A recipe for rural success: How to build a business when you don’t live in the city

FIRST PUBLISHED HERE ON ANTHILLONLINE.COM SEPTEMBER 15TH, 2015

I spent the first few years of my childhood in suburban Melbourne then moved to the country when I was 8 years old.

We lived in a town called Maffra, population of 4000. It had one main strip of tired looking stores with faded displays in the windows but otherwise it was a somewhat pretty, oak tree lined street.

My parents bought a retail business selling children’s clothing and accessories which my mum managed while my dad worked as an engineer right across the road. I was young, but could tell when it had been a ‘quiet day.’

My forever creative and imaginative mum always had brilliant new ideas to drum up business including her famous live window display where local kids (including yours truly) got to be models and did a fashion parade of latest stock. Or the time she had ‘clothing down sale’ painted across the windows. And yes, A LOT of people read it wrong.

Despite being on the Chamber of Commerce (one of few women) and mum’s creative flair and great ideas, it wasn’t enough for the shop to prosper.

Like so many before and so many after, the product, the business owner or their experience in sales, if any, are just not enough for these businesses to find success without access to networking events and workshops.

We’re lucky now to have the Internet and access to fantastic tools and resources online, but this still doesn’t make up for that human connection with like-minded people that business owners need and get support from.

More and more, networking and support groups are being setup in regional and rural areas as home based business and small business become more attractive to those wanting to monetise their hobby, discover their passion and/or escape the 9 to 5.

A guide on doing business outside the city

So, what does one do to build their business without access to the many resources metropolitan areas have to offer?

1. Connect with like- minded people in your area

Start online and search for local networking events, groups for business owners, co-working spaces and sites like meetup.com.

2. Join other business owners online

There are thousands of Facebook groups out there; find one for your type of business, your industry or your local area. If there isn’t one specifically for your town or region, start one. You won’t be the only business owner in your area.

It’s about community. Building a business can be tough, it’s important to connect with others to share ideas with, to be inspired by and to have that connection outside of work!

3. Utilise online resources for business owners

There are many free and paid courses, e-books and tools to choose from.

4. Get in touch with your local council

Most councils will have a whole arm devoted to local business and economic development. Reach out to them to see what free support and resources they can offer. Through them, you may be able to meet other business owners too.

5. If you’re a product-based business, join the local market

Exhibiting fees can vary, find a market, which fits your business category with other exhibitors who will compliment you.

6. Get back to basics

Hit the pavement and let the locals know who you are and what you do! But don’t tell just anyone. If there’s a store, which could stock your product, visit them with a sample.

If it’s a business, which could use your service, call them and let them know what you do and how you could help them.

One more golden tip

Nothing beats good old fashioned word of mouth.

Get clear on your why, have a great/unique offer, let your passion shine through and have a clear message before you go and shout your business from the rooftops.

You only need to impress a handful of people for the word to spread. The beauty of being part of a regional or rural area is that sense of community which is missing in metro areas.

Do your research, make the most of your networks and your local council’s resources and you’ll be closer to business success.