Just like in urban metropolitan areas, small businesses are vital to U.S. rural communities.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, small businesses provide most jobs for rural residents.
“America’s rural entrepreneurs are critical to the success of our nation’s economy,” says U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small.
“They create jobs for the people in their communities, start businesses and industries that expand financial opportunities, and deliver products and services that improve the lives of people across this nation.”
Rural areas are great places to start and run a business, but they also carry unique challenges. Here are 4 easy tips on how to do so successfully.
Forge Partnerships, Collaboration
Collaborating – or even partnering – with other local small businesses and entrepreneurs can benefit your business and help build community.
“The idea of collaboration and sharing may be counterintuitive to most businesses,” writes Ann Marie Van Den Hurk in a Lexington Herald-Leader column. “However, businesses working together make the community stronger…”
Small business owners who network find that they learn from each other, including best practices. Also, collaboration could lead to sharing costs of advertising, adds Van Den Hurk, principal of Mind the Gap Public Relations.
Communicate with Customers
Getting to know your customers is vital for any business, but it’s particularly valuable if you’re in a rural community. You’ll find that doing so can help you build a positive customer experience.
“Connect with people on their level,” the article says, referring to the lessons learned from serial rural restaurateur Steven Sponder, who co-owns NN Burger in Kilmarnock and Tappahannock, Va.
And while he’s a big fan of using social media for connecting with customers, there’s a caveat.
“Social media isn’t all about the sell. NN Burger rarely talks about their products on social media, but they share information that interests their customers such as weekly NN Burger-branded brainteasers,” says Van Den Hurk in the Lexington Herald-Leader post.
Support Local EcoSystem For Entrepreneurs
Encouraging a positive entrepreneurial ecosystem in rural areas benefits new and established small businesses and their rural communities.
“Rural small businesses have been found to generate wealth that stays in the community, build local leadership and even contribute to population health,” says an article posted by the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution.
Whether you seek funding or other types of assistance, look for programs and resources designed for rural entrepreneurs and small businesses.
For example, if you own or want to start a business in a town square or other commercial district, see if there are any community organizations involved with the Main Street America program.
In Manhattan, KS, the Main Street America program houses a small business incubator space in its office, which small business owners could join through an application process. “Businesses are offered reduced rents that slowly escalate over an 18-month tenure, as well as access to no-cost fiber internet and phone service,” according to a report by the Brookings Institution.
Also, the USDA’s Rural Development recently announced a resource guide for rural entrepreneurs, with information on how rural entrepreneurs can use USDA and other federal programs to access financing and other assistance to help start and grow their businesses.
The agency has business programs that can provide capital, equipment, space, job training, and entrepreneurial skills that can help to start and grow a rural business.
Through federal programs for rural businesses, there are loans, loan guarantees, and grants available to individuals, businesses, cooperatives, farmers and ranchers, public bodies, non-profit corporations, Native American Tribes, and private companies in rural communities.