Volume XIV | Issue 2 | Fall 2014

Unleashing entrepreneurs

Three authors offer roadmap to support the economic promise of our most talented citizens

In their first book, a trio of authors from the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship wrote about creating opportunities and building support for individual entrepreneurs. That was nearly a decade ago, and since then, they have worked with dozens of communities, learned from committed partners, built a new understanding of the movement and developed a host of new tools to support entrepreneur-focused economic development. 

a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurs

Now, they’ve brought a new focus to the work. Their second book on the topic, Energizing Entrepreneurial Communities, takes a fresh new approach to invigorating communities through the energy, imagination and economic promise of their most talented citizens. It’s a new approach that focuses on building the systems that help communities create a supportive ecosystem for their entrepreneurs, as well as increase their impact.

“Entrepreneurial communities have a better shot at achieving diversity, resilience and prosperity in today’s economic environment,” the authors say. “Fortunately, there are communities that chose this path years ago and what we have learned from their examples can guide your journey.”

The book is a how-to manual, one that can help communities build a prosperous future. It offers a robust, systems approach that promises greater impacts than more traditional entrepreneur-focused economic development. 

The authors — Don Macke, Deborah Markley and John Fulwider — begin by laying out the three beliefs that guide their work. First, that entrepreneurship development is a necessary component of any economic development strategy, and is, in fact, the most promising strategy for rural areas. 

Second, that creating an environment friendly to entrepreneurship requires changing a community’s culture and adopting a “grow your own” mentality. 

And lastly, that entrepreneurship development requires a systems approach — a collaborative, often regional approach of connecting the dots.

Communities are first urged to learn the attributes of an entrepreneurial community, and then use a tool provided in the book, the Entrepreneurial Community Quick Assessment, to figure out their starting point. 

Book cover of Energizing Entrepreneurial CommunitiesAvailable through Select Books

Once this is done, communities can begin developing a critical element of any successful plan — an entrepreneurial development system, called an EDS, focused on identifying, developing and supporting talent in their area. “The ultimate endgame is economic development: creating wealth and property for communities,” the authors write. An entire chapter is devoted to defining an EDS, identifying key elements and looking at services an effective EDS should provide in the community. 

One thing hasn’t changed: ultimately, a community’s success will depend on how effectively it works with its entrepreneurs. To that end, the authors have developed a roadmap that helps economic leaders understand and reach their entrepreneurs. Central to the process is an entrepreneur coach. “We believe the innovative use of coaching, coupled with networking to content expertise, creates the strongest possible assistance game plan and yields the greatest economic development impacts,” the authors write. 

The coach can help the community move through the stops on the roadmap, which include targeting and outreach, intake and screening, referrals and assistance, portfolio management, sustained business outcomes and, finally, rooted economic development outcomes.

Becoming an entrepreneurial community is a journey, requiring a commitment of time and talent. This book offers the tools, knowledge and strategies that can help you get there.  

Energizing Entrepreneurial Communities is available for free to residents of Oregon and Siskiyou County, Calif., through Select Books

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