by Mike Brooks
Community success and economic growth depend on jobs and wealth creation. Many cities have sufficient resources and a determined workforce, but if the cities’ businesspeople and other leaders lack direction in establishing an entrepreneurial culture, then those cities aren’t reaching their full potential.
The concept of starting a business for personal success is nothing new. Understanding entrepreneurship as a viable option to build an entire community’s economy is a more modern concept. By taking the reins and leading your community to establish entrepreneurial catalysts, you can witness the birth of a thriving business culture.
1. Build a Consistent Message
Messaging can be a very powerful tool in creating a community-wide culture. Informing your community about the importance of entrepreneurship can be the catalyst for growth. Local higher learning institutions can effectively promote this message through coursework and internships that encourage community involvement and entrepreneurship. With classes and service projects relating to both of these subjects, students can see that entrepreneurship is a viable outcome of their educational experience.
Student organizations, possible investment grants from businesses or individuals in the area, or entrepreneurship programs for students are ways to support this goal. Your local economic development organizations should play a critical role in propelling new business. Successful local leaders are concrete examples of how entrepreneurship and engagement can build and bond a community. As they build their businesses, they can be advocates for entrepreneurship and make the message even stronger.
2. Provide Support to Local Startups
The encouragement of the entrepreneur is essential for any growing community. Local support for startups can provide the necessary resources for the actualization of new business. To better serve your community, work with leaders to build an asset map of the resources that can support an entrepreneurial community. What tools are available for assisting new local businesses?
Establish workshops or seminars at nearby colleges, universities, and even secondary schools that show young entrepreneurs where they can find reliable resources and possible financial support for their evolving ideas. Many people hesitate to make the entrepreneurial leap simply because they don’t know how to find resources that are readily available to them. Make these resources public knowledge through community outreach.
3. Create and Sponsor Regional Events
Communities that work to host regional events such as conferences, startup weekends, and guest speakers provide their cities social, professional, and economic benefits. Reaching out to respected experts or organizations and hosting events strongly emphasizes that you make small businesses and networking a priority in your location. These events are prime opportunities for entrepreneurs and citizens within the community to define their character and gain new knowledge.
Training workshops, competitions, and social events can all enhance the bond your community feels with local businesses. When researching and planning potential events, seek to establish annual events that can accommodate your projected community growth. Many entrepreneurs are looking for a supportive community where they can expand their operations. More visitors mean more enthusiasm and opportunity.
4. Encourage Your Community to Build Businesses
Building a strong, lasting local economy depends on the business leaders and economic development organizations inside that area. They serve as promoters of new business growth. These integral people create the vision and excitement that drive an entrepreneurial culture.
If you are already a successful entrepreneur, join forces with like-minded individuals and boost your community’s goals. Get on a soapbox and share the message and promise of entrepreneurship. Citizens and local organizations will want to become part of the excitement; it’s natural to want to feel like an integral part of something. Those hesitant would-be entrepreneurs will rally around the excitement and bring new ideas forward to add to the community’s identity.
5. Establish an Effective Mentor Program
Effective guidance is crucial to developing an enduring business. Advisors and mentors help budding entrepreneurs formulate practical plans, raise capital, network, and market themselves. Along with event planning and encouraging vocal business members in your community, you should seek to work with local small business development centers and respected entrepreneurs to launch a strong mentorship program.
Volunteering to speak or present at local colleges can showcase a mentor’s ability to inspire and connect with young entrepreneurs. First-time entrepreneurs need access to that expertise to take their businesses to the next level. In turn, your community will greatly benefit from this influx of creative prospects.
Becoming an entrepreneurial catalyst for your community requires dedication and time, but the potential gains for your community are worth the effort. By encouraging teamwork among local business leaders and proclaiming how integral entrepreneurship is to local growth, the message can reach the citizens, government, and new entrepreneurs of a community. Forming mentor and practical support groups for small business is key to actualizing this vision. Take the time to invest in your community, and you might be surprised how much your community will invest in you.
Mike Brooks is President of REDI (Regional Economic Development, Inc.) in Columbia, Mo. REDI promotes positive economic expansion and provides increased economic opportunities in the Columbia area, assisting entrepreneurs, developing businesses, and companies relocating. As president, Mike led REDI in creating a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurship and business growth in Columbia. Mike welcomes anyone to reach out to him on LinkedIn or REDI at columbiaredi.com.