Launching Your Entrepreneurial Community

UNH Extension’s Community and Economic Development team is partnering with seven other Extensions across the country to host a virtual Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities (CEC) Conference from November 9th to 13th. The conference will take place each day from 12 PM - 3:30 PM EST, and focus on topics including fostering entrepreneurship, supporting young people, business strategies, leveraging physical spaces, and developing the tourism economy. The CEC conference will bring together community leaders, entrepreneurs, and small businesses that are dedicated to developing communities that support entrepreneurs.

What is an Entrepreneurial Community?

Entrepreneurial communities attract, retain, and support entrepreneurs and innovators. They’re communities where entrepreneurs want to live, where they can connect with other entrepreneurs and resources, and that offer them the infrastructure they need to launch and grow. Entrepreneurial communities don’t develop overnight; they put in work, make intentional decisions, and invest time and resources. Entrepreneurial communities understand their economic strengths and assets, they engage their community and its entrepreneurs, they leverage the skills of all players in their community, and they establish a clear vision to develop an ecosystem and resources that spurs innovation and entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurial communities are intentionally welcoming and connected. They welcome outsiders with open arms, meet with interested entrepreneurs, and connect them to the resources they need. They recognize the potential in new ideas and support and encourage risk taking in their communities. Entrepreneurial communities recognize the value in fostering connections, especially in rural areas. Entrepreneurs leverage social networks to access capital, get coaching and mentorship, and receive education and training. Strong social networks are vital to entrepreneurs launching and surviving, and the more connections an entrepreneur has the better off they’ll be. Entrepreneurial Communities host events, socials, and competitions where entrepreneurs connect, share ideas, get feedback, and receive mentorship.

Entrepreneurial communities have infrastructure that supports the launch and growth of new enterprises. This includes space where entrepreneurs can affordably work, collaborate, and prototype, whether it’s a co-working space, coffee shop, makerspace, or incubator. It also includes access to high-speed internet, affordable housing, and roads and airports that attract talent and provide access to wider markets. Communities with high-speed internet see more new businesses launch and more of those businesses grow compared to those without. Additionally, rural communities connected to the outside world by airports, roads, or rail are able to both leverage natural amenities and offer access to markets, resulting in increased entrepreneurship and small business growth.

Entrepreneurial communities offer a high quality of life and a skilled workforce. Surveys show that startups and entrepreneurs care far less about taxes and regulation and far more about starting their businesses in communities with a high quality of life and talented employees. Successful entrepreneurs are highly mobile early in life before choosing a community to launch a business. They then tend to stay in that community, moving a business is rare. Entrepreneurs want recreational amenities, vibrant downtowns, arts and culture, and good schools.

Entrepreneurial communities have vibrant economies, create jobs, and offer new services to residents. Becoming an entrepreneurial community takes work and requires intentional decision making. Communities must welcome and encourage new and existing entrepreneurs, encourage risk taking, and invest in themselves. We hope you’ll join us for the CEC conference, commit to making your own community entrepreneur friendly, and work with us to make New Hampshire a state where entrepreneurs can launch and thrive.