Tuesday, November 7, 2017

It's An Amazing Time To Be A Rural Entrepreneur: Five Unusual Ideas

For my last two years of college, I drove an hour every Friday afternoon from my dorm at Bowling Green State University to my hometown of Port Clinton to work a weekend job and then back again every Sunday evening. The route I took was SR 105, a two-lane country road that roughly traced the path of the Portage River. At about the halfway point, just outside the tiny hamlet of Woodville, I would pass a small enterprise tucked between the road and a 20 foot cliff overlooking the river. While I forget the name, I recall that it was a hunting and fishing outfitter that advertised custom-made fishing rods. I never stopped, because I was always in a hurry to get to my job on Fridays and the shop was closed by the time I would pass late on Sundays, but I was always curious how successful that business could possibly have been, located as it was on a sparsely traveled back road far away from any population center.

That was the mid-1980's and rural businesses faced a variety of marketing challenges that might seem quaint today. To effectively expand his market, the proprietor of that custom rod shop would have had to place expensive print ads in magazines such as Field and Stream or Outdoor Life or travel to fishing and outdoor shows across the country and sell direct. These days, with a couple of clicks of the mouse my custom tackle business can access a global marketplace, be seen by thousands of potential customers and close a sale; all from the comfort of my back deck. It's pretty miraculous when you think of it, and it creates opportunities for rural entrepreneurship which allow modern homesteaders to live the lifestyle they desire while still earning a decent living.

Of course, not all rural businesses have to be Internet-based or the same-old-same-old. Here are five unusual business ideas that rural entrepreneurs might consider:
  1. Goat and Sheep Rentals - People and businesses who have a lot of land and don’t want to spend the time to mow it could potentially use the help of goats or sheep. Solar farms, in particular, are a good market for sheep, since goats tend to want to climb on the panels and occasionally even eat them. You could start your own business where you care for goats and/or sheep and then rent them out for that purpose.
  2. Worm Farming - There are two distinct markets for worms. The first is live bait for fishing the second is to gardeners to help speed composting. 
  3. Garden Sitting - Gardeners like to take vacations too, but the almost constant care required to maintain a large garden during growing season can make getting away for more than a day or two difficult. You could build a business around providing "sitting" services (watering, weeding, pest control) for gardeners while they travel.
  4. Snail Farming - If you have limited space and are looking for a very small, but profitable, type of animal to raise, you might consider snails. It might sound strange, but you can raise snails for use in cooking. And snail slime can also be used by companies for a variety of different purposes.
  5. Rural Coworking Space - A great way to become a rural entrepreneur is by providing a place for other rural entrepreneurs, freelancers and professionals to set up shop. A business could be built around providing just a workspace with a monthly rental fee, or you could provide ala carte services such as coping, bookkeeping and graphic design for your clients.
What are some other off-the-wall ideas for rural entrepreneurship?

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