Although 97.4 percent of Missouri is classified as rural, nearly 70 percent of the population chooses to live in or near the remaining urban areas: St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia. This stat may make you think you have to live in the city to successfully launch a new small business.
Geography does not hold a monopoly on great ideas, however.
Rural vs. Urban Entrepreneurship
Rural entrepreneurship is alive and well, generally springing out of the agriculture, services, wholesale, mining, and manufacturing industries. (In contrast, many urban startups lean toward transportation, communication, utilities, and information technology.)
When compared to urban business owners, rural entrepreneurs are more likely to run smaller businesses or to operate multiple businesses at the same time. For instance, last summer, entrepreneur Chelsea McGill opened her coffeehouse, The Grind, in California, Mo. (pop. 4,410). Things took off, and she quickly realized a new business opportunity. It was an events center business for sale just two doors down. McGill bought the additional space, renaming it The Gathering Place. She offers The Gathering Place for casual and formal events ranging from church services to baby showers and weddings. Renters can bring in their own caterer or they can arrange for her to provide refreshments – all customers have to do is decorate. “It is an awesome marriage with the coffee shop,” McGill said.
Rural entrepreneurs are also more likely to start businesses out of necessity, sensing a need in their small community and addressing it. “Rural-town entrepreneurs are headstrong and confident in their ability,” said Anna Haney, co-founder of Noviqu, a manufacturing software company based out of Moberly, Mo. (pop. 13,974). “They’re self-made, self-starters and don’t need constant handholding. That said, guidance on occasion is a must and being part of other larger communities once in a while can help fuel the thirst a rural entrepreneur may have.”
Getting Things Started
Men are twice as likely to start a new business than women, but according to Kcsourcelink.com, economic output increases 15 percent if there a woman on the team – and 30 percent if there’s a person of color on the team. Inclusion is not just a social matter, it’s economics.
The Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative (REI), created by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Rural Policy Research Institute, and Partners for Rural America, among others, identified some variables, tangible and intangible, that impact entrepreneurial climate. These variables include:
- Knowledge of financial tools available to assist new businesses
- Willingness to use financial tools available to assist new businesses
- Access to venture capital
- Familiarity of lender with borrower
- Adequate and affordable building space
- Adequate and affordable land
- Highway accessibility
- Adequate water and sewer services
- Adequate phone services
- Adequate high-speed internet access
Business Support Services
- Technical services available
- Legal and accounting services available
- Adequate financial services
- Printing and marketing services available
- Attractiveness of an area as a place to live
- Quality and sound stewardship of natural resources
- Adequate current and future skill levels for new businesses
- Adequate education and training to meet business needs
- Local government support for new business development through policies, ordinances, and planning regulations
- Local public bodies work together
- Local government is willing to pursue and use public funds to support new business development
- Local businesses pursue markets, both local and beyond
- Local businesses take advantage of trends and new marketing strategies
- Opportunities to network, either planned or unplanned, and formal or informal
Quality of Life
- Affordable housing availability
- Affordable health care availability
- Low crime rates
- Recreational and cultural opportunities and availability for wide range of community members
- Local schools prepare youths for employment and/or entrepreneurship
Community and Cultural Norms
- Sense of community identity
- Supportive attitude toward innovation and initiation
Missouri has a remarkably low cost of living as compared with the East or West Coast. Rural entrepreneurs can bring down their facility costs even further by participating in an integrated coworking space. These community workspaces provide entrepreneurs a place to work and meet other likeminded individuals.
Several tenants – say, a bakery, massage therapist, clothing boutique, and antique vendor – might set up shop in a vacated school or company building, even sharing resources like equipment, broadband, and expertise. Being around other entrepreneurs can also help fend off loneliness and isolation, two of the biggest barriers to entrepreneurial success.
Most rural regions in Missouri operate with a traditional mix of small business support services. These typically include Small Business Administration (SBA)-backed programs like SCORE or the Small Business Development Center network, local chambers of commerce, and small loan funds tied to a location’s economic development priorities. SBA’s free Online Learning Center (https://www.sba.gov/learning-center) offers short courses and learning tools to start and grow your small business. Courses available include:
- Writing your business plan
- Legal requirements for your small business
- Small business financing options
- Digital and traditional marketing to win customers
Also check out Start Here, a new regional business acceleration network partnering with MOSourceLink to increase the rate and success of business startups and support existing and growing businesses. Visit https://www.mosourcelink.com for more info.
HOW TOSTART A BUSINESS (NO ATTORNERY NEEDED!)
Check out these helpful online resouces to …
…confirm no one else is already using your proposed business name.
…decide whether you want to set up a LLC (limited liability company) or an INC (corporation).
…register your business with the Missouri Secretary of State.
…obtain your federal and state tax ID numbers.
…start a business bank account.
…select a domain for your website.
Don’t forget to contact your local city hall to license your business or get necessary permits.