Don Macke of the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship and Beth Davis of Dakota Resources shared a few ideas for where a community should start if they want to build up their own community of entrepreneurs.
- Learn about what towns within driving distance are succeeding with this effort and take a road trip to see what’s happening and to talk to the people involved. Macke says this is one of the best ways to get some momentum going toward change. The leadership team sees that change is possible, and a little bit of competition might serve as a motivating factor: “If they can get it done, then there’s no reason why we can’t, either.”
- Talk to existing businesses. “Are (community leader) learning what’s going well for those businesses and what could be better,” Davis asks, “so they’re not surprised when a business fails in the community?” They don’t want to think later, “‘Oh, I didn’t even know they were in trouble.’ That’s really important,” she said.
- Bring the business community together to network. “Entrepreneurs tell us that hands down that is the most important thing you can do—just get them together to talk with each other,” Davis said.
- Don’t neglect the young people in your community. They are the future entrepreneurs, and it’s vital to get them thinking that it may be possible to create an opportunity for themselves in their hometown even if they don’t see a job advertised.
- Work to improve the quality of life outside of the business sector. “What are we doing to create a wonderful quality of life in this community so people want to live and work here?” Davis asks. Quality schools, for example, are an important part of the ecosystem that supports entrepreneurs in the community, Macke says.
- Consider the Dakota Rising program. The program has an expectation of performance, so there will be some work and investment (including financial investment) needed on the part of the community in the program, Davis says—but those communities who have committed to the process have shown significant progress in growing their entrepreneurs. Learn more about expectations and potential outcomes at www.dakotaresources.org/dakota-rising .