Welcome to the first newsletter from Small Biz Survival in quite some time! I'm glad you're with me for this first one. I hope to make this a resource you are proud to pass along to others in your community, to spark discussion and to help other small businesses.
For the past two years, I've written guest posts at Small Business Trends about rural and small town business trends for the coming year. (Here are the 2009 and 2010 articles.) This year, I felt like there were more trends worth talking about than just the top 10, and I think that makes the perfect kickoff to a new year and our revived newsletter. Here are seven more big trends in small towns worth talking about:
What trends are you seeing in your region? Hit reply, and let me know.
- Virtual and hybrid events: Conference organizers of all sizes are getting the message. Blend online participation with in person events, and you get a boost to ticket sales, more attention for your event, and better spread of ideas. For small town entrepreneurs, this means more chances to learn to be a better business person. For event organizers targeting small towns, take advantage of all these technologies.
- Remote workers: "To heck with the commute. I'll email it in." That's the thinking of a whole wave of people taking advantage of technology to work from anywhere. Co-working locations are springing up in many towns. (That's a place with great wi-fi, work stations, and a chance for interaction with others. And coffee. See Oklahoma City CoCo as an example.) Small businesses can capitalize on this by providing remote workers with a comfortable, coffee-shop-like environment, or by providing support services. For economic and community developers, this is a trend to get involved with. Rather than create more generic office space, make a co-working space.
- Culture and Place Matter: More storytelling! You are from someplace special. Every small town has a story, and people are more interested than ever. (Not sure what your story is? Work through the 8 Rural Culture Elements from the Kansas Sampler Foundation. I made an example out of Okeene, Oklahoma, that you can follow.) No matter what your small business, no matter how you market it, start telling more of the story. Don't hide your accent; flaunt it. Be authentically yourself, and reflect your unique culture.
- Entrepreneurship: Given the tough economy, more folks starting their own businesses. This does not come as a surprise in small towns, where we've always used that as a tactic to survive. I'm also hearing more towns talk about supporting their entrepreneurs. That's encouraging! As a small business person, find ways to reach out and mentor other new entrepreneurs. You'll learn a lot together. As a community or economic developer, it's high time to put entrepreneurship front and center.
- Hi-tech farm/green solutions. As the nation and the world pay more attention to green technologies, farmers and agriculture related businesses can play a leading role. Here's a video where Joel Wiggins, of the Enterprise Center of Johnson County, Kansas, explains hi-tech farm/green. Small towns should be at the center of this trend, because that's where the ag businesses are.
- Water: Water rights are a big fight now, and are just going to get bigger. If you have a water-dependent or water-sensitive business, pay careful attention and get involved. McKinsey and company just did an excellent report on water policies. Economic and community developers need to be building or joining regional partnerships to manage water issues.
- Trades: Most small towns are in desperate need of more trades people in plumbing, electric, etc. I'm hoping we'll see a return to trades education by community colleges and vocational schools to meet this need. Do you think we could see more women entering these trades to capitalize on the opportunity?
Inspired by the challenge from Julien Smith, I'm reading much more consistently this year. I'll share some of the best small town-related books here. Eventually these reviews will make it onto Small Biz Survival, but you get the sneak preview.
Small Town Sexy by Kim Huston. It's a whirlwind tour of Kim's romance with small towns. From her window on the world in small town Kentucky, she offers up a sample of small town living, festivals, economic development, and the ever present town characters. It's fun. Share it with some small town skeptics, just to see their reaction. Kim has a blog on Small Town Sexy, and is also on Twitter.
Making a Living Without a Job by Barbara J. Winter. This is the book for those people who really want to start a business but don't know what business to start. It's good for helping people make the shift in thinking from employee to entrepreneur. If I was charged with counseling potential small business owners, I would keep a copy of this on my desk to loan out. You'll find Barbara at Joyfully Jobless, and also on Twitter as @JoblessMuse.
Twitter is my favorite way to fight small town isolation and network with folks all over the world. Here are three Twitter friends you should meet.
Next month, I'll introduce you to three more small town folks worth friending.
- @CodyKS: Cody Heitschmidt from Hutchinson, Kansas. A bundle of energy and ideas, and a terrific friend.
- @ThatTallDude: Shawn Kirsch from North Dakota. Shawn is a proud small town guy and has answered my technical questions more than once.
- @SheilaS: Sheila Scarborough from Round Rock, Texas. She and I dreamed up Tourism Currents together, and it's been fun watching her discover what's fun and interesting about living in her own small town.
I was asked this week for stories of small towns dealing with the recession for a Wall Street Journal article. Did you lose your last home town bank? Has your town scored a stimulus project? Did your town plan ahead, and weather the storm comfortably? If you have a story to share about how you and your town are coping, for good or for ill, hit reply and share it with me.
Another request came from the radio show Marketplace, by American Public Media.
I came across your blog post about rural small biz trends for 2010, and appreciated it -- lots of good things to watch for in there. I have a question for you, though: do you have a stance on the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency -- and what brought you to that point of view?
At Marketplace, I've been querying hundreds of small biz owners with that question, and am looking to reach out beyond our network. If you'd like to share your insight, click this link to find our online form: http://bit.ly/6hJfLu. (And if you opt to share the question and the link with your readers I'd be very grateful!)
Public Insight Analyst, Marketplace
American Public Media
This Wednesday I'll be presenting a webinar for the National Federation of Independent Business, on "4 ways to jumpstart your small biz in 2010."
Joy Marshall of the Center for Rural Affairs reminded me that the fourth annual Nebraska MarketPlace is coming to Kearney, Nebraska on Tuesday February 23 and Wednesday February 24, 2010.
Also on Feb 23 and 24, I'll be attending the Oklahoma Entrepreneur’s Conference 2010: Accelerate Your Startup, in Norman, Oklahoma. I'll be speaking on "5 roadblocks that keep your community off the web."
If you have small town, rural or entrepreneurship events to share, hit reply and tell me about them.
Thanks for taking time to read along. See you again next month! In the meantime, hit reply and let me know what you think.