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Infographic: Rural Entrepreneurship
July 29, 2021
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Our latest infographic examines the benefits and challenges of running a small business in rural America.

Self-employment has dropped across the country since 1990, but it has remained higher in rural areas than suburbs and cities.

Percentage of self-employed in:

  • Rural areas:
    • 8.4% in 1988
    • 6.5% in 2016
  • Suburbs:
    • 7% in 1988
    • 6% in 2016
  • Central cities:
    • 5.2% in 1988
    • 5.7% in 2016

Rural small businesses are comparable in revenue and profit to urban companies.

  • Revenue:
    • <$100k: 21% of both rural and urban small businesses
    • $100k-$1m: 52% of rural; 49% of urban
    • $1m-$10m: 24% of rural and 26% of urban
    • >$10m: 3% of rural and 4% of urban
  • Profitability:
    • 56% of rural small businesses were profitable
    • 53% of urban small businesses were profitable

80% of rural small business owners believe the quality of life and cost of living are much better in rural areas, BUT they cite challenges.

Challenge #1: Access to capital

40% of rural small business owners have trouble accessing capital so most use personal savings.

Funding sources (selected all that apply):

  • Personal savings: 71%
  • Loan from a community bank or credit union: 14%
  • Investments or gifts from friends & family: 13%
  • Loan from a large bank: 6%
  • Angel investor or seed funding: 4%
  • Online lender: 3%
  • Crowdfunding: 3%

Challenge #2: Access to workforce

Barriers to finding workers:

  • 74%: Finding candidates with the right education, skills or training
  • 72%: Finding candidates with the right kind of experience
  • 69%: Lack of talent pool in my area
  • 53%: Finding candidates willing to relocate to my area

Challenge #3:  Access to connectivity

Digital technology increased gross sales for rural small businesses by 17.2% during the past three years. Twenty percent generate at least 80% of their revenue by selling online. BUT…

  • 56% of rural small businesses do NOT have good access to digital technology
  • 20.6% do NOT have high-speed broadband
  • 5.4% still use dial-up access

Whether your business is rural, suburban, urban or online, SCORE mentors are available in 300 chapters across the country and online.

Infographic designed by

a happy farmer with sone picking apples
Starting a Business in a Small Town
Small-town entrepreneurs benefit from a lower cost of living and less competition, but they may suffer from a limited customer and employee base.
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Washington, DC 20002

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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

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