With the number of small business startups on the decline, there’s an effort from Washington to help those entrepreneurs get the help they need.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar launched the Senate Entrepreneurship Caucus to address issues facing entrepreneurs and small business owners.

That effort visited Winona, Austin and Owatonna Thursday to hear from those most affected.

“Hearing about what worked, what didn’t. Where can we better align current government resources that are currently available to the needs of entrepreneurs,” said Drew Halunen, Sen. Klobuchar’s senior communications director. “Unfortunately entrepreneurship and startups are at a four decade low, so we really need to look here at what we need to change.”

The demographics of small business are changing. That can be exemplified in Austin, a place where residents have truly embraced the entrepreneurial spirit.

“Now entrepreneurship is coming out of females and immigrants. People that are diverse,” said Stephen Troutmen, small business mentor with SCORE. “People who in the past or even currently have a hard time getting into the business world.”

The Austin Area Minority Business Project is one of those efforts increase the growth of small businesses.

“So it’s great to have small businesses really develop communities. Especially in rural Minnesota, we’re seeing a lot that are fading out,” said Sara Karki, staff attorney at Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota. “It’s great to see new businesses bringing vibrancy to communities and downtowns that are thriving.”

West Oakland Auto Repair had trouble growing from a small garage to a full-fledged business.

“The first time he went to ask for a loan for the business, they denied because we know nothing about business.” said Cecilia Cifuentes, remembering her husband’s first attempt to get a small business loan.

Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation helped educate them while also guiding them with a business plan.

“We don’t really need a lot of marketing. It’s more like word of mouth.” said Cifuentes, who hopes to best serve the community that has helped their business succeed.

The senator’s staff hopes to turn more ideas from entrepreneurs into successful local businesses.

“It’s not us. It’s the hard work of them,” Halunen said. “All we can do is supplement what they are doing.”

A link for small business owners to get in contact with a free mentor can be found here.