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Column: Investing in entrepreneurs keeps paying off

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In mid-October, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation hosted its annual luncheon at the Owatonna Country Club. It was another outstanding event with 200 of our partners from across the region.

Together we celebrated our past year's success stories, with our theme of "Investing in Entrepreneurs."

Megan Tsui, executive director of the Northfield Enterprise Center, and Tami Enfield of Brand Yourself Consulting shared how the small investment they each received from SMIF — a grant and a loan — was leveraged exponentially through collaboration.

The duo works together at SPUR, the co-working space created in downtown Northfield through an Incentive Grant from SMIF.

Enfield's business, Brand Yourself, received a start-up loan from SMIF in December 2011. She continues to partner with the foundation as a consultant to other loan clients and through teaching social media marketing workshops across the region.

Their collaborative efforts prove how a small investment can grow and affect an entire community.

At our luncheon, the Accentra Credit Union in Austin and Roundbank in Waseca were named our two Partners of the Year. These two financial institutions have provided SMIF with a strong and reliable partnership over many years. Both frequently refer small and large loan clients, collaborate with their community and SMIF on projects, and have been financial supporters of the Foundation. We were pleased to honor their commitment to leveraging assets to grow the southern Minnesota economy.

We also awarded our third annual One Big Thing Grant at our luncheon. Renewing the Countryside in Zumbro Falls received $100,000 for their "Growing a Local Foods Economy" project, which will bring together leaders from across the region to develop and implement a strategy to increase awareness of and support for local foods, as well as provide resources to local foods businesses ready to expand.

As always, our work here at SMIF is made possible through our many partners and supporters who share our vision for southern Minnesota. We thank all who attended our luncheon and those who have supported us in the past year.

As we begin transitioning into next year, we'll be wrapping up our year of focus on entrepreneurs and now move to put the spotlight on our Foundation's community development work. For more information about our program areas or to view the online edition of our 2013 annual repor, visit www.smifoundation.org.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions. You can reach me at timp@smifoundation.org or 507-455-3215.

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