Young entrepreneurs learn the secrets to success in a rural community

Youth in Delta County gain a better understanding of the realities and barriers of starting a business in a rural area by participating in the “In the Loop Series.”

Young entrepreneurs in Delta County have been gaining wisdom from area business owners by attending a series of events called the “In the Loop Series.” Michigan State University Extension 4-H and other local, youth-serving organizations partnered to provide this series to help youth gain a better understanding of the realities and barriers of starting a business in a rural area. Hosted at local businesses that were selected to match the interests of youth, the series offers the opportunity to hear the stories of how local entrepreneurs got their start and have become successful. Learning from veteran entrepreneurs who have “been in the trenches” of the business world can be a great asset.

A rural entrepreneur needs to be a little more creative in creating their business. One of the most important things youth have indicated as being helpful is the concept of diversifying their income stream (providing multiple products or services) to increase their profit margin. Many local businesses in rural community offer multiple products and services, and change their product line seasonally to maintain the profit margin necessary to be successful.

Diversification can also limit the impact of changes in the market. In their article, Assess Your Options for Growth, the Canada Business Network explains this concept in the simplest terms, if you supply one product or service and it falls out of favor with customers, it leaves you very exposed. If you have two or more products or services and the sales of one of these drops, at least there will be revenue coming into the business through the other. One example of this was one of the first businesses youth explored; a tattoo shop. The owner used his artistic and creative talent to not only offer the traditional inking and piercing, but also operated a clown for hire business, a Halloween costume business, and a photography studio. All these avenues combined have allowed him to pay his bills, hire employees, and provide for his family.

Another local entrepreneur validated the importance of this concept and demonstrated how it allowed her to follow her dream. Utilizing the profits from one business for which she saw a market allowed her to create another for a business that was her passion. This local entrepreneur started a sign making company, secured a large customer base and was able to use these profits to create a new business that carries inspirational and motivational products and services that "affect the world in a positive way.” She now has two successful operational businesses that provide support for each other and allow her to live comfortably.

A follow up assessment of youth participating in the In the Loop Series indicate 64 percent gained a better understanding of the importance of diversifying income stream to have a successful business and make a profit.

In the Loop was initiated by the Delta County Youth Entrepreneurship Alliance (DSYEA), a collaborative partnership between Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Programs, Hannahville Indian Community Youth Services Program, Michigan Works! The Job Force Board and the Escanaba Downtown Development Authority. The DSYEA focuses on inspiring, engaging, and empowering youth to leverage opportunities that generate revenue while adding value to the community.

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