Author Archive for Becky

What the headlines missed in Pew’s urban vs. rural study

Pew Research released a major rural vs urban study, and most of the positive trends for rural places are being overlooked in the headlines.

I’m going to give you the bullet points here, and you can read more of my thoughts at

  • Way more people prefer rural than prefer urban, and the gap is growing.
  • Way more people prefer rural than actually live in rural areas now.
  • This aligns with previous studies of rural living preferences: There’s pent up demand for people to move to rural. 

City people want to move to the suburbs. 

Suburbanites want to move to rural. 

Rural people want to stay rural. 

(now THAT’s a headline)

  • The pandemic didn’t increase overall preference for rural living, but it did increase individual motivation to move to a small town now.
  • More urban people rated the pandemic effects as major.
  • Urban people worried more about housing and drug abuse.
  • Rural people were more worried by access to doctors and hospitals and high speed internet.
  • Rural to urban, we want the same things in a community.
  • The number one ranked factor is a community that is a good place to raise children. 

(Want to see how I came to my conclusions? See my analysis at

Overall, the Pew Research study brought out some positive points for rural places to consider and largely agreed with previous studies of rural preferences.

Society may realign significantly as work is increasingly decoupled from place.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you read the study? What do you think is being missed?

Keep shaping the future of your town,

P.S. not a member yet? Check out the latest video on using Art to build community and fairness

My secret sources for rural trendwatching

Rural trends are kind of my thing. Seems like everyone has a “top trends” article for 2022, but not many of them cover rural trends and small towns. We focus only on trends for rural and small towns.

Want to skip ahead and see my trends for 2022? Watch the rural trends video here.

Where do I get my ideas? I skim or read a lot of different sources. A LOT. Here are a few of the best, most interesting sources you might like to follow, too. 

  1. Bank of I.D.E.A.S.: truly international collection of stories about rural people and projects, with a fiercely positive outlook. Bi-monthly with an overwhelming amount of good stuff. Highly recommended.
  2. Future Crunch: dozens of good news stories about the present and future in your email every other week. Definitely recommended. The free version is valuable on its own, and paid subscribers get even more good news.
  3. Small Town and Rural Flipboard: Where I share articles from all over that relate to rural and small communities. (No Flipboard account needed. Just read it like any other news website.) 

Want to see even more of my sources? Just reply and ask. I’ll be glad to share more. And I’d love to hear what sources you read to keep up with rural and small town news and trends. 

Keep shaping the future of your community,

PS – Don’t miss out on our 2022 Rural Trends video

Why won’t people come to our entrepreneur training??

If you set up entrepreneur training, you want to reach as many potential entrepreneurs as you can. When only a handful sign up and even fewer show up and some drop out before the end, it’s discouraging. 

It’s just possible that some of the problem is in how the training is delivered. For formal training events like conferences, there are certain accessibility best practices for entrepreneurship training

If it’s not a conference, but something you’re organizing locally to train entrepreneurs…consider these barriers:

  • Not everyone learns best in a classroom setting.
  • Not everyone has time for a multi-week course.
  • Not everyone hears well enough or speaks English well enough to follow lectures in real time.
  • Not everyone can physically get into the building. 

Deb and I are big fans of informal training to quickly eliminate a lot of those barriers.

Why not just get folks together for back room tours of existing businesses or casual conversations rather than formal lectures?

Once you start thinking about ways to open up to all different kinds of people, you can cut down some of those barriers that are holding them back. With fewer barriers, you have a better chance to reach the people you want to serve. 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 

PS – We share even more cool ideas to support your local economy that don’t cost much in our video Cheap Economic Development Ideas.   

You probably haven’t thought of this local business benefit

I’ve been thinking lately how many large challenges we face as a society that come down to not thinking from other people’s perspectives.

Our communities could use more empathy. Doing business with each other can help us build empathy. 

Selling something requires us to think about other people. We have to think about what other people will like, what they will buy. That is thinking from another person’s perspective.

In my years as retail store owner, I remember putting myself in my customers’ place, trying to understand what they might want to buy this week. 

Buyers also can potentially improve their empathy when they realize that local sellers offer something that the buyers value enough to purchase. That’s even more important when the buyers and sellers come from different groups, like when a local farmer wanders through the Hispanic grocery and finds something new to try. 

Businesses are essential third places where people can connect with each other. Your first place is your home, your second place is your work. Your third places are where you go to be with other people. 

Retail businesses can be a third place, too. Ever go to the grocery store to buy 3 things but it took half an hour because you stopped to talk to people? Community happens when people talk to each other!  

We’re rebuilding social capital while we’re chatting with friends or with a clerk over our purchase.

That doesn’t happen when people buy online. It has to be in person. 

All good reasons why local commerce builds strong communities. 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 

PS –  Empathy is just one way local commerce builds strong communities. That’s our latest video. Only a couple of days left to get it at the $5 price. 

Are your plans turning into brick walls?

It’s possible to get so attached to the plan, that you can’t do anything else. 

Deb told me about a town that decided to rehab some old cabins in their park. They formed a committee that reported to the Parks and Recs committee that reported to the City Council, who made the final approvals. So of course they wrote a plan. 

The head of the committee was determined to stick to the plan. They would raise all of the money before any action was taken. They would only go after donations of $25,000 and larger. That eliminated a lot of locals who wanted to give. It took three years before they could lift a hammer and start on the actual project. 

“We can’t build a house by building one window at a time.” That’s one of the excuses for waiting until you can do the whole plan exactly like it says.

But you’re not building a house. You’re building a community.

It’s more like a coral reef, with lots of tiny contributions by individuals to build a pleasing whole, but no master plan and no one in charge.   

If you do need to write a formal plan, you can try some of these 5 new ways to plan

Keep shaping the future of your town, 

PS –   End of year planning is upon us. Here’s what you need to know before you write your next plan

No arts scene? Start with this small step

When I toured the picopolitan small town of Rosalia, Washington, I met a painter who had a big corner building downtown. She said that she had moved to town anticipating that an arts scene would develop, and then she could be part of it. Since the arts scene hadn’t really developed, she felt fairly lonely as an artist.

She doesn’t have to wait for someone else to start that arts scene. She can start it herself. 

Just up the block from her studio, there is a small art gallery. She could partner with them, and together they could hold a small arts show. They could invite other artists from the nearby small towns and rural areas to exhibit on the sidewalks between her studio and their gallery just on some weekend afternoon. That might be the start of an arts festival that would encourage more local artists.

They could talk to the artists to gather some positive stories to share online and with the media.

Then to build on that, they could work their networks with other artists and artisans they’ve met through shows and events to invite them for another weekend show. They could look online for local people already selling art, just without a downtown presence. They might search Etsy, Handmade by Amazon, eBay, Shopify, Cafe Press, Deviant Art or Society6, and invite the local artists they uncover.

They could reach out to online writers and creators to share their events and some of the amazing art and artists. In each story, they could talk about their growing arts scene. 

Then another time, they could talk to area real estate agents and find out about available spaces that might work for new galleries, studios or workshops. It would be great to have those spaces clean and ready for visiting artists and arts lovers to tour during any of their events. 

It would be a slow process to build your own arts scene that way, building one small step at a time. But it might be more fun than simply hoping.

What kind of scene are you trying to build, and what small step could you take now? If you can’t think of a small step to get started, hit reply and let’s come up with one together. 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 

PS – Get even more ideas for building your community with local artisans in our video Crafters Create Prosperity.   

Becky McCray will be returning to speak at SMTulsa for the 7th time. Photo by Lauri Rottmayer.

SMTULSA Conference brings together a select group of people to discuss social media marketing strategy, email marketing, SEO, and other techniques to help business people rise above the noise and make a mark that will give their business longevity.

“There has never been a better time to be a successful business,” says Cheryl Lawson, founder of Social Media Tulsa and the driving force behind the annual SMTULSA Social Business Conference. “Yet we see so many businesses fail to take advantage of the tools and strategies available today. Your business deserves to be successful.”

With that mission in mind, Lawson is hosting the 7th annual SMTULSA Social Business Conference in Tulsa on March 30–31, 2017. At the event, local and national social marketing experts will speak, coach and inspire business owners, non-profits, artists and authors with techniques and advice relevant to today’s social marketing landscape. This year marks a first for the conference — it will take place in the Grand Hall of the Cherokees at Tulsa’s popular Hard Rock Casino & Hotel.

SMTULSA brings together a select group of people to discuss digital marketing strategy, email marketing, SEO, and other techniques to help business people rise above the noise and make a mark that will give their business longevity. In today’s tight, competitive marketing, conference attendees benefit from practical advice from business experts who are successfully and actively using the tools and techniques they share about in their conference sessions.

Networking is also a large and vital part of the two-day event. Through networking events, meals and more, conference attendees are encouraged to connect with others who are facing similar business challenges. The result is a network of like-minded, passionate social media aficionados who can share strategies and boost each other’s goals.

“I’ve had the great opportunity to attend and speak at some of the largest social media conferences in the world,” says Eric T. Tung, one of this year’s speakers and Director of Digital Communications at GoTo Marketers. “But SMTULSA really gives you something different. They give you a network that you can walk away with… You can really tap into that network through SMTULSA and they can really help you figure your way out.”

SMTULSA is well known for its impressive list of respected social networkers and businesspeople with proven success and expertise. Conference attendees can expect valuable insights into social strategy, marketing, customer care, brand management and much more.

“It’s less about bringing a lot of influencers together so we can influence each other and more about bringing together a community, so that we can share, have conversation, and really actually learn from each other,” says Becky McCray, an expert on rural business trends and a repeat speaker at SMTULSA.

Other speakers this year include: Jacob Chappell, Vice President of Sales at SOCi; Robert Bochnak, Director of Social Media for the Harvard Business School’s Alumni Office; Shayla Price, content creator/promoter for Kissmetrics, AgoraPulse, HostGator, Shopify Plus and others; Rick Rockhill, Executive Vice President of Lucy Pet Products; and Deb Brown, Executive Director Webster City Area Chamber of Commerce in Iowa. A full list of speakers can be found at

Registration for the 2017 conference is open at Early registration ($375 per person, with various package prices for both corporate and non-profit teams) ends February 28. After that date, the cost is $400. The conference has limited seating and is expected to sell out, so act quickly to secure your place.

About the SMTULSA Social Business Conference:
The SMTULSA Social Business Conference is a well-known, respected two-day event on digital marketing practices in the U.S. heartland. Local and national speakers gather to offer keynotes, case studies, presentations, breakout sessions, and an abundance of networking opportunities for small business owners, entrepreneurs, bloggers, visual media artists, social media aficionados, and others with an interest in engaging through online methods. To learn more, visit

About Social Media Tulsa
Social Media Tulsa, the go-to resource for local businesses and events such as the Center of the Universe Festival, Route 66 Marathon, SCOTFEST, and others. To learn more, visit.

Absolut vodka goes local through partner distillers

Our Vodka Berlin

Pernod Ricard, owner of Absolut vodka, is building a terrific connection following Small Town Rule 7: Build Your Local Connections. They are working with local distilling entrepreneurs worldwide on a project called Our/Vodka. Each will be called by the local city name, like Our/Austin or Our/Melbourne.

The local partner will open micro-distilleries that will produce vodka following a set recipe but by using local ingredients. Our/Berlin is open now. Watch for new openings in Detroit in June, with Seattle, New York, Amsterdam, Los Angeles and London planned later this year. Austin, Miami, Nashville, New Orleans and Melbourne are planned in 2015.

Story source: Shanken News Daily.

Photo source: screenshot from

Piggly Wiggly is proud of being local “since forever”

Regional supermarket chain Piggly Wiggly is proudly proclaiming their localness as a selling point. This is exactly how to do Rule 7: Be Local. 

“At Piggly Wiggly Carolina Company, we know what it means to be ‘local.’ Our founder, Joe Newton, had a vision when he started this grocery store chain in 1947 — to buy local, sell local, hire local and invest in the community. Today, we’re 100% employee owned and Joe’s vision holds true. The Pig has more than 100 stores and over 4,000 employee owners throughout South Carolina and southeastern Georgia. We support local businesses and farms. We invest in the communities of which we are a part. Piggly Wiggly is, and will always be, local since forever.”

Source: BALLE

Plan for Zero: Small biz owners sacrifice their own pay

Pizza place owner at work

These two bits from a 2012 Citibank small business survey really stood out as Rule 1: Plan for Zero moments. Both business owners and employees have gone without or delayed pay, to help the business survive.

Almost one quarter of business owners have gone a year or more without pay to keep their business alive. 

 “In addition to using their own money to help their business survive (69 percent), the majority of small-business owners (54 percent) say they have gone without a paycheck. Looking back over the history of their businesses, almost one-quarter (23 percent) have gone without pay for one year or more.”

“Demonstrating true commitment, employees showed thanks by their own investment in the success of the company: more than one-third (38 percent) of owners say their employees worked additional hours without pay; another 18 percent credit their employees with voluntarily missed or delayed paychecks.”

If you don’t seriously plan for zero in your business, you’re putting the business at risk.

Photo: pizza place owner happy at work in downtown Austin, Texas. Photo by Becky McCray.


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