Callaway Bank offering business loans high school entrepreneurs

One week ago, a local FFA member walked into The Callaway Bank seeking an $85 loan to put toward starting his own agricultural business.

Banking regulations make granting a loan that small difficult, but the loan officer, the staff and bank president and Chief Executive Officer Kim Barnes didn’t feel good about sending him away and, instead, put in an effort to help him and other business-minded youth in the area.

“We realized, ‘Wait a minute: this is an FFA student interested in learning how to run a business,’” The Callaway Bank director of marketing Debbie LaRue said. “We’re a bank; we’re an independent community bank so we need to find a way to make this work for the kids.”

The result is a new initiative by the bank aimed at granting loans to FFA or FBLA students in the county wanting to start their own business.

Barnes recalled the establishment of the program taking “20 minutes” and all participants being fans of the idea from the start.

“Everyone got it and every one of them saw the need and responsibility to to show our young people how to be good borrowers and stewards of money,” Barnes said.

The Callaway Bank set aside $50,000 for student borrowers looking to set up an entrepreneurial venture. Individuals can take out a maximum amount of $1,000 at 4 percent interest rate and have up to a year for restitution.

Prospective borrowers must be accompanied by an FFA or FBLA advisor and present the loan officer with their business plan.

“We want to sit down with them and understand what they want to do and have them put on paper what they want to do and how they want to do it,” Barnes said.

Barnes has had conversations with the county’s school districts about co-opting the program to jump start student-driven enterprises. She said she would also like to start something similar with the Show-Me Innovation Center, of which she serves as chair.

It all started with that one student and his modest loan request.

“It has been so fun,” Barnes said of the process. “It’s not often that you get to do something for a young person to get them going.

“It feels really good.”

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