News Brief: Kauffman-Foundation Funded Study Explores Urban-Rural Entrepreneurship


cabbages at produce stand

Virginia cabbages at Fralin’s Produce, Roanoke County, Virginia. Photo by Devon Johnson

Senior Economic Development Specialist Sarah Lyon-Hill recently completed a year-long project focused on identifying methods for analyzing the entrepreneurial climate of mixed urban-rural economies like the Roanoke-Blacksburg region. The project was funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and contributes to research on the entrepreneurial climate of mixed urban-rural communities.

“Most [of the Kauffman Foundation’s] existing research looks at states or at large metro areas. We wanted to look at how entrepreneurial climate research would work for mixed urban-rural communities like Roanoke-Blacksburg” says Lyon-Hill who recently shared her office’s work at the national conferences of the American Planning Association and the University Economic Development Association.

Lyon-Hill and her team collected and assessed over 100 metrics that can be used to characterize an entrepreneurial ecosystem in a mixed urban-rural region. For example, researchers using this evaluative framework might investigate the amount of seed funding available to local entrepreneurs or examine how startups begin and thrive with the help of regional technical assistance programs. These metrics can be combined in order to provide a holistic picture of a region’s entrepreneurial health and highlight obstacles that might impede small business and entrepreneurial development.

When policy makers or local business councils have a comprehensive understanding of entrepreneurial health, they are better able to help small businesses and entrepreneurs succeed. According to the Small Business Ad- ministration, small businesses have provided 55% of all jobs and 66% of all net new jobs since the 1970s.

In assessing the entrepreneurial health of the Roanoke-Blacksburg region, Lyon-Hill and her team identified three main findings. First, this region needs to better inventory and measure its entrepreneurial ecosystem in order to identify strengths and weaknesses. Second, this region needs to foster inclusiveness and connect rural and minority entrepreneurs with the larger resource networks of the region. Third, this region needs to attend to the unique needs of businesses in different stages of development.

As Lyon-Hill enters the next stage of her work with regional entrepreneurial ecosystems, she hopes to apply the lessons learned during this research, coordinate a regional effort to collectively gather relevant regional metrics, and generate a more comprehensive and evolving portrait of the regional entrepreneurial and small- business climate.

“Most people we talked with wanted to understand the lifecycle of a business in this region. When do entrepreneurs and businesses face the largest challenges to continuing their business? When do they fail? What can our region do to help these businesses succeed?’” says Lyon-Hill. With her framework for measurement, Lyon-Hill and researchers in similar rural-urban areas around the nation may be able to answer this question and help connect entrepreneurs with the resources they need to succeed.

  1 comment for “News Brief: Kauffman-Foundation Funded Study Explores Urban-Rural Entrepreneurship

  1. Lungile Luthuli
    February 27, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    Has the tech bubble of social media been able to address the socioeconomic disparity between the urban and rural entrepreneurial experience? This is one of the very first questions that pop up in my mind.

    I come from a place where women, rural women (and men), still have to go to downtown city markets, sometimes sleep there for them to see any gains from their hardwork.
    The fiscal expenditure and distribution is lopsided,too much. The urban areas are gentrified for them to attract good money – keep away ‘certain elements’ that are undesirable.
    The rural areas and suburban area outskirts is where one goes to stock up. It is such that pennies put food on the table, take kids to school, if lucky through varsity, keep the walls up and lights on, for the rurals. And in the city, it’s where dreams are realized.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *