What is Culture?
Culture is a mindset built on commonly held and shared beliefs. It is a way of thinking that drives a group to act. In our case, it is the commonly held beliefs about starting, owning, encouraging and supporting our own companies and entrepreneurs. In far too many cases becoming or being an “entrepreneur” can be perceived as a negative four letter word…RISK.
What you don’t want your entrepreneurs to be hearing:
“You spent four years earning your degree, and now you want to throw it all away to start a business!”
“Why would you leave a promising career in ‘x’ and risk everything?”
“We’ve been successful, why do we need to grow or even change?”
“Your first idea didn’t work out, why would you risk starting another business?”
“I might wait and see if she’s still open in two months and then I will stop by.”
The Way Forward
Our job as neighbors, friends and family, fellow business owners and small business service providers is to celebrate and support the investment, dreams, dedication and determination of the very individuals and organizations who generate the jobs, tax base and economic impact that helps to determine our quality of life. Entrepreneurs dare us to change the status quo. They are the local establishments who sponsor our children’s little league games and provide their first jobs. They are the individuals who have the potential to transform one business into an entire local industry or new niche. But entrepreneurs, from family farmers, manufacturers and Main Street shop owners, to service franchise owners, restaurateurs, home based business owners and those with the next great idea, need their community as much as their community needs them.
What does this look like?
Initially, support includes encouraging and reminding local residents, organizations and businesses to shop and conduct business locally to provide revenue to small businesses and to keep our dollars recirculating locally. It means sharing words of encouragement, giving public recognition, and taking a second, or third, chance on a local entrepreneur. In communities with strong cultural support, local newspapers commonly champion the successes of innovators, small owners, and mom-and-pop shops. Supportive culture encompasses the conversations that occur in our homes, guidance offices and classrooms which challenge students to envision running their own business someday, right here in our communities.
Supportive Culture also has a resource component to it. Physical resources must be in place in order to facilitate a supportive entrepreneurial culture. Typically this means that you need to have at least one incubator or co-work facility. If not an incubator or co-work, regions should seek to have some sort of entrepreneurial center of gravity. In some communities this is just the local coffee shop. Another important element is having strong broadband internet connections to support businesses access to online markets. One last component that needs to be regularly evaluated and streamlined are the rules and regulations associated with entrepreneurship in each of the region’s communities. The rule of thumb is that policies and ordinances should work to promote and support entrepreneurs, not regulate and ban them.
EDA University Center Role
Our role as an EDA University Center is to bring best practices for local economic developers to utilize in how to facilitate a vibrant community culture that does not regulate and ban, but rather becomes designed to promote and support our area entrepreneurs. This may mean helping to loop in the local media to better cover business startups, or conducting a review of county, local, and/or regional codes and ordinances to see if there are areas for improvement to lower any barriers to running enterprising firms within the region.
Check out these resources for new ideas: