DOES RURAL LOCATION MATTER? THE SIGNIFICANCE OF A RURAL SETTING FOR SMALL BUSINESSES
JEFFREY F. SHIELDS
Rural settings in the United States have characteristics that present a unique context for small business, often portrayed as adverse. Studies of rural entrepreneurs and small businesses, however, frequently fail to provide data on the rural context and its potential relationship to small business, taking for granted presumed attributes and adverse effects. To develop a better understanding of a rural setting's importance, this research investigated effects of rural geo-demographic and socio-cultural features on 76 small businesses. Results demonstrate that rural geo-demography adversely affects marketability of products and services although there is little adversity for small businesses due to constrained resources (financing, technology, and transportation) or labor issues. Business owners manage their businesses consistent with rural socio-cultural values by relying on strong social ties and word of mouth reputation. However, women-owned businesses experience little adversity due to gender stereotypes. The rural setting considered in the study has varying implications for different types of businesses and for business owners according to how long they have lived in the community. Its effects are neither adverse in all respects nor universal for all small businesses.
Rural location, rurality, rural business, small business, entrepreneurship
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