Entrepreneurs can support each other better than any expert or organization can support them. So if you want more entrepreneurs in your town (because they create more prosperity for you), it’s mostly a matter of your existing entrepreneurs and business owners supporting the new ones.
“Research shows that once entrepreneurship gets established, it tends to be self-perpetuating,” Professors Glaeser and Kerr said in a Harvard Business Review article on the importance of small business.
I think the reason entrepreneurship becomes self-perpetuating is that entrepreneurs start supporting each other.
To help entrepreneurs support each other in your town, bring them into contact with each other, in person, as often as you can.
Webster City, Iowa, had me lead a 2 hour networking and brainstorming event with local businesses. Within one week, those businesses were cooperating with each other more than they had in the months leading up to it, Chamber Director Deb Brown said.
Norfolk County, Ontario, did speed networking for locals at an economic development event. Yes, I know everyone in town ought to know each other, but in day-to-day life, they don’t get enough time to share ideas. Seeing each other at the post office may not be the best time to bring up a business proposal. Norfolk County’s all-locals speed networking generated new connections, new ideas, and lead to capturing more business locally that had been going out of town.
Any town can do business fairs, where local businesses set up booths together like a county fair or a craft fair. It lets your local people find new businesses they didn’t realize were in town, and it connects business owners to each other. Entrepreneurs bump into each other, borrow and adapt ideas, find ways to work together. You can do a general business fair for all the businesses in your town, or pick a specialty. My hometown of Alva, Oklahoma, does this for home-based and direct-sales businesses like Mary Kay and Pampered Chef. Colville, Washington, does a fair for tech-related business.
Contributor Glenn Muske recently wrote about taking a simple event like networking or a business fair and growing it into a marketing incubator for even more impact, in Develop Your Community’s Small-businesses Capacity
When you look to start a new event to bring entrepreneurs together, It works best to either attach to an existing event or add another layer of value, like an outside expert* or a fair that will generate sales.
You may think your small town doesn’t need networking because everyone knows everyone else and everything local, but they don’t. We’re all busy with our businesses and our lives. Carving out time for business people to talk business will help reach that goal of self-perpetuating entrepreneurship.
Keep making your small town better,
*An expert is someone from at least 50 miles away who carries a briefcase. That’s one of the best small-town definitions.
PS – Rural grocery stores make a big difference in small towns. They contribute to economic development as well as community health and well-being. High Plains Journal has an great article, Few things are better than a small town grocery store.