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Why Small Communities and Small Businesses Need Each Other

No matter what or where the town, there is a symbiotic relationship that exists between a small business and the community it services.  The business supplies what the community needs and in turn the community provides the support that the business needs.

Access to products and services has really opened up with the introduction and rapid development of the internet.  With the whole world at our fingertips, a person can get pretty much anything they want delivered to their door with just a few mouse clicks!

But is it enough?

Not really.  Rural and Regional Towns benefit tremendously from localised small business (and vice versa) and I’ll tell you why.

Revitalize and Sustain Rural Communities and their Economies

I’ve lived and worked in plenty of rural and regional towns around Central and Southern Queensland over the past 20 years, particularly in areas that have been affected by drought and the sudden end to the coal mining boom.

When a community experiences a downturn or end to a resource boom, the effects can be profound.  A town that had previously thrived suddenly gets a whole lot smaller.  Services and retailers leave town as the money dries up and with them vanishes a significant portion of the population.  The entire demographic of a town can be altered.

At the same time, this can be treated as an opportunity.  Sole traders and entrepreneurs in particular can really come into their own and structure a business that meets the needs of the community and their own lifestyle.

The emergence of “mumpreneurs” is a prime example; stay at home mums providing goods and services around their own family schedule.  Want to know more about amazing Australian Mumpreneurs?  Look no further than – you’ll be amazed by the kinds of businesses that are born in rural and regional communities!

Every community is filled with untapped skills just waiting for opportunities to arise, and with the internet as a powerful tool, their reach can be almost limitless.  These opportunities, in the right hands, can boost local economy, employment, and give communities a chance to flourish in the face of adversity.

Community-Specific Goods, Services and Innovations

I’m going to say something really obvious right now.  Your business needs to be relevant to your market.

There’s no point selling peanuts to a community of people with peanut allergies.

The beauty of a local small business is that they know their community and they know what the community has plenty of and what it lacks.  They have the insight to see a market gap, fill it and tailor it.  And that’s when innovation happens.

A great example of this in Central Queensland is Radicle Seeds.  This farmer-owned company, based in Emerald, saw the need to cultivate sorghum and maize seeds that could produce a good yield in the harsh drought conditions experienced over recent years in the region.  Their success has now opened the door for Radicle Seeds to provide the same tailored cultivating services to other regions of Australia.

Improved Access To Services

The internet has given businesses in metropolitan cities and regional hubs a longer reach, but is it always in the best interest of the communities they service?

When servicing outlying communities, it’s common practice for businesses to allocate a bulk client visit date, such as once a month or only once there is enough client interest.  This isn’t always going to be as convenient for the consumer as using a local business would be.

Granted, a small town might not have the capacity to support every kind of business but innovations made in the way small businesses are run mean that there are options to diversify and provide a fusion of services within one business, opening the door for partnerships to develop with businesses in metropolitan and regional hubs.

Tourism Boosts

You’d be hard pressed to find a local council that doesn’t support tourism development through small business.  Tourism done right can do wonders for a community and its economy.  Take a look at what makes your community or region special.  What is it that you love about where you live; what keeps you there?

I had the good fortune, last year, of hearing local young entrepreneur Olivia Evans speak at the CHDC Economic Futures Forum.  From a cattle property near Rolleston QLD, Olivia knew that her home was pretty special, with stunning views of the ranges around Carnarvon Gorge.  Views that needed to be shared and enjoyed.

After much planning and careful market research, Sandstone Park was born to resounding success.  Olivia’s ‘hunch’ had been right – her world was well worth sharing.  Sandstone Park’s success, passion, and market-driven evolution now contribute to the region’s profile, local employment, and the community’s economy.

I haven’t camped since I was a kid, but I can honestly say that Olivia’s passion for the region really stuck in my mind and has inspired my husband and I to finally get out there and enjoy the serenity!  And that passion is what helps make a local business successful.

Community Support and Participation

Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool at the fingertips of a small-town business.

I’ve never encountered a rural or regional community that didn’t get behind their local businesses.  Community pride is truly something to behold and is an important part of the success of that community.

I’ve also never encountered a small town business that wasn’t built with even a little bit of love – a love for what they do and their community.

Even with the internet opening up a world of options, quite often nothing beats having access to something or someone here and now that understands exactly what you need.  And in actual fact, the internet has managed to STRENGTHEN the ties between businesses and their communities, particularly through tools such as Facebook community noticeboards where you’ll always see requests and recommendations for local businesses.

And in return, it’s the local businesses that support and sponsor the kids sporting teams, local events and community fundraisers.

Small Businesses and Small Communities:  A mutualistic relationship with incredible benefits!

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