It is easy to get excited about the prospect of setting up your next startup business in a small town. After all, it is more affordable, provides a better lifestyle, and if you choose well you can increase your quality of life even while you pursue the next business venture as a result.
But there are some challenges you need to consider if you want to be a small town entrepreneur that are not necessarily present (or the same) for urban entrepreneurs. This article is written with entrepreneurs wanting to move to small towns in mind, but the things to consider are pretty much the same if you already live in the town for a long time, and now want to set up your own business venture.
Choose the town wisely
Every small town comes with barriers and opportunities for the would-be entrepreneur. Do you know what those are for your preferred host town for your new venture? Here are some things to consider (and research) prior to choosing where to start the venture:
- Does the town have a growth strategy that aligns with the requirements to effectively grow your venture? For instance – is it easy to build new houses (or are there enough high quality houses) to accommodate staff you’ll need should your venture prove to be successful and start to grow? Will your venture benefit from the growth priorities of the town as the long term growth strategy and plans are implemented in future?
- Will you be able to obtain the skills you need for your venture to be successful if you set up your venture in the town? What does the local skill base look like? Is there enough connectivity to supplement skills through remote work (and can the types of skills you need be obtained remotely?)
- Will you be able to scale success? And if not in the town of your choice, what would the relocation choice be at the time of having to do so in order to scale success? (And why would you even choose a town that requires relocation of your venture in order to scale?)
- Will setting up in the town make logistics and reaching the markets you are targeting easier to access (or at least not be more expensive than other possible places to set up the venture)?
- What support is there for you as you go through the initial difficult phases of building a successful new venture? Are there like-minded people you can interact with? What support for entrepreneurs can you already get access to easily from the town? Is there an active entrepreneurial ecosystem and community?
- Does the community in the town have an inclusive culture that is inviting and accepting of newcomers? It would make little sense to still feel like an outsider after ten years, but you have to stay because that is where your successful business is.
Make sure you can have the lifestyle you (and your family) want
- Setting up a new venture is a multi-year endeavour, so make sure that the town offers what you and your family need (or expect) for the life you want to live. Are you dependent on health services, good schools for the kids, or work opportunities for your spouse / partner? Consider what life you want to live, and make sure you can do it in the town of your choice.
- Does the town offer what your family will need in the future? It makes little sense to set up a venture that cannot cost-effectively be shifted elsewhere, only to find it becomes successful just when your family’s requirements outgrow what the town offers. Think specifically about opportunities for children, and catering for you as you get older.
Choose the type of business wisely
- A specific type of business requires some specific enablers – are they present in the town of your choice? Is it an online service company – can you get connectivity that is good enough not to be a drag on your success? If it is manufacturing – are the skill base and technical support easily accessible? (It will be terrible to find out that maintenance can only be done from a far away centre and even a relatively minor failure of equipment can take much longer to fix just because of your location).
- Is it a type of business the local people will embrace and support? You’ll find it much easier to create success in a type of business that local people support rather than resist. Remember that rural people tend to do business with a PERSON rather than a BUSINESS. They need to be supportive and accepting of you as a person in order to be enthusiastic about your venture and support it. Choosing a type of business that will advance building these types of positive personal relationships instead of upsetting locals is a wise thing to do – and will increase your chance of success significantly. Going into (perceived) direct competition with a much loved local business with your new venture is probably not a smart move!
It is impossible to give all the questions to ask for each of these things to consider, because the type of business, the lifestyle you want, and the nature of the towns you are considering are so diverse. But the text in bold are important things to think about and ask relevant questions to answer as you consider your move.
Small towns can set themselves up as preferred destinations for entrepreneurs
Smart towns can recognise that they can become destinations of choice for entrepreneurs wanting to live outside of urban areas and pro-actively set themselves up as a destination as one strategy to advance economic growth and social well-being of their communities.