How to develop an entrepreneurial culture and more small businesses in your city


How do you initiate a culture of entrepreneurship in your city? Start the kids. Photo via Norfolk County, Ontario.

As Deb Brown and I left the small town we had just visited, we talked about something that was missing from the city. It was not a specific case or equipment. It was a feature. It was jostling.

We did not see this entrepreneurial dynamism, we both noticed other places. There were businesses and entrepreneurs in town, yes, but there were opportunities for many more.

We started thinking about the businesses we did not see and the ones we could imagine. We could imagine cleaning services and concierges, preparing and storing visitors' cabins before their arrival, or cleaning and wintering after their departure. While some people hunt or fish, there are bound to be family members who would like other activities, such as yoga, guided tours, or outdoor classes. Visitors bring their dogs into the national forest. So dog washing would be popular before people go home with their dirty dog. Then there were all the opportunities around the emerging trend of cycle tourism …

We proposed a dozen additional ideas during the trip. Why did locals not try these ideas, in addition to all the ones they found we did not test? Where was the crowd?

I spoke with a local person about this. She felt that this went back to the heavy industry jobs that existed before. Ethics was about finding a good job and that would take care of you. At the end of these jobs, people encouraged their children to go to school and go out. Probably many cities have had a similar model.

Sending your children to the outside makes sense if you think the city does not have a future.

Today, any small town can choose a future. We all have the technology available to our cities to survive, if we decide.

Once you decide to survive, you look around to see what you have. If all you have is the earth under your feet and the sun in the sky, you start there. This place has National Forest, an existing tourism base and the emerging project of rails to trails. This is a base of assets and opportunities on which to support it.

Could they develop or redevelop a series of companies here? I think so it starts with the business spirit in young people. A local group works there, supporting entrepreneurship training in schools. They have also developed a small business village, then ephemeral businesses would have a place to start.

Another thing that could help is start conversations around the many opportunities and unmet needs. Start online conversations, brainstorm with locals and visitors, and share stories of the rush you see when you visit other places. No matter what way you can think of to get more people to look around and talk about what could be.

It is a long process to develop an entrepreneurial culture. But this is your best bet for a prosperous future.

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About Becky McCray

Becky launched Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share stories and ideas of building businesses and rural communities with other small businessmen. She and her husband own an Alva, Oklahoma liquor store and a small ranch nearby. Becky is an international speaker on small business.

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