When you’re starting a new business you want to be in the heart of a thriving city with thousands of customers at your feet and an infrastructure that supplies everything you need. But that’s not always possible. If you’ve built a life in a rural area and you’ve got a family that relies on you, you can’t just pick up and move to the city. Don’t worry though, that doesn’t mean you have to put your dreams of being a business owner on ice. It’s still possible to build a thriving business in a rural area, you’ve just got to overcome a few hurdles.
Businesses operating in a rural area face a very different set of challenges to ones in the city. The biggest one is a lower volume of customers nearby, but you may also have to adjust prices to fit in with a lower cost of living and lower wages in the area. Your location is also going to be an issue because if customers need to get out to you in person, they might not bother traveling so far when they can just go with somebody closer. That means businesses that sell most of their products online are often better suited to rural areas. Having said that, if you can come up with a brick and mortar business that makes enough money supplying the local area, you should do fine.
Rural companies are also more vulnerable to competition from big chains like Walmart because when they open up in a small town, they can supply everything that all of the smaller stores do, but for a much lower price.
Poor infrastructure is going to throw a spanner in the works as well and you’ll have to deal with things like slow internet, bad road links for deliveries, and poor cell phone reception. All of that probably puts you off running a business in a rural area but it’s not all doom and gloom. If you follow these tips, you can make it a success.
Invest In The Local Area
When you’re living in an area that has bad infrastructure you should see it as an opportunity to invest in the local area. Lobby phone companies to install new masts, contact the local authorities and push them to improve the road networks. Spend some money on data cabling installation to improve your internet and phone connections. All of this stuff is going to make it easier for you to do business, but the benefits don’t end there. By investing in your local community, you establish yourself as one of its leaders and earn the respect of the people that live there. They’ll be far more likely to support your business and buy products from you if you give something back to them.
Use The Rural Image To Your Advantage
There has been a change in consumer trends over the past few years and lots of people are turning away from the big multinational companies. They’re looking for a more wholesome and personal experience from their companies. While a lot of the bigger chains are trying to use things like social media to give themselves this image, it just isn’t authentic. When you’re working in a rural area you have a distinct advantage with these customers. You don’t need to create a false narrative about your headquarters in a small town because you’re doing it for real.
In your marketing campaigns, you should always highlight your rural roots and use this as a way to purvey quality. Consumers naturally associate a rural setting with handmade quality so it’s always a good idea to play on that.
When you’re selling to a customer base in the city, the local artisanal angle is always a winner and you can bump the prices up and still make sales. However, this isn’t going to fly in a small town. People will see through that so you’ll have to keep your prices more reasonable.
Find A Niche
The business model of a smaller rural company and a nationwide chain are very different. Those big chains are selling huge quantities of product as cheaply as possible. They can do that because they get manufacturing discounts for selling so cheap and they have stores all around the country to offload it. You could try to emulate the same model by producing large quantities and selling it online but it’s not going to work. Smaller companies like yours should focus on building a core customer base that is incredibly loyal and offers repeat business.
It’s difficult to create such a loyal customer base if you’re selling generic products that people can buy from anywhere. Finding a specific niche so you can offer customers something that they can’t get from anywhere else is the only way to do it. You can often tie this into your rural image by taking an existing product and coming up with a new, more sustainable way of manufacturing it. You can see this trend in the food industry with vegan and gluten free etc.
The business community in a small town tends to be very close knit. Most of the business owners will know each other and have a good relationship with the local government. There’s still competition of course, but they’re more likely to work together on things that help the business community as a whole. Look into joining the local chamber of commerce where you can meet other business leaders in the community. It’s a valuable source of information on surviving in a rural setting. You’ll also make lots of good contacts while you’re there that can help you along the way.
Joining a chamber of commerce organisation will also help you when you’re trying to make improvements to your town because you’ll have a closer working relationship with the people that make those decisions. You can also make good partnerships with local schools and universities where you can find good employees, which is sometimes a struggle in a rural area with limited people living there.
Getting a business going in a small town is going to be far more difficult but if you put the work in, it’s not an impossibility.