For many of our rural communities, our future prosperity, quality of life, and heck, even our very existence, is dependent on sound economic development. I believe the same applies to rural economic development. If you don’t treat it aggressively, do you really understand the consequences of NOT being successful? Action is necessary. Continuing the status quo is not acceptable.
Just like the people of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day, the city walls of rural American need rebuilding. What if we recalibrated our time, effort, and energy to the right places? What if we focused that on the betterment of our community and the people within it? What if our priorities—individually, in our families, in our businesses and organizations—centered around giving of ourselves to improve our community? What could each of us accomplish? What could we accomplish together?
This week on the podcast we’re talking with Belle Golden of Belle’s Flower Truck in Tifton, Georgia. She’s sharing how, as someone who never had arranged flowers or even had dreams for a flower truck, knew in her heart this was something she was supposed to do and brought it to life in a matter of days. The result is now one of the hottest things in her small town - Belle’s Flower Truck.
We talk a lot about “community pride” but simple, straightforward definitions of the phrase are hard to come by. After working through various discussions of community pride and the definitions of “community” and “pride,” I proposed the following definition of “community pride”:
“A collective group of people’s dignity in, and satisfaction with, objects of importance and meaning to their group.”
Vian was always a place my kids loved to visit, and it was a place that was so special to my husband — it was home. Throughout the years we had been asked when we were going to bring our business to Vian. We thought this was the perfect opportunity to expand once more. We purchased a building downtown to open our newest location and get started here. After seeing the beauty that had been brought out in the buildings surrounding us, we decided to do a complete remodel. A few plans have changed, but we are so excited for the future here.
This week on the podcast we’re in Vian, Oklahoma talking with Lyndsey Sullivan, who recently opened a lifestyle gym called The Field House. She’s sharing how she brought what had been a dream in her heart for over five years to life by restoring a vacant building on main street. Lyndsey’s shifting that mindset in her rural town by offering affordable price points and educating members that her gym is an all-around healthy lifestyle option - and her community is really embracing it.
Operating a floral business in a rural town is no simple feat. Doing the aforementioned while working a full-time job 40 miles away is just another layer of the proverbial onion. However, we had a plan! My sister had never arranged a flower before in her life, and from day one she would be the shopkeeper. It was a tough start, but with much determination, and more than one FaceTime call on my lunch break to help with flower arranging from afar, it has all seamlessly come together.
Having worked at community and economic development for many, many years, I’m well aware of the countless individuals who’ve given so much time to their communities and to the entire region! And I’ve learned how so much more can be achieved through collaborations and partnerships than can ever be accomplished individually, making so many things possible that would not be otherwise. As our communities strengthen and our region prospers, you can see the work of committed individuals everywhere.
Our original goal of starting a business was to bring more people to our area, keep more money local and hope to share priceless time together as mother and daughter. What ended up happening was something unexpected and much more significant. We have met the most amazing people who live locally, are at the lake, or are traveling through — and have built relationships and friendships with those people that we would have otherwise never known. Meeting these people and learning their stories has made it all so worth it!
Let us introduce you to Vian, Oklahoma — a town rich in tradition, diversity, pride, and dreams. Having suffered two downtown fires, a new generation of entrepreneurs had visions of repurposing hundred-year-old buildings that have sat vacant for years. So with limited funds but unlimited passion, the revitalization process has begun! Nine new businesses have opened in the past five years!
We’re on the farm outside of Atlantic, Iowa with Michelle Myers of Dirt Road Candle Company for this week’s podcast. Michelle started a side hustle making soy candles - and with scents like Iowa Back Roads, Small Town Gossip, and County Fair - her business has quickly taken off. She’s sharing how she’s built her brand and business, and about her Iowa Farm girl roots and life on the farm.
As I think about how to bring back our homecomers and attract new businesses and residents, I continually think about our internet problem. With better internet access, a community can attract self-employed and remote workers, creating more jobs without waiting for a major employer to move to town. A rural community with a low cost of living, quality schools, and reliable high-speed internet has a fantastic sales pitch for families tired of the city. But what about the rural community without decent, readily available internet access?
This week on the podcast we’re in Cimarron, New Mexico (pop. 1,021) with entrepreneurs Colin and Erin Tawney - and what happened to be a fortuitous stop on our road trip to California earlier this year. Colin and Erin are sharing what led them to bringing a bed and breakfast, brewery, and bike race to their historic town, plus all they’re doing to help bring economic development and positive change to the community. They are a great example of what it looks like to really seize the opportunities their small town has to offer.
Homecomers aren’t likely to move “back home” to rural Montana or rural Texas (or wherever you’re reading this) in the family stage of life unless “home” is a good place for their kids. What are the schools like? How are the parks, libraries, and youth sports? What summer programs are offered in town when school is not in session? Can the kids do their homework and play games on the town’s internet?
This week on the podcast we’re in Versailles, Kentucky (pop. 9,292) with entrepreneur Emily Riddle. Emily and her husband have invested into their small town square by bringing in several new businesses, and in just a year and a half it has evolved into a vibrant, thriving destination that’s attracting young people — and most recently Hollywood — as the site for a Drew Barrymore movie set.
Conventional wisdom says people don’t want to live in rural America, especially not young people. Polling and research indicates the exact opposite. People want to live in rural America if they can, but they need economic opportunities to either keep them in rural America or to draw them back. So how do we reverse that brain drain? How do we create “brain gain” by attracting our homecomers?
This week we’re in Metamora, Illinois (pop. 3,732) with Paige Ehnle of No Roots Boots. Paige has combined her passion for travel, meeting people, and high quality western and fashion boots into a boot store on wheels. She now road trips with her vintage Airstream to markets, fairs, festivals, concerts, and other events - selling her boots all over America. She’s sharing all about how she built her business and what she’s learned along the way.
Only 12% of Americans live in rural areas, but 27% aspire to. That disparity between reality and aspiration is the largest on the survey. More people live in the city than actually aspire to do so. Meanwhile, if aspirations became reality, the rural population would almost double. So how do we make that happen?
We’re in Penn Valley, California this week on the podcast with fiber artist Cassidy Fisher of The Northern Craft. She’s sharing about how she turned her passion for art into a full-time profession, and how she uses inspiration from the beautiful things around her to create her collections. Plus, she’s dishing about her incredible experience at Magnolia’s Silobration and the impact that’s had on her business.
There’s nothing wrong with being “popular” per se. I think we all want to be popular in some form or fashion, among some group or another. But are we seeking popularity for the right reasons? And if we are “popular,” are we using that popularity for good?
This week on the podcast we’re in Pawhuska, Oklahoma with Luke and Kenyon Lomax of Prairie Sky Jewelry Company. With a fairly new business and products that have quickly become high in demand, we have an incredible conversation on how they have built their business and their life, and how they transitioned from life on the road to their new home on the farm in Pawhuska. From learning their trade to social media to customer service and so much more - they have a lot of gold to share that any small business owner can learn from.
Our society has advanced far past where it was in 1962, but that doesn’t mean we’re perfect. Overt segregation and discrimination are harder to find, but ingrained, subconscious societal prejudices still exist. No matter our skin color, we’ve probably both experienced and propagated a few prejudices, even if subtle ones, and even if we didn’t intend to. Sometimes, it’s good to be challenged to think about our society. It’s good to be uncomfortable as we think about the unsavory pieces of our past, so that we can ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes of our forefathers.
This week on the podcast we’re in Gridley, California (pop. 6,937) with third generation rice farmer Matthew Sligar. Matthew started Rice Farming TV to help promote and educate people on the California rice industry through weekly videos on YouTube, and he’s gained quite a following. He’s talking all things rice farming and how his videos have opened up some great opportunities.
From 1836 to 2019, the story of Texas was, is, and will be beautiful, ugly, complicated, and contradicting, full of noble-minded people with noble-minded ideals, often struggling to live up to those ideals. We may not always succeed, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying.
This week on the podcast we’re with designer Regan Doely of Doe A Deer in Stuart, Iowa (pop. 1,648). Regan’s talking about how she’s grown her business from a side hustle on Facebook into a full product line that’s now being sold by national retailers. She’s also sharing how her handmade-focused brand is inspired by her love for vintage and why she loves to work with small shops and businesses in rural America.
Our rural communities were each once part of the American frontier. The history of the frontier is of a wide-open place where anyone—immigrants, aristocrats, nobodies, and somebodies—could seek out opportunity and with hard work and the right amount of luck, carve out a new life regardless of the good, bad, and ugly of their past. The frontier was chock full of people who were hard to love.
This week on the podcast we’re on the ranch in Datil, New Mexico (pop. 54) with cowboys and love stories photographer Lyndsey Garber. We talk about what it’s been like for Lyndsey to grow her rural business from a side hustle to a portfolio with national clientele. Plus she has some great things to say about the power of story, and even shares her own cowboy love story.
February 18, 2019 is the day designated for the annual celebration of Presidents’ Day in America. As has been the case for decades, many commentators will use the day to honor all 45 Americans who have held the office of President of the United States. But today, I want to author a reminder that the federal holiday is still technically known as “Washington’s Birthday” and talk more about the man for which the day was created.
We’re sitting down with Mary Heffernan of Five Marys Farms. We met up at their M5 Burgerhouse in Fort Jones, California (pop. 839) to talk about all things Five Marys. Like, how she first discovered her love for small business, why she loves the rural life, the power of Instagram, and so much more. Mary is an entrepreneur at heart and you’ll be so inspired hearing how she and her family have built Five Marys from the ground up.
Why has the American experiment persisted and thrived for so long, even in spite of our society’s flaws and missteps? Why have other nations attempted to copy the American system, only to see it fail to launch or struggle to sustain it in a stable manner? In part, it’s the uniquely American concept of local government and town meetings.