Creating Entrepreneurial Communities

Developing Entrepreneur Systems | Business Incubators | Incubator Successes | Sources of Financing | Entrepreneur Education | Resources

Is your community “entrepreneurial?” Do you welcome and encourage small business existence and development? In rural areas, small businesses drive the economy. Yet it’s not easy to start a business – they often begin on a “wing and a prayer.”

This page will help you identify what it takes to make your community entrepreneur-friendly and to assist and preserve small business development in your region.

Developing Entrepreneur Systems

Research at the Rural Economic Development Institute and national entrepreneurship economists points to 5 main types of assistance for effective entrepreneur development systems at the state, regional or local level:

  1. Entrepreneurship education and training
  2. Technical assistance and counseling
  3. Access to capital
  4. Entrepreneurial networking
  5. Supportive culture and policy

In designing and carrying out their projects, the Rural Center encouraged the local teams to consider 4 major steps in entrepreneurship program development:

  1. Strategy: Pursue a realistic economic opportunity
  2. Leadership: Build and connect local capacity
  3. Implementation: Create value for the entrepreneurs
  4. Sustainability: Leverage resources to maintain momentum

Business Incubators

Much like new life must be incubated, the same can hold true for small business. Starting a business on the right foot is essential to its ultimate survival. Business incubators are programs designed to aid in the successful development of entrepreneurial companies.

The most common incubator services include:

  • Help with business basics
  • Networking activities
  • Marketing assistance
  • High-speed Internet access
  • Help with accounting/financial management
  • Access to bank loans, loan funds and guarantee programs
  • Help with presentation skills
  • Links to higher education resources
  • Links to strategic partners
  • Access to angel investors or venture capital
  • Comprehensive business training programs
  • Advisory boards and mentors
  • Management team identification
  • Help with business etiquette
  • Technology commercialization assistance
  • Help with regulatory compliance
  • Intellectual property management

    [2006 State of the Business Incubation Industry]

Incubator Successes

Meridian Consulting (Southeast Community College, Lincoln NE)
Not long ago, David Hefley was doing his best to run his start-up technology consulting business out of his home. Sure, he jokes, the commute was great. But he also had to fend off pets, the TV and other distractions… [Read more]

Money Smarts Inc.
Money Smarts Inc. was created by Russ Cowan. Russ has spent the past decade practicing accounting and tax preparation as well as managing finances for successful companies… [Read more]

Insured Image, Inc. 
Insurance companies highly recommend creating inventories. Unfortunately, a natural disaster, fire, or theft can occur without warning. Insured Image creates a digital inventory of your home or business for insurance claim purposes… [Read more]

Midwest MicroSystems L.L.C
Midwest MicroSystems provides cattle software solutions to the beef industry. Perhaps no other time in history of the beef industry has information management and analysis had such significance for the decisions we make, or fail to make, in our operations. [Read more]

GIS Workshop, Inc.
GIS Workshop specializes in the development of custom geographic information system (GIS) solutions, whether it is a custom application for your organization, an Internet mapping site, an extension to ArcGIS, or GIS systems integration into your existing software. [Read more]

Sources of Financing

USDA Loans – This federal program offers financial assistance to small businesses. It is specifically designed to grow business in rural areas. Please visit USDA's website or call 800.670.6553 for more information.

Small Business Administration Loans – Microloans - This special type of loan is given by nonprofit organizations to support low-income, low-employee entrepreneurs. For more information on microloans, contact the Small Business Assistance Corp. at 888.287.2137 or

Entrepreneur Education

Main Street

Photo by Max Klingensmith. See more of Klingensmith's work here.

Surprisingly, you can find some of the strongest entrepreneurs right under your nose – the youth! As young children, they have visions of owning a business, albeit a babysitting or lawn mowing service or even a lemonade stand. There are several programs available to tap into their desire to be entrepreneurs and keep the spark going.

All Terrain Brain designed to help young entrepreneurs “think outside of the box.” All Terrain Brain is a multimedia project designed to get 8-12 year old kids to take their brains “off road” and tap into their entrepreneurial spirits. The project's components: 25 short videos, the interactive ATB web site, and the Team ATB Activity Guide, help kids discover they have the power to do whatever they want in life.

The Ewing and Marion Kauffman Foundation is a strong supporter of youth entrepreneurship and supports All Terrain Brain.

Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) education association with a quarter million students (high school, college, and professional levels) preparing for careers in business and business-related fields.

Educating the Next Wave of Entrepreneurs

GenX Business @Idea Café catering to the business needs of Generation X entrepreneurs.


Business Incubation FAQ – National Business Incubation Association (NBIA)
Small Business Incubators: Potential Local Economic Development Tools – OSU Extension (PDF)
Identifying Obstacles to the Success of Rural Business Incubators – National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) (PDF)
Building a Business Incubator: A Teaching Case Study Journal of Business Case Studies – Fourth Quarter 2006 (PDF)
Directory of Business Incubators –
Rural Incubator Profile – ERIC
Seven Components of a Successful Business Incubator – UW Extension (PDF)

Energizing Your Community – Center for Rural Entrepreneurship
Energizing Entrepreneurial Communities – Center for Rural Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurial Communities – Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
Creating Entrepreneurial Communities – MSU Extension
STEP for Small Businesses – NC Rural Center
Why is Entrepreneurship Important in Community and Economic Development – eXtension
Entrepreneurs and their Communities – eXtension
Community Initiatives Best Practices – Georgia
Entrepreneur Friendly Community Initiatives – Georgia
Building Entrepreneurial Communities – Edward Lowe Foundation (PDF)

Learn More

To learn more about Creating Entrepreneurial Communities, contact Kathie Starkweather at or call 402.687.2100.