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Small Town, Big Business: The Case for Starting Up in a Small Town

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Great things come from humble beginnings.
 
That’s the motto of every startup, right? After all, every established Fortune 500 company had to start somewhere, and sometimes, that “somewhere” is a place you’d never expect. (In fact, it might even be a little bit closer to “nowhere.”)
 
A lot of successful large companies opened their doors in small communities and grew into greatness. But often, these success stories have one thing in common: They all tapped into the unique advantages that a small town offers a growing business.
 
Plant Your Roots

The town you kick-start your startup in isn’t just a place. It’s a foundation for your company’s future.
 
A great example from my hometown is VML. What was once a small digital advertising agency with fewer than 30 employees is now a company with more than 1,900 employees and clients that include Wendy’s, Kellogg’s, and Gatorade. The company’s growth is due to its dedication to good work and staying true to its Midwestern roots. And even with expansions across six continents, it’s maintained its main headquarters in Kansas City. VML is just one success story among many.
 
Here are a few of the advantages that small businesses enjoy in a smaller city:

  • Cost of employees: The cost of living is significantly lower in a smaller community, so you can afford your town’s top talent without breaking the bank.
  • Simpler recruiting: Start by seeking out new hires at local job fairs and colleges. Over time, you’ll build a “buzz” among these communities, and the talent will come to you.
  • Limited competition: It’s easy to become an industry expert in a smaller town. People may approach you outside of business hours and ask for advice, but remember, this is an indication that they respect your knowledge, what you do, and the service you provide.
  • Cheap office space: Less expensive space allows you to expand your business without a lateral increase in operational expenses. You won’t need to keep changing locations due to high costs, either.
  • Easier networking: People love to support local businesses because they feel like they’re giving back. Because you’re a local company, people are more likely to provide a warm introduction for you.
  • Personalized service: National chains can’t offer the personalized services smaller businesses can, which is often appreciated by people in smaller communities.
  • Accessible market: Advertising and marketing efforts are more cost-effective in a small town. Because you’re targeting a much smaller area, it’s easier to get more bang for your buck. And don’t underestimate word-of-mouth marketing. In close-knit communities, one good experience can be communicated very quickly. (But beware: This is just as true for bad experiences.)
 
Grow Together

Small-town pride runs deep. But when your business starts growing beyond the city limits, how do you keep your customers from feeling like you’ve “sold out”?
 
The answer is simple: Keep your headquarters in your hometown—even when your business expands into new locations.
 
However, that doesn’t mean simply keeping an office there. Make sure you’re staying true to the customers and companies that built your business. Continue sponsoring activities, attending networking events, and making your presence clear.
 
Here are a few other ways to make sure you’re giving back to the local community:

  • Give to local charities. Find one that fits your mission as a company. This can work as great PR and branding, and it helps you establish yourself as a community-minded business.
  • Sponsor local networking events. That way, you can meet other like-minded local companies to partner and collaborate with for co-promotions.
  • Offer discounts for other local businesses. There’s no better way to build community than through building relationships with other local companies.
  • Work with the local government. See if your local government can help provide credits or assistance for relocating out-of-state employees.
 
It’s always fascinating to watch your town rise around your business and see how you’re evolving alongside your fellow startups.
 
In Kansas City, Google Fiber launched ultra high-speed Internet, and now accelerators, incubators, and small businesses have formed a Startup Village to grow entrepreneurs in the area. This strong, tightly knit community among startups in small towns isn’t uncommon. (Silicon Valley, anyone?) And, as history has shown, it can be a truly valuable asset to your business, now and down the road.
 
As your business matures, so will your city and community. The more you nurture your community, the more your community will give back to your business and help it grow for years to come.

This article was originally published by Killer Startups
 
Author: Danny Wajcman is the co-founder and vice president of sales and operations at Lucky Orange, the premier service for website optimization and improvement. Using Lucky Orange, you can understand visitor behaviors, diagnose trouble areas in your conversion funnel, determine causes of abandonment, and evaluate your website optimization to measure success.

Published: August 29, 2014
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