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Entrepreneurial Success in a Small Town

Many entrepreneurs choose to work in small towns. From shorter commutes to word-of-mouth marketing, running a business in a small community has its advantages. And today's technology is presenting small-town entrepreneurs with even more opportunities.

Entrepreneur Adam Armit started his music business when he was just 12 years old.

Armit was born and raised in a small town. He moved to a larger city for post-secondary school, but his company still operates in his small hometown.

Armit's company, Wildfire Music, includes a mobile DJ business, concert promotions, a talent agency and talent management services.

Entrepreneurs like Armit find many advantages to running their businesses in small towns. There's less competition, for one. Also, information spreads by word of mouth, which is a cheap way to market one's business. Owners can always choose to move to a larger market at a later time, or expand locations.

Joseph Andreula started a business in his hometown of Hoboken, New Jersey, which has a population of about 40,000. He opened his first kickboxing studio in 1997. By getting the word out to his acquaintances in Hoboken, the company prospered and expanded. CKO Kickboxing now has 18 locations in New Jersey and New York.

"I had an advantage in knowing business owners, schools and friends who could help distribute my company's flyers," Andreula says.

In his hometown, Andreula is able to barter his kickboxing services for everything from haircuts and legal advice to spa gift cards and even his morning coffee.

"The personal fulfillment of knowing that I am contributing in my community and looked at as someone who is making a difference is an incredible and rewarding feeling," he says.

Thanks to the Internet, entrepreneurs can start businesses and work out of their homes in small towns.

Sara Morgan is a website developer. In 2005, she started Custom Solutions in the quaint community of St. Francisville, Louisiana.

"I had often visited the town on weekends and holidays, since it was such a charming and beautiful place," Morgan says.

"Once I went independent and formed my own consulting business, I realized that I could live anywhere I wanted to. I chose to live somewhere safe and beautiful. As long as I had an Internet connection, I was in business."

In addition to Morgan's website development work, she is also a technical author. She has written dozens of articles and six software development books.

Recently, Morgan's company expanded into specialized publishing with the release of her seventh book, No Limits: How I Escaped the Clutches of Corporate America to Live the Self-Employed Life of My Dreams.

For Morgan and others, the advantages of working in a small town include faster trips to the post office, no heavy traffic and no wasted time commuting. Morgan also appreciates raising her children in a small, safe community.

Obstacles of small town business

There can also be some disadvantages to running a business in a small town. Getting your business off the ground can be a challenging undertaking.

Starting out at age 12 was an obstacle in itself for Armit. To break into a small market, he needed to gain the trust of his clients. He also needed to strategically price his services and position his marketing.

He started out as a DJ for local family reunions and other events. Then, he went on to gain the trust of his school's student council and landed the DJ contract for all the school dances.

It was more challenging for Armit to get wedding contracts, but he did that too. Today, Armit's DJ business is the most profitable section of Wildfire Music.

"Putting the music for the most important dance of people's lives in a 12-year-old's hands is definitely something that is hard to convince people to do," Armit says.

"I had to prove myself, market myself and gain as many contacts as I could. Once I gained the trust of one couple, it snowballed from there with people who attended that wedding hiring me, and on and on. Personal networking has opened many doors for me since then, and I don't know where I would be without it."

Since word of mouth spreads quickly, strict attention must be given to each and every customer who walks in the door, says Andreula. "One person who has an experience that he or she views as negative could become a major problem in a small town -- and just the opposite if you provide a positive experience."

Top tips for a successful small town business

Before starting your business, analyze the market to ensure that a strong market exists for your products or services.

Open a business that represents your interests. "I opened a music company because I love music, and know a lot about it," Armit says. "It was natural to me."

Reading books about business is essential to learning about the entrepreneurial life. "I would read, read, read and read. Not textbooks, but business books," Armit says. "It sounds boring, but you will learn more from those than any schooling."

Get to know as many people as you can to help market your products or services through word of mouth, and avoid overspending on advertising, says Armit.

"If you market it right, and manage it right, any business can thrive in a small town," he says.

"Try to connect with members of the local community," Morgan suggests. "People that live in rural areas are typically very nice people, and they love to help their neighbors. You would be surprised what people are willing to do for you if you just ask. And a small business owner always needs help."

Get as much education as possible, Morgan adds. "Really apply yourself in school and look for opportunities to intern while in school. Find a way to stand out from everyone else."

Along with providing top customer service, Andreula suggests studying the type of business you're most interested in starting. "Go into that store or business every day as a customer and learn everything that you can," he says.

"Call the owner and note how they answer the phone. E-mail them and see how they respond."

It's also important to think about what you would do to improve the business, without spending a significant amount of money, he says.

Articles and ideas for business owners

U.S. Small Business Administration
Programs and services to help entrepreneurs start, grow and succeed
Resources for small business owners in the U.S.

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