SBA helps entrepreneurs sprout small businesses from farmers’ market roots


By Linda McMahon, SBA Administrator

If you’re shopping at a farmers’ market this summer, you’re likely enjoying fresh fruits and vegetables that are the end results of a season of hard work. You may also be supporting a business that’s just getting started.

Entrepreneurs often use their local farm stand as their first entry into the marketplace – with a low barrier to entry, new farmers and food entrepreneurs can start small and showcase new products. And success there can be the seed that sprouts into something bigger.

Kelly Deem and Elsie Mae’s Cannery and Bakery Kelly Deem grew up canning fruit and making pies and other treats with her grandmother in rural Ohio – a skill she cultivated into a business when she began selling canned and baked goods from a pop-up tent at the Kenosha Harbor Market in Wisconsin. Customers snapped up her treats, and she found so much success selling at local farmers’ markets that she opened a permanent brick-and-mortar location in Kenosha. Elsie Mae’s Cannery and Bakery opened its doors in 2012.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has designated this week, August 5-11, as National Farmers Market Week, encouraging people to visit the markets and engage with the farmers and entrepreneurs selling the goods they create. The USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory can help you find one near you.

The SBA creates a fertile environment for small business growth through a wide range of services, both through its 68 district offices and through resource partners like Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, Veterans Business Outreach Centers and SCORE chapters in communities nationwide. It provides resources and expertise, connecting entrepreneurs to the financing, counseling and mentorship they need. In the last fiscal year, the SBA and its resource partners counseled or mentored 1.4 million clients and provided loan guarantees of about $30 billion. Microloans reached an all-time high of $69.3 million, with average loan of $14,000 and 47% going to women-owned small business.

While entrepreneurs are the gardeners, I think of the SBA as a helping hand with a green thumb.

When Kelly Deem needed new equipment for a larger cannery and bakery just two years after opening, she worked with the SBA and its resource partners – the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation, an SBA microlender and Community Advantage lender and Women’s Business Center – to get the loan she used to finance her purchase. Since then, she has met regularly with WWBIC’s mentors and taken many WWBIC classes, including those related to business planning and payroll management, to become more knowledgeable and efficient in running and planning for her business.

Since opening Elsie Mae’s Cannery and Bakery and investing in her infrastructure, Deem has expanded, earning accolades for both her pies and her business. This year, the SBA’s Wisconsin district office recognized her with an honorable mention in the Emerging Small Business Person of the Year awards category.

Kelly Deem now has 15 full-time and 24 seasonal employees, but you’ll still find her products at farmers markets – she works with 30 of them from Chicago to northern Wisconsin.  While staying true to her roots, her business is flourishing.


About the Author:

Linda McMahon
Linda McMahon

SBA Administrator

Linda McMahon serves as the 25th Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). As a member of President Trump’s cabinet, she advocates on behalf of the 30 million small businesses in America, which employ nearly half of all American workers and account for 56.8 million jobs.

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