Can you imagine what would happen to our Nova Scotia economy if just 1% of all Nova Scotians started their own business next year? Wouldn't that blow economic hardship out of the water and lend an Ivany-Report-kick-in-the-pants kickstart to our quality of place!
I came across James Altucher's inspirational slide show on "40 alternatives to college" that epitomizes the spirit of the entrepreneurial mindset -- a mindset that can change the way we work, live and play -- a Georgetown Conference mindset. Altucher's first alternative to formal education is to "Start a Business". He tells us "whereas previously we've created generations of innovators and creators, now we are creating a generation of young people mired down in hopeless debt". Pretty incendiary stuff, but he does drive the point home. Jump in at the deep end and learn to swim.
So how do we innovate in a rural environment? Beyond Altucher's and Georgetown's mindset we can get ideas from 'Small Business Ideas for Rural Towns' and the Canadian Institute for Rural Entrepreneurship. We can learn from many real-life examples, such as Chemainus, British Columbia; Rosebud, Alberta; Prince Edward County, Ontario; Fulton, Kentucky, and Hardwick, Vermont. As Gail Lethbridge posted in Halifax' Chronicle Herald "Avoid insularity. It’s OK to look beyond our own borders and be inspired by the way they do things elsewhere. It’s OK to check out Estonia’s story or Wisconsin’s."
Industry Canada reports (2004) that almost 1/3 of all small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are based in rural areas, with the greatest percentage in the Prairies. Interestingly, 2/3 of these businesses are in non-agricultural and non-primary industries (such as mining, fishing, forestry). Rural SMEs tend to be self-employed and smaller than urban SMEs.
So, how do you build an entrepreneurial culture? Having studied hundreds of rural landscapes, interviewing thousands of entrepreneurs, and investigating dozens of rural development strategies, Don Macke and Deborah Markley (2006) conclude that the key lies with proactive, civic (NGOs, government, community, .. ) leaders who create an entrepreneurial environment. Invest in your local residents. Build support systems.
Becky McCray, author of "Small Biz Survival", tells us in "20 Small Business Ideas for Small Towns": be uniquely local; use what you know; look at existing businesses; use someone else's research; and, search idea sites and feeds. McCray lists nine small town and rural business trends for 2014, including growing Stage 2 businesses (10-50 employees).
This Blog is about being creative in a rural environment, and that involves "doing", and "just saying yes". Rural economic development starts with pulling up your sleeves, being courageous and visionary, working together, and maybe even starting your own business.