Bolivar office at 910 E. San Martin St. in Vineyard Square. “That means connecting up with many partners. We are trying to connect resources and help people plug into existing ones.”
New Growth launched in 2018, Cantrell said, adding she was the sole employee for two years as the organization sought to build resources for rural entrepreneurs and communities. In 2021, the organization added microenterprise financing via New Growth Capital, which gets rural businesses bank-ready with credit building assistance and smaller loans of under $50,000. That same year saw the launch of the venture’s business development arm, New Growth Women’s Business Center, which offers a variety of business resources, including mentoring, networking, training, workshops and technical assistance. Despite its name, Cantrell said the center serves all business owners.
Cantrell said the financing arm fills a gap the organization recognized needed to be filled in rural areas. New Growth is a U.S. Small Business Administration-approved microlender, she said. Since beginning microlending two years ago, it has provided 69 loans totaling more than $605,000.
“Many businesses are too small or too young, or just too risky with credit challenges, perhaps, to get a traditional bank loan,” she said. “So, we’re all about building the pipeline of businesses so they can get to the traditional bank with smaller dollar loans. Now, (banks) have an option to send them to us to help get that business underway and growing toward a bank loan.”
Jenifer Warden discovered New Growth via the SBA website and first made contact in November as she sought to start up a digital photobooth business in Bolivar.
“We just started making a business plan. I’ve never done a business plan,” Warden said, adding she connected with Lakyn Coleman, a business counselor with New Growth Women’s Business Center. “I wanted to do it right because I want this to be something I can do and be able to hire people to do it as well.”
Currently the sole employee of Captured Moments Photobooth LLC, Warden launched the business in February. She was able to secure a $16,000 loan through New Growth to purchase equipment from California-based Photobooth Supply Co., including two open-air photobooths, a printer, licenses, customer support access and marketing materials. Both booths use iPads for the software, with one of them also utilizing a Canon camera.
Warden said she worked a wedding for her first event in late March and has since provided her photobooths for a “Dancing with the Stars” event at Bolivar High School, as well as a couple church gatherings. While she works remotely for Office Products Alliance, which purchased her previous employer, Stepping Stones Office Products LLC in Bolivar, Warden desires to eventually turn her new side hustle into a full-time professional pursuit.
“They helped with the funding,” she said of New Growth. “They’ve been the biggest cheerleaders along the way, and now they’re helping with my website. They’ve been awesome.”
As New Growth seeks to build awareness of its services, it formed the Stay Here Business Acceleration Network, a team of resource partners that works regionally and statewide to advance entrepreneurship in rural areas. The Small Business Development Center at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, the University of Missouri Extension and MoSourceLink are among network partners.
The Economic Development Partnership for Bolivar and Polk County has worked with New Growth as a network partner since 2021, said Gail Noggle, executive director. The Bolivar-based organization, which is a resource for businesses in Polk County, changed its name from the Economic Development Alliance after becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit around nine months ago, she said.
“An economic development organization has to rely on other resources to put in their toolbox,” she said, noting the Economic Development Partnership occasionally refers people to New Growth.
When initially learning about New Growth, Noggle said she wanted to ensure the two organizations weren’t duplicating efforts. When that happens, it becomes confusing for clients to know where to turn, she said.
“It doesn’t make sense to partner with entities that are stepping over in an area that you already provide,” she said. “The main thing we use them for is that they’re going to be able to provide assistance with businesses or individuals that are not bankable, that don’t have the credit scores or wherewithal, whatever the case may be, to be able to get traditional financing.”
New Growth has two employees in its Bolivar office, which Cantrell said is currently open by appointment only. She declined to disclose startup costs or lease terms for the office.
“We’re definitely part of that new age of having a mobile desk,” Cantrell said. “This makes us more able to be here on the ground. It’s a place for us to be and meet with entrepreneurs.”
The Bolivar office is one of three satellite locations for New Growth, joining ones in El Dorado Springs and Osceola. Additional office sites are under consideration, but no plans are in motion, she added.
“We want to make sure any entrepreneur that comes through any one of our doors gets what they need,” Cantrell said.
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