Rural entrepreneurship and social learning

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The Ivany Commission’s public consultations in Nova Scotia identified an “attitudinal environment that subtly discourages entrepreneurship and initiative at a time when it is badly needed to revitalize local economies” (Ivany, d’Entremont, Christmas, Fuller, & Bragg, 2014, p. 9). Yet, while the authors admit “our province needs to do more to help businesses grow, including more support for training” (p. 6), the majority of new approaches to entrepreneurship training are locked behind the expensive gates of the province’s universities. Formal entrepreneurship education in universities has grown in popularity over the last decade. Yet most rural adult emerging entrepreneurs are not university students, and never intend to be, instead learning through self-study, practice, peers, workshops and discussion forums. As they learn the skills of entrepreneurship they also form a new identity in the social setting of their rural community, where they must find their place in a system of power. I will be posting reflections on rural entrepreneurship, adult education, power, social capital, and more.

If you are a rural entrepreneur, what is your experience? I hope you’ll share here!


Who is an entrepreneur?

Who is an entrepreneur?

Play buzzword bingo these days and the words entrepreneur and entrepreneurial are bound to come up. But you’ll notice that the media uses the words pretty loosely, and no two writers agree on a definition.

So, before we talk about who is an entrepreneur, I’ll start with defining entrepreneurship as we saw it at the Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre: “Entrepreneurship is a life skill, which includes innovation, informed decision making, taking initiative, risking-taking, responsibility and leadership.” And we defined an entrepreneur as “One who has the ability to make an informed decision and take responsibility for the consequences of the action emanating from that decision.”

You might notice those are pretty inclusive categories. If we use those definitions when we try to answer the question, “Who is an entrepreneur?” the answer could include young, old, male, female, any level of education, living in any place, with any level of income, working in any kind of organization.

What distinguishes an entrepreneur from others is not age, or personality, or industry. It’s not just about coming up with an idea, but seeing that idea through by making informed decisions and taking action.

If you’re an entrepreneur who owns your own business, you might see an opportunity and decide to create a new product, knowing your income is on the line when it either sells or flops. If you’re an entrepreneur in an organization, sometimes called an “intrapreneur” because you work for someone other than yourself, you might decide to try a cheeky marketing campaign that could go viral or could fall flat. No matter what action you take, you accept ownership for the result.

Entrepreneurs look for opportunities, learn about the risks involved, make a choice, and do the work. But is there an entrepreneurial personality? Do they always seek adventure and risk? Are they always extrovert and social? Not in our experience. Remember, entrepreneurship isn’t just about risk taking and action, though that is important; it’s also about informed decision-making and taking responsibility.

Now that we’ve defined entrepreneurship and entrepreneur, perhaps the most important question now is, are you an entrepreneur? Does that surprise you? And what decision will you make now?


Talk about your ideas

Many entrepreneurs I know want to keep their ideas secret until they have everything ready to launch. The problem is, unless you are doing original research at a university or corporation, nobody’s paying any attention anyway.

The biggest barrier to success in business is not the idea – there will be another one coming along any minute – but execution, action, getting out of the office and talking to people and finding out if there are any customers anyway!

Shhh penguin

By being secretive, you also lose out on the chance to bounce ideas off other minds. Some of the best minds to bounce ideas off of are other entrepreneurs. Yes, of course you want to be careful with your direct competition. But talk to other entrepreneurs who serve the same kinds of customers, in the same area, or use the same frameworks. You might just end up having a fabulous conversation. Even better, you will end up with a champion in the community, or even a collaborator. Give it a try!