As entrepreneurship grows in America, finding the cities that offer the best opportunities for small business can give you a great head start. But many entrepreneurs are escaping city life in search of greener pastures--literally. They've done the city scene, either growing a business there or living there long enough to know they want to start their own business in a smaller town. And now that technology, such as the Internet, e-mail and fax machines, allows businesspeople to operate from their cars, hotel rooms and even campsites, many Americans are seizing the chance to indulge in a better way of life while still fulfilling their dreams of owning a business.
Before you head for the hills, however, ask yourself: Are you ready for the country? If you're nodding your head enthusiastically--and you've put in many hours of research--then sell the house, pack the bags, gather the spouse and kids, and head for someplace like Fairfield, Iowa. Dubbed "Silicorn Valley," this town of approximately 10,000 boasts several software firms, an oil brokerage, a tofu maker, a telecommunications business and a chimney supplies wholesaler--all founded by entrepreneurs seeking a simpler way of life.
One of those entrepreneurs is Ed Malloy, a member of the Fairfield City Council and president of Danaher Oil Co., an oil brokerage with $1.5 million in revenues last year. Like many other Fairfield newcomers, Malloy was attracted to the town because of its Maharishi University of Management, which focuses on the study of transcendental meditation.
"[This is] a very charming town with a manufacturing and agricultural base but virtually no jobs available for the kinds of people who were moving here," Malloy says. He believes the primary reason so many people relocated to Fairfield--the pursuit of a more spiritual life--engendered creativity and drive. Thus was born a successful base of self-starters.
Small-business owners who switch to a more rural existence often have something more secular in mind than Maharishi devotees do, such as financial well-being. For these entrepreneurs, hurdles litter the track. They must absorb the shock of adjusting to rural culture, navigate the difficulties of keeping family together, and discover new business practices necessitated by an out-of-the-way location. For many businesspeople relocating to an area that offers a less hurried way of life, finding the "om" that those Fairfield residents value may prove less helpful than putting a little "oomph" into their businesses.