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Rural Microentrepeneur Assistance Program (RMAP)

Providing rural entrepreneurs with skills for establishing new or continuing existing micro-enterprises

Program Basics
The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP) is a new USDA Rural Development program created in the 2008 Farm Bill that will provide entrepreneurs in rural areas with the skills necessary to establish new businesses and continue operation of existing rural microenterprises.

RMAP provides loans and grants to Microenterprise Development Organizations (MDOs), which in turn provide technical services and distribute microloans to rural microentrepreneurs. The MDOs are not required to be located in a rural area to be eligible to participate but microentrepreneurs must be. Microenterprises may be, but do not have to be, food or agriculture-related.

A few MDOs have already been successful at assisting microentrepreneurs start businesses in rural areas. Lenders and entrepreneurs have received funds through other USDA programs such as the Intermediary Relending Program or Rural Business Enterprise Grants, through the Small Business Administration's Microenterprise Assistance Program, or through private, philanthropic, or venture capital funds. The SBA program is generally fully subscribed and provides rural microenterprise assistance in only one state. RMAP now gives USDA the funds to fill that void.

Application and Financial Information
The RMAP program provides three categories of funding through MDOs in either loans or grants:

Eligibility, Uses, and Restrictions
MDOs can include nonprofit entities, Indian tribes, or public institutions of higher education; they must facilitate access to capital and have a demonstrated record or future plan of delivering vital services to rural microentrepreneurs.

Examples of Current Microenterprise Development Organizations

Center for Rural Affairs
The Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, NE, has been operating its Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) since 1990. REAP is a microenterprise program "that delivers small business training, networking, one-on-one technical assistance, and micro lending to businesses that are members of a REAP 'association' or members of the REAP Individual Program."

NC Rural Economic Development Center
North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center, Inc.'s Business Loan Program has been providing loans to rural small businesses since 1989. Their Microenterprise Loan Program works in partnership with small business centers at local community colleges and technology development centers to provide technical assistance and business planning to microenterprises.

Examples of Microloan Beneficiaries

Lil' Ladybug
With the help of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity's cash equity microloan of $2000 and the Center for Rural Affairs' REAP training sessions, Karen Runkle of Hay Springs, NE, started a tomato marketing business called Lil' Ladybug. The microenterprise is marketing tomatoes indirectly to farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) and directly from her greenhouse to consumers.

The Quilter's Cottage
Phyllis Hamaker opened The Quilter's Cottage in January, 2001 after purchasing inventory and remodeling the space with her husband. After purchasing more inventory, however, she found that she needed additional working capital to make improvements to the store. A REAP loan was approved in 2004, and the business continued to grow. Hamaker has now expanded to an even larger building where she teaches quilting classes and continues to sell her artwork.

Website Information
A website specifically for RMAP has not yet been launched, but will likely be located with other USDA Rural Development Business Programs at this site:

Contact Information
Jody Raskind, Director
Specialty Lenders Division (SLD)
USDA Rural Development - Business Programs

Last Updated November 10, 2009

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