We complain that our young people don’t want to stay here, or come back here. In fact, in our survey of rural challenges this complaint is always in the top 5. Let’s take a look at how we’ve created this monster and what we can do about it.
Why is it they don’t want to be in our small towns?
We encourage them to leave and go to college or find a job in a big city. Live a bigger life.
We don’t get them involved in the community while they are students.
We don’t share the great reasons to stay like:
- recreational opportunities and how big a deal that is in our town.
- great jobs available and how to be prepared to get them.
- the ability to have your own business and learn how to make that happen.
How are we encouraging them to be part of the community?
So many of us separate school activities from daily life in our towns. What if we became more active in their lives, and not just in sports?
- give the entrepreneurial class the opportunities to intern at our local businesses.
- involve the art students in various projects (think murals, window decorating, painting the streets etc.) around town.
- ask the shop students to make benches, or statues, or signage to be placed around town.
- have students be a part of the local boards and give their input.
- ask them for their ideas of how to be more involved in the community. Then do those things.
Do we support their attempts at entrepreneurship?
Do you even know who the kids are that have entrepreneurial projects? You can find them at places like the county fair. Ask your peers, who knows more about this? Visit your businesses and see if they are selling products the students have made. Actively look for them and ways to support them.
Is there a way you can offer them a place to try out their ideas? Of course there is!
- Include them in your own businesses. A corner, a shelf, a window – just a small space to try their products for sale.
- Develop a shared space incubator project for your town. Begin with students.
- Involve SCORE reps to help them learn how to do the paperwork and business end of things.
- Shop with them! Buying local means even more when you support a young entrepreneur.
Do we squash their ideas with comments like ‘that will never work’ or ‘we tried that before’?
Yes. Not all of us, but some of us. One way to avoid this knee jerk reaction is to belong to the Venture Capitalists of Ideas. Instead of being the people they come to and ask for money, be the VC’s of Ideas. You can do this informally as a group of you and your friends who want to support new ideas in town.
How to do this:
- Listen to their ideas.
- Encourage them to try them.
- Ask them what connections you can help them with.
- Have them come back and let you know how it’s going. Then if it’s a good idea that’s working, offer more help if needed. If it doesn’t work, thank them for trying and encourage them to keep working on their ideas.
- Share the ideas that are working!
I believe we can slay this monster we’ve created and support our young entrepreneurs. We’d love to hear the stories of your town and how you’ve made your young people valued members of the community! Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org We love to see pictures too if you have them!
You can address this challenge head on. Growing Young Entrepreneurs gives you the steps and ideas to get started.