Starting Your Own Business In a Small Town
How popular those words are today. And sweet too. There are very few people out there that aren't at least tempted by the thought of running their own business.
Its sounds sophisticated and alluring. If you are creative, then you've probably thought of tons of services or products needed in your home town.
But what if your town isn't ready for innovation? What happens when there is not enough demand for what you have to offer? Or what if the economy is too shaky to support you?
The Pros of Being a Small Town Entrepreneur
- People know and trust you before you open your business, even without a lot of promotion
- The people who help you set up will probably be your future customers
- People are excited and curious about a new business opening up.
- You will always have a certain number of loyal customers or clients.
Word of Mouth Advertising
- Small town residents usually prefer other people's recommendations over expensive advertising
- People are more relaxed. If you take a day to see to family needs, they usually understand.
- Multi-tasking is okay. Being available to do two things is just as appreciated as being an expert in one thing. No one thinks it is weird if you are the bank manager, the piano tutor, and the dog groomer.
Cons of Owning Your Own Business in a Small Town
Everyone Knows You
Didn't I just say that was a good thing? It can be. Then again, your reputation can also be a problem.
Small towns can be a lot like big high schools. People have their "groups". And if someone in the group wasn't pleased with something you did (either professionally, or personally) then chances are their friends aren't going to use your business either.
It's Who You Know
Even the smallest towns have the elite set. It isn't based so much on money as influence. These are the people with the "titles" , and the biggest friend base. (Political figures, lawyers, doctors, teachers, coaches, bankers, etc.)
The reason this can affect you? If you are looking to start a business that directly competes with this set of people, or their sons and daughters, then you are only going to get a bit of the business.
To put it simply, your bakery is not going to be as "good" as the bakery the mayor's son opened. Ever.
Even if your donuts are to die for, people are going to try to stay on the "good side" of the mayor.
Understanding the demographics of your town is very important when you want to open your own business.
You have to calculate how many people can afford your service, how many would be interested in it, how many people would be willing to pay for it, and whether or not that small quota of people is enough to sustain you.
What I Learned From the Roadkill Guy About Small Town Business
A lot of privately owned businesses stick around in small towns. Why shouldn't yours?
I can't speak for your town, but I've learned a lot from some other small towns.
Cafes may come and go, gift shops and antique stores disappear frequently. But several years ago, I knew someone who made a living cleaning dead animals off the highway...mostly in front of houses.
That is a job that anyone is capable of doing for themselves (even if it is icky, it doesn't take special skills to clean the highway, you know?). So why was this guy so successful?
Probably because he followed some simple rules:
- He found a service that would be both wanted and needed
- He chose a service with low overhead and cost to run
- He priced appropriately so that the majority of residents could afford what he offered
- He chose something with little or no competition
Basically, the animal disposal guy started a smart business. Maybe not everyone was willing to pay him to do the job. But by being the only person doing that job for a huge area, he was guaranteed to get a lot of business from people who would just rather not touch roadkill.
At the first of the article I mentioned small towns not being ready for innovation. So I will throw in my personal experience with attempting to sell my freelance services locally.
It didn't work.
No one wanted websites or blogs set up for their businesses. Nor were they particularly interested in art or designs.
As I was told by a person who was briefly interested in the idea of a business website, until she found out it wouldn't be free:
"Oh. That doesn't sound important enough to pay for. I have fliers in the grocery store already."
That certainly won't be true for every town or every business.
Luckily, working online means I am not limited to the confines of one town. However, it was a powerful lesson in humility to know that I will always be out-entrepreneured by the dude who scraped up dead raccoons.
Do you have experience being an entrepreneur in a small town? What are the pros and cons as you see them?