23 May Support a Local Start-Up
January 27, 2016
Entrepreneurship isn’t just happening in Silicon Valley, Boston, and other big cities
I’ve had the privilege of an interesting career. My early work years were spent climbing the corporate ladder and breaking a glass ceiling or two to become a high-ranking telecom executive. After moving to the Flathead, I became an entrepreneur. Here I became CEO and co-founder of a rapidly growing technology company where, alongside an outstanding team, we grew from idea phase to a well-recognized tech company with big backers. Today I’m still privileged to work in fascinating and challenging fields like technology, entrepreneurship, business, and policy – all from the perspective of rural and small town America.
It’s not surprising then, that I’m often asked, “How can smaller communities best exploit their entrepreneurial opportunities?” It’s a smart question. The Kauffman Foundation is one of America’s great assets. Founded 50 years ago, Kauffman’s mission is to “To help individuals attain economic independence by advancing educational achievement and entrepreneurial success …” Consistent with its mission, it does great work in researching and supporting entrepreneurship.
Kauffman recently published a paper titled “The Importance of Young Firms for Economic Growth,” written by Jason Wiens and Chris Jackson. They found that “new and young companies are the primary source of job creation in the American economy … these firms also contribute to economic dynamism by injecting competition into markets and spurring innovation.” Notably, companies less than one year old have created an average of 1.5 million jobs per year over the past three decades!
Sadly, Wiens and Jackson also found that the rate at which new businesses are opening has been steadily declining. Since young companies are our primary jobs creators, declining start-up numbers could have pretty bad implications for our nation’s economy.
So, what’s a small community to do?
First, promote a culture of entrepreneurship. It’s probably already going on your backyard. Those farmers, insurance agents, beauty salon and diner owners? All entrepreneurs. Applaud them and while you’re at it, ask what they needed when they were starting out.
Second, recognize that technology creates a global marketplace for goods and services. Those of us living off the beaten path are no longer limited to our backyards for customers. Today potential customers are everywhere. Encourage your businesses to look beyond their storefronts for growth.
Lastly, use your social capital. Those of us living in small places are usually more accessible and willing to help than in big cities. So you can’t invest? Advise. You don’t know any venture capitalists? Make an introduction to a potential customer. Don’t use social media? Invite an entrepreneur to Rotary or a local civic organization.
Entrepreneurship isn’t just happening in Silicon Valley, Boston, and other big cities. It’s happening in rural and small communities too. Fortunately. Because all of America needs more start-ups. Speaking from personal experience, trust me; entrepreneurs need all the support they can get. And when they succeed, we all benefit.