The Small Businesses Role in Communities

Small businesses are key to successful communities.

Many of us understand, certainly, the role of the small business in terms of the economic health of a rural community. And this remains true in larger communities as well.

However, less recognized is the role that small businesses hold in supporting a variety of charitable and community events. They also provide a great deal of human resources in terms of volunteers and leaders in local government and other organizations.

These contributions form a core support of strong, resilient communities. It is not uncommon for a community and its members to overlook such resources when looking to grow a community.

This webinar explains further some of what small businesses can offer to a community.

The Family Business: From Main Street to Wall Street

family business owners

Photo (CC) by Dana, on Flickr

Chances are you do business with with one, and probably many more, family businesses.

Family businesses surround us. Family businesses form an integral part of our economy. We find them in all shapes and sizes, from WalMart and Ford to your main street stores and even some operating out of the garage or off the dining room table.

Family businesses represent a unique intersection of the business system with the family system. Family businesses have additional opportunities and resources because of the family system of which they are a part. Intermingling of time and resources has been found to be used in the business just as such resources, at times, find their way over to the family system from the business.

Yet with such potential benefits, family businesses are also navigating family dynamics and relationships that a traditional business owner never encounters.

Understanding the family business with its merger of the both the family and business systems, along with a two-way relationship with the community, has been the the mission of the Family Business Research team and its National Family Business Survey. The team is now collecting data providing 20 years of information from its national panel of businesses.

From the development of the Sustainable Family Business Theory in 1999, the team has focused on understanding the factors of success along with how communities and family businesses work together. Resource exchange, disaster preparedness and response, and family tensions have all been examined.

How such family businesses give back to the community has been highlighted earlier. Recently a highlights newsletter has been distributed and a complete bibliography for the group can be found here.

Family businesses are key economic contributors. They not only feed the family that runs them but expands and enhances the local economy. Get to know your family business owners. See how your community and these businesses can work more closely together. 

Building Community Through the Little Free Garden

Little Free Garden

Little Free Garden

Thanks to Meghan Myrdal, co-founder of Ugly Food of the North, for sharing this story.

Her story focuses on an effort to bring food and an awareness of food to communities. In it she discusses how the project can bring meaningful connections.

I have the privilege of knowing her and watching her work towards a well-connected food system that, in turn, drives strong, healthy communities.

I hope this idea inspires you to try something new or to try this program in your own area. There are so many different ways it could be done and it could involve some many different groups.

Thanks Megan for sharing.


Grow. Take. Share. – The Little Free Garden Project 

By: Megan Myrdal

This summer you will find small, raised-bed gardens springing up in front yards across Fargo, ND-Moorhead, MN. But there’s something special about the little boxes with the green placard. The food grown within eight-square feet can be taken by anyone. In fact, it’s encouraged!

Ugly Food of the North recently launched the Little Free Garden, a project intended to foster communities committed to growing, sharing and cultivating food in small, raised-bed gardens, designed to fit in residential spaces.  The project launched with an inaugural build event at Concordia College on April 23.

The project was inspired by the Little Free Library project, but instead of sharing books the owners share food. The small, cedar wood, raised-bed gardens (4 x 2 ft, 12” deep) are placed in a household’s front yard, are planted and tended by the homeowners, and all the food grown is to be harvested by anyone who wants it or needs it.

Ugly Food of the North formed in August of last year with the goal of creating a more sustainable, personal food system through education, networking and community organizing. Since the group formation, they’ve held monthly events to bring the community together to learn about and discuss important food issues including food waste, urban agriculture, local food access, and food security.

The creation of the Little Free Garden project was inspired by the idea that the little box symbolizes a simple response to many of the important food issues the group has been working to address — the disconnect between food and agriculture, people lacking access to healthful, locally grown food, a lost sense of value for food and therefore waste and/or overconsumption, and people craving an opportunity to connect with one another around healthful food and positive social experiences.

The project envisions that the little gardens will not only be a free transaction of food, but an littlefreegarden2exchange of personal, meaningful connection – a reason to talk to a neighbor or stranger; a chance to connect with one another in a shared growing experience.

The project launched over 50 gardens in the Fargo-Moorhead area this spring and has been documenting the community growing experience on their social media channel. They hope to follow the first gardens, learn how the process is received, and to launch the project more broadly next year.

You can read more about the Little Free Garden project here including ways to donate and support.

Local Resources and Cooperative Extension Help Build Community

2016-07-05_1004Thanks this week to Pam Schallhorn, both serving as University of Illinois Extension Community Economic Developer Educator, for sharing their blog post.


It is not an uncommon remark someone makes wishing that his or her local community could grow.

Quite often a follow-up comment discusses “if only” we could bring in some new industries to make that happen.

The reality is that the resources, tools and spark plugs for community growth often already exist in the community. I have watched this happen in three counties in south central ND as they have come together around their Germans from Russia cultural heritage.

Pam’s  blog post shows how a community has built from within. Rockford, IL called it “tapping your own creative talent.” Locally grown businesses started based on the needs they saw. It’s a great example showing just what can be done. Cooperative Extension played a role in helping to make this happen.

In the post, Pam writes that the town realized that businesses were not just going to move in to save it. Instead, the people in the community needed to invest their own talent, time, energy, and, yes, even money to make things happen.

So are you ready to make things happen in your community?

 

Pop-Up Shops as Opportunities

Pop-up shop

Photo (CC 2.0) by USDA, on Flickr

Are you looking to start a business? Or maybe you work with someone who desires to have a small business?  One of the common questions is how to start?

A pop-up shop may be a good way to give business ownership a try. It also is a way to see how the market responds to your product or service.

What is a pop-up shop?  It’s a temporary place of doing business, i.e., think carts in the mall as an idea. You can find more on the topic here. 

Pop-up shops come in many forms, from the carts just mentioned to a temporary shop in a vacant space to a portable building brought in to a tent along the road. Each of these methods allow you to test your idea and yourself as a business owner/manager.

Becky McCray, of Small Biz Survival, has posted several articles on pop-up shops. She writes on how they can be beneficial in encouraging business owners in small towns. Some of her articles include:

Pam Schallhorn, of the University of Illinois Extension, has also done a blog post on the idea of pop-up shops.  Her articles looks at how they helped rebuild a downtown.

And the Des Moines Register just published a story on a man who has started a business making store fronts for pop-up shops.

Pop-up shops, or similar models, can offer economic development growth and opportunities for local communities.  And communities can be very helpful in making such alternative ideas possible and even helping to market them and encourage their development.

Thinking of starting your own business? Working to develop your community’s economic sector? Try pop-ups!!

Community Development: Retaining Rural Grocers

Elwood marketThanks go to Dr. Dan Kahl, Associate Director of the Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky for this week’s blog idea. His idea demonstrates the power of the national Cooperative Extension Service network as he mentions work being done in Kansas.


It’s not a secret. Many small rural towns struggle to maintain themselves and their quality of life.

Part of that quality comes from having certain amenities such as a local cafe and a school. Another key component is a local grocery store. This local store often becomes a meeting point where neighbor sees neighbor, where the bulletin board serves as a “social media” sharing site, and where many events are held.

Obviously we all need food and that means access. USDA talks about food deserts or places where, for rural situations, people have to drive more than 10 miles to get to a supermarket or large grocery store. But such stores serve as much more.

Kansas State University has developed the Rural Grocery Initiative to help these rural linchpin stores maintain themselves and grow. When Dan sent the information about this effort, he specifically mentioned their Rural Grocery Tool Kit as a useful resource. Not only are a variety of tools found but there is also a variety of reports such as Rural Grocery Stores: Ownership Models that Work for Rural Communities.

Since 2007, Kansas State’s Center for Engagement and Community Development has worked on this project. They have done several national meetings for store owners and community stakeholders. Their National Rural Grocery Summit V is set for June 6th and 7th in Wichita, Kansas. See their web site for more information.

Growing your local economy through your rural grocery store. Looking for help, here is a great resource.  

Here is another story on supporting rural grocery stores.

Family Businesses Give Back to Communities

shopowner

Photo (CC) by Katie, on Flickr

Information provided by Diane Masuo, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa

I have the opportunity to work with colleagues from land grant colleges and universities across the country. Part of what I am involved with is the study of family businesses. Diane, one of our team members, recently examined how family businesses support the communities where they are located.

Family businesses are more prevalent than most people think. Family businesses come in all shapes and sizes from the main streets stores in our town to the major ones such as WalMart, Cargill, Ford and Mars.

Family businesses, in total, represent one-third of the S & P 500 index, and comprising nearly 10 million firms in total.

Family businesses are the retail, small manufacturers, and service businesses we see and use every day. Our economy would quickly come to a halt if we didn’t have family businesses in our world.

Yet to think that they only provide goods and services underestimates their importance in our communities. Diane explored what “socially responsible practices and economic support” they also provide. She noted:
– Male business owners were more likely than female business owners to:
—- Provide financial and technical assistance in community development and planning
—- Made monetary donations to schools.
– Non-service sector businesses were more likely to be personally involved through holding elected offices and leading civic groups.

Business owners were found to give back to their communities. It didn’t matter if they were home-based businesses or not home-based business. Length of time living in the community seems to play a part in the willingness to give back.

Length of time in business directly influenced what type of resources were given. In the earlier years it was more likely to be monetary donations with leadership positions and technical assistance added to the giving as the business matured.

Diane’s recently released report can be found at: www2.hawaii.edu/~masuo/CSR_Natl_070615.pdf

So as you think about your community’s family businesses, remember the unseen resources of time and money they provide along with jobs, taxes, and needed goods and services we depend on.