April 2019
At Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) we sometimes joke that we are our region’s “best kept secret.” But it is true that despite the fact that we are regularly out in our 20-county region visiting with partners and facilitating trainings, we find that there are still many people who do not know about SMIF. Unfortunately, that could mean an entrepreneur who doesn’t know about our financing opportunities, a school that might not know they can apply for free books, or a community organization that will miss out on funding for a project. The thing is, we don’t want to be a secret.

We want to make sure that people in southern Minnesota know that they can come to us for support in entrepreneurship, early childhood and community philanthropy. This is why we are launching our new Sprout! events this spring in the four corners of our region. The events will be held in Cannon Falls (April 23), Spring Valley (April 25), Kasota (April 30) and Fairmont (May 2).

A late afternoon open-house event, this will be a great opportunity for people to talk to SMIF staff and our area partners about ways we can support you and your community. We also look forward to hearing from several people at each event who have participated in SMIF’s programming, received funding, or have partnered in other ways.

We hope these events will be an opportunity to meet new people and deepen existing relationships with those who are actively working to make southern Minnesota a great place to live. These events are open to all – we hope to see you there!

Register for the events here .
Creating change one backpack at a time
SMIF’s Affiliate Funds have supported a wide range of projects in their local communities through grants. Some of the projects include community-wide Wi-Fi, downtown enhancement projects, farmers’ markets, Kindergarten readiness camps, and veteran’s memorials.

In Watonwan County, a group of concerned teachers and community members from Butterfield, Madelia and St. James formed a group to start a Weekend Backpack program in 2016. In order to facilitate the receipt of donations they approached the St. James Area Foundation and SMIF to act as a fiscal host. In their first year they were able to raise $20,000 to start the program and they continue to receive donations.

The program serves about 7,500 meals for students during the school year. In 2019 they added to the program to provide other essential items like clothing to students. What started as a program that served Kindergarteners is now serving all grade levels in all schools in Watonwan County.
Beyond money: supporting our region for sustainable growth
As a foundation, SMIF provides funding for a variety of programs and projects in the region. However, we also offer technical assistance to individuals and communities through the bulk of our programs.

Businesses that have received a loan through our Small Enterprise Loan Program, or have participated in programs like the Prosperity Initiative, FEAST! Smart Start, or our CEO Peer Network, receive one-on-one or group mentoring in the areas of marketing, QuickBooks, website management and more.

These entrepreneurs meet with SMIF staff or a consultant from our vast network of coaches, to support them as they grow their business. Kim Olson of Grandma’s Gourmets in Albert Lea received coaching through her involvement in FEAST! Smart Start, a program for local foods businesses. “[My coach] pushed me and kept on going,” said Olson. “She encouraged me to hire people and all of a sudden I had a demo person. All of a sudden I had all of these things that I didn’t think I could afford before.”  

We also provide direct support to community groups through our Community Growth Initiative, Early Childhood Initiative and community foundations. Services range from facilitating an asset-mapping process to help identify the community’s strengths and challenges, to providing direct support for marketing and fundraising. 

At SMIF we know it is important to go beyond funding. The technical assistance we provide helps to ensure a sustainable trajectory for growth of these businesses and communities.

Pictured: Loan client, Kendra Rasmusson from Farmhouse Market in New Prague, meets with SMIF Business Specialist, John Katz.
Recent Activity
Addressing the Child Care Shortage

SMIF has selected five communities to participate in a new program called Communities Addressing the Child Care Shortage: Albert Lea, Austin, Eagle Lake, Watonwan County and Wells.

Each community will work with SMIF for 6 to 18 months to develop individualized action plans to address local child care needs.

JR's Barn featured in Connect Business Magazine

Loan Client, JR's Barn from Waldorf, received a Small Business Loan in 2017 for equipment and working capital. The 1912 barn is used for weddings and other celebrations and gatherings.

"Our intent is to bring joy and life to our community by offering a beautiful event farm for all ages.”

Upcoming Deadlines
Upcoming Events
NEW Regional Sprout! Events
Sprout! events are a great opportunity to connect with others from the region, hear stories from people who have received grants, loans, or other programming, and to discover the many resources that we have to offer you and your community (and "sprout" new ideas!).

All events are an open house from 4:30-6:30 pm with a short program highlighting our partners at 5:15 p.m. This event is free and everyone is welcome, both new friends and old. Light hors d'oeuvres will be served. Join us at the date and location that works for you!
April 23 - Cannon Falls, Cannon River Winery
April 25 - Spring Valley, Four Daughters Vineyard & Winery
April 30 - Kasota, Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery
May 2 - Fairmont, Red Rock Center for the Arts
Register early to help us with a head count!
Conscious Discipline

Intro to Conscious Discipline
June 26 - 27: Register

Level 2 - Implementation with Fidelity
July 24 - 25: Register

Owatonna High School

Back by popular demand, we will be hosting TWO Conscious Discipline sessions this summer.

Watch the video to see how this course has impacted regional early childhood educators.

Did you know? An IRA charitable rollover is one way you can support our mission or a local community foundation using all, or a part, of your Required Minimum Distribution. Visit smiflegacy.org to learn more.
Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation | 507-455-3215 | www.smifoundation.org