Living in a predominantly rural area such as ours isn’t the easiest thing for a young person. There are times where it isn’t fun (mostly when I want to do or get something and the amount of time to drive there outweighs the time or cost of the item/activity) and more often than not there are times when I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
In my previous post 5 Benefits of Being a Young(er) Entrepreneur, we looked solely at the advantages to being a young entrepreneur in general, regardless of where you live. Now, we’re going to zero in on the just us entrepreneurs who live in mostly rural areas and talk about what I believe are 5 unique challenges and 5 unique opportunities we face.
- It can be hard for your customers to get to you, and vice-versa, if you either do not have reliable access to a vehicle/transit system or live in an even more remote part of your area (Bay of Quinte readers, think places like Waupoos, Ameliasburgh, Springbrook or Roslin).
- You have to do more advertising across a wider area to reach the same amount of people in your targeted audience than you would have to do in a more built-up area.
- There can be less access to the resources you need to make your business successful (i.e. business counselling, networking opportunities, mentors, coaches, etc). On the plus side, most business counselors recognize that there is a demand for their services in rural areas so they are willing to either: be available certain days of the week/month in the area, offer advice via teleconference or Skype, or communicate through email with minimal in-person visits.
- There is often an increase cost to get materials needed to make your products from your suppliers due to higher transportation costs. In turn, this means higher costs for your customers. If you operate an online store, there is also an increase for you in the cost of mailing your products to customers.
- Depending on the type of business you have, there can be a lack of adequate and affordable store fronts or production facilities in your town and the cost to build or renovate may be astronomical. There may also be restrictions imposed by municipal bylaws on the type and size of businesses allowed to operate within town limits.
- There is often less competition from others offering similar products/services and more opportunity to collaborate with other businesses offering compatible products/services in order to save on costs and attract new customers.
- A lot of the advertising for your business is often not actually done by you! It is done through word of mouth by your customers telling others about you and based on goodwill. We all know that news and words spread like crazy in small towns!
- People who live in these areas are inherently more likely to want to support one of their own trying to make a living instead of a big box store. They know how hard you are working to make a living for yourself in such a small place. As I was once told, people will buy from you if they know, like and trust you.
- There are often lots of grant and loan programs available for those who want to start a business in a rural area (be it private investors or governments) and make an economic impact. In rural Ontario, it is best to check what grant and loan opportunities are available through the local Community Futures Development Corporations (in the Bay of Quinte Region and Centre Hastings, we have Trenval Business Development Corporation, Prince Edward-Lennox & Addington CFDC, Northumberland CFDC, and the CFDC of North & Central Hastings and South Algonquin) and local Chambers of Commerce.
- You get to know your customers on a more personal level. This allows you to more immediately how the decisions you make impact your customers and bottom-line.
Some would argue that it’s more difficult to be a young entrepreneur in a rural area than in an urban area for many factors, some of which I discussed above. I admit I disagree with this because I see the benefits to the community and to the young entrepreneurs themselves when they make the decision to setup shop in our area. My vision for Youth Beyond Enterprises is to work to turn the Bay of Quinte Region itself into a rural hub for young entrepreneurs. I strive to help combat the current “brain drain” we are experiencing as a result of young people taking off to the larger economic centers to pursuit job opportunities that they could very well either have built for themselves here or been hired to do by a local business owner.
On a very personal note, this blog is dedicated to my Dad, John Tracey, whom we lost just over a month ago after a lengthy battle with cancer and a very abrupt battle with pneumonia. He was one of my biggest supporters and told me frequently during our last few weeks together how proud he was of me and how he never expected me to be the “powerhouse” I have become, though he knew I’d always do well.