Building Blocks of Our Rich History
The history of the Nebraska Enterprise Fund began in 1994. With multiple micro programs developing across the state at that time, it became apparent that there was a need for an organization to assist in procuring grant and loan funds to meet long-term operational and lending needs. Gene Severens set out to work on the design and development of the Nebraska Microenterprise Partnership Fund (NMPF), a statewide microenterprise intermediary, and served as the first director. NMPF’s name was changed to Nebraska Enterprise Fund (NEF) in 2008, but the mission and purpose remained the same.
1994 NEF (aka NMPF) and NEON started
Starting in 1994, NEF assisted micro practitioners in forming the Nebraska Enterprise Opportunity Network (NEON) to provide education and policy work around microenterprise. Rose Jaspersen was the Charter Chairperson of NEON. NEF staff provided operational support for the organization, making it possible for NEON to apply for and accept funding. NEON eventually disbanded in 2008, blending its roles into NEF working groups.
1996 First NEF loans and grants to micro programs
NEF was successful in raising its first loan capital in 1995 and began making loans to programs for relending to businesses in 1996. The first pass through grants to micro programs for operational costs were also made in 1996.
1997 Microenterprise Development Act passed
Ed Kentch of FNBO presenting EQ2 funds to NEF board chair, Steve Peregrine, 2002.
In 1997, NEON members and NEF staff worked together to write and pass the Nebraska Microenterprise Development Act. NEF subsequently contracted with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development to administer the funds each year for 14 years. This Act has provided $5,234,500 for pass through grants and $1,025,000 in loan capital for programs. NEF raised additional grant and loan capital from other private, public sources over the years. For example, NEF received its first Equity Equivalent Investment (EQ2) from a bank for use as additional loan capital in 2000.
1997 501c3 status granted
NEF was awarded non-profit status as a 501c3, serving as a support corporation of the Nebraska Community Foundation in 1997. This was followed in early 1998 with certification by the US Treasury’s CDFI Fund. Both of these activities made it possible for NEF to then apply for and receive funds from new national and state sources. In addition, NEF was awarded the first of its kind Presidential Award for Excellence in Microenterprise by President Clinton.
1998 Certified as a community development financial institution by the CDFI Fund
2000 NEF receives first EQ
In 2000, Gene left NEF to do microenterprise work on the national level. Rose Jaspersen was then hired as Executive Director of the organization. Current staff, in addition to Rose includes Glennis McClure, Program Manager, Terrence Coleman, Business Loan Officer, and Jane Olson, Program Assistant.
NEF received public charity status from the Internal Revenue Service in 2008. Due to the growth of NEF and NCF it was decided to separate the two organizations at that time, allowing NEF to bring its bookkeeping in-house.
2010 NEF makes first Direct Loan and CD Guarantee
NEF received additional loan capital from the State of Nebraska in 2008-2009 with the directive to use the funds for direct loans to businesses. NEF staff developed loan policies for direct lending and started making loans to businesses, typically working in collaboration with other lenders.
At the same time, NEF designed a Certificate of Deposit (CD) Loan Guarantee product that could be used in supporting collateral weak deals at banks.
With the invention of these products, NEF became not only a gap financer for micro programs, but also directly for micro businesses.
2012 NEF is a finalist in national Association for Enterprise Opportunity Power of One Award competition
The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) conducted research in 2011 that found that if one in three micro businesses nationwide could hire one employee there would be no unemployment. AEO went on to develop an award program called the Power of One Award to recognize organizations that stood out as leaders in the field of microenterprise. NEF was one of three organizations selected as finalist. The award was given to Accion New Mexico-Colorado-Arizona, a longtime friend of NEF.
Over the years, NEF has provided capacity building training for microprograms in the state. Many topics including technology in marketing, business plan writing, tax literacy, etc. have been presented in twice yearly trainings. One training focused on becoming a CDFI. As a result two Nebraska microprograms were certified. In addition, NEF staff provide technical assistance to programs, assisting with various questions throughout the year.
One of NEF’s key roles is to continue to innovate and develop new products for the field. For example, the following have come about as a result of this work:
MIRS – Microenterprise Information Referral System was developed to link microprograms with banks to serve unbankable customers. This tool provides support for NEF’s Business Resource Directory.
NEF website – NEF established a website in 2003 for educational purposes and to serve as a vehicle for linking businesses to micro program services.
Data Collection System – In addition to its funder role, NEF has gathered data from grantees/borrowers for the last 13 years. Performance data from the programs and outcomes data from businesses were collected. The information was presented in an annual report. Click here to view the 2012 Annual Report.
NEF had a first of its kind tool developed for program use in recording and sharing data in 2003. Prior to that time an Excel spreadsheet format had been used. In April, 2010 NEF launched a new and improved data collection system. In 2012, NEF abbreviated the volume of data being collected and developed a quick entry format for programs.
Tax Literacy – Working with program partners, NEF facilitated the development of tax preparation/literacy documents to help businesses enter the formal economy by paying taxes.
New loan products – NEF has developed several new loan products in addition to the Evergreen loans. These products make it possible to fill gaps where businesses may not have access to capital. (See 2010 info above.)
NEF continues to network and share information with other organizations in Nebraska and nationally regarding this work. For example presentations by NEF staff have lead to new intermediary activities/organizations in Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan.
Today, NEF provides loan capital to businesses and programs across Nebraska. In addition to offering direct loans to businesses from $5,000 to $150,000, NEF collaborates with other lending programs or financial institutions when gap financing is needed. NEF offers a unique gap financing product called a CD (certificate of deposit) Guarantee to assist banks and credit unions in lending to small businesses based on the credit and security needs of the total loan package.