Against Stereotype: A Closer Look at Rural Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs all around the United States are renowned for contributing to their communities and economy, whether it be through innovation, job creation, or even social change. This significance is also felt in places where rural entrepreneurs launch their enterprises.

"Rural communities are not a monolith," writes entrepreneur Ina Metzer, co-founder of RuralRISE. Entrepreneurs in these locations boost their rural communities and reflect their peers, Metzer added.

Since 2011, the U.S. has acknowledged and celebrated the contributions of entrepreneurs on National Entrepreneurs Day, the third Tuesday in November. This year it's November 15.

Rural Entrepreneurs Are Not All Farmers

For small and rural areas, RuralRise aims to enhance opportunities and profitability. Part of that mission, Metzer says, is to dispel the stereotype of entrepreneurs in rural areas.

"Recognizing that innovation and entrepreneurship are blind to location," RuralRISE is a community of organizations that seeks to increase the opportunities, increase accessibility, and spotlight innovation, entrepreneurial, and startup activities that work in a rural context," according to the organization's website.

In an article for the Kauffman Foundation newsletter Currents, Metzer points to U.S. Census Bureau statistics that indicate "modern rural America" is becoming racially diverse. She says that rural entrepreneurs are not all farmers.

Further, rural entrepreneurs — like their counterparts in metropolitan areas — are impacting their local economies and entrepreneurship ecosystems.

Rural entrepreneurs resist archaic notions of what an entrepreneur is, and they show development in the job sectors of contemporary rural America, she says.

Entrepreneurs in rural areas contribute significantly through effective programming, offering goods and services, enticing tourists, and other means.

In the end, they support a distinctive range of local economies, she writes in the September article, which is part of the Kauffman Foundation's "Uncommon Voices" series.

The Need for More Access

As is the case for underserved populations, rural entrepreneurs often lack access to financial resources and opportunities.

Rural entrepreneurs confront double the difficulties in overcoming these prejudices, which is why entrepreneurial ecosystems are crucial to the development of rural enterprises, Metzer writes.

Earlier this year, the USDA acknowledged the importance of rural entrepreneurs and the need for increased access when announcing its new resource guide to support rural entrepreneurs.

"America's rural entrepreneurs are critical to the success of our nation's economy," USDA Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small said in a press release

They develop enterprises and industries that broaden financial prospects, provide jobs for local residents, and provide goods and services that enhance the quality of life for Americans as a whole, Small added.

In the Currents article, Metzer points to several rural businesses making critical contributions to their communities, including Mountain BizWorks. Founded by entrepreneurs in Asheville, N.C., Mountain BizWorks works to build a vibrant entrepreneurial community by providing other small business founders access to capital and resources.

"Opportunities to receive startup sponsorship can be profoundly impactful for underserved entrepreneurs especially founders of color," Metzer writes. "Mountain BizWork contributes to an entrepreneurial ecosystem on which other business people can build."

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