Lessons Learned from Ecosystem Building in Oregon: Lesson 3

Lesson 3: Compelling stories of rural entrepreneurship and its significance are needed to spur leadership and support at all levels of the ecosystem.

“Tell the story of rural entrepreneurship: the story needs to be carried vast, wide, up, across and everywhere.”
– Discussion at Regards to Rural Entrepreneurship session

Because entrepreneurial ecosystem building is new and different, not everyone is familiar with its importance or how to do it, and not everyone is embracing it. Therefore, there is an urgent need to share compelling stories to demonstrate that rural entrepreneurship works, and to show how it works.

Stereotypes reinforce the false idea that rural communities are not innovative, and that they need that big company to come rescue them. We heard from one participating community that they struggle to convince some community leaders of the importance of supporting entrepreneurs and local businesses. Other communities struggle to know how to support their entrepreneurs and small businesses. One of the successful aspects of the the ROI work funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has been the regular peer learning meetings that bring community organizations together to share approaches to supporting entrepreneurs during the pandemic. Communities are hungry for solutions and eager to learn.

One community specifically mentioned that support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation elevated entrepreneurship ecosystem building in the minds of City Council members, demonstrating how forward thinking Foundations can influence communities through their leadership and strategies.

It is also essential to tell these stories to state legislators and other policy makers and thought leaders to ensure that the needs of entrepreneurs and the organizations that support them are understood, discussed, and that resources are allocated for them.