It has historically been tough to get a business going in rural America. With current obstacles like the COVID-19 pandemic affecting ventures across the board, things have been even more difficult for startups in small towns. A statistic shared in early 2020 (pre-pandemic) showed that startups in rural communities make up only 12% of all startups (compared to 20% in the 1980s).
Rural entrepreneurship poses some obstacles that big city entrepreneurship doesn’t. Finding capital is a big issue for entrepreneurs everywhere, but startups struggle even more in small towns. Utility access problems like the lack of access to high-speed internet hinder ventures in less populated areas. Rural entrepreneurs must also have a solid business plan for reaching consumers – by definition, communities outside of major cities have fewer consumers.
Obstacles like these and others motivated the founders of 3 Steps to Start-Up to support West Virginia’s aspiring entrepreneurs as they build businesses and improve their communities in the process. From creating a business plan to overcome logistical hurdles to securing investment capital, 3 Steps to Start-Up aims to equip businesses with tools that will ensure success, and in turn, enhance West Virginia’s economy on the whole.
Plenty of reasons allow us to feel optimistic about rural economies in West Virginia. Rural communities are brimming with innovation, and these communities draw entrepreneurs with special features that big cities can’t provide. Living outside of metropolitan areas proves more affordable and attracts entrepreneurs who have already found success.
Aside from the attractive cost of living, many already successful entrepreneurs also desire the lifestyle rural areas offer. Forbes quotes Elizabeth Isele, founder of the Global Institute for Experienced Entrepreneurship in Amissville, Va.: “Experienced entrepreneurs in rural areas have the best of life. They are where they want to live and doing what they want to do.” As these entrepreneurs reinvent themselves in smaller towns, Isele says, “they are creating economically sustainable businesses and they are providing a boost to the rural economy.”
Not all entrepreneurial opportunity for rural communities comes from outsiders relocating there. The Kauffman Foundation claims that “rural America might be the most innovative place in the U.S..” They urge us to “recognize that innovation, diversity of ideas and people, and new concepts don’t need to be imported to rural communities – they’re already there.” The Kauffman Foundation points out that challenge leads to innovation. Rural communities and leaders have been overcoming challenges for generations, but current trials include setbacks for vital resources like the US Postal Service and obstacles related to the pandemic.
Success in entrepreneurship comes from generating a solution to a problem that the entrepreneur empathizes with. Small business owners in small cities have a strong tie to their community, and that means they are uniquely situated to understand the needs and history of their area firsthand. Community leaders in these regions can claim a large portion of the credit for the innovation we’re seeing in rural America. Virtual incubators like 3 steps to Start-Up can provide the support needed to allow local folks to start small businesses that make sense for small communities. Connect with us if you have an idea for your community that you’d love to bring to life!
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