The rural life has its advantages. Many small towns in states such as Iowa and Indiana are crying out for new businesses. Dependent for generations on sagging agricultural or manufacturing economies, these towns need entrepreneurs and the jobs they supply to stay economically viable. In exchange, they offer lower overhead costs and fewer of the agonies of city life, such as crime and pollution.
"I think people are getting fed up with where they are," says Jon Bard, who left the New York City public relations company he founded to become a consultant and newsletter writer in Fairplay, Colorado. His audiotape series and courses at Colorado Free University teach entrepreneurs how to succeed in rural communities.
Still, the decision to move to a rural location is not without its problems. Many who leave the city do so too quickly, before they've put together a business plan or even explored the region or town to which they plan to move. This lack of foresight often portends failure, Bard warns.
Jeff Raim left behind 18 years of running various businesses in the Tucson, Arizona, area so he could, as he puts it, "have a life." A lifelong entrepreneur, Raim, 42, set out on a two-year search, trekking through towns like Bountiful, Utah, and Bozeman, Montana, until he came upon the village of Angel Fire, New Mexico, a ski resort community with just 400 permanent residents. After moving there in 1995, he started a mangement consulting firm, Empowered Management Inc. Consulting with clients by phone, fax and the Internet, Raim generated close to $250,000 in sales last year and has nearly 40 clients nationwide.
But it wasn't easy getting started. Raim discovered, as do many entrepreneurs who leave the city, that even the most basic services found in the city are hard to come by in smaller communities. Until recently, for example, Angel Fire had no local access number for the Internet service Raim uses, forcing him to pay long-distance charges to access the Net.
"You [rely on] things like Federal Express," he says. "Well, overnight service to remote places is usually not overnight." Post office boxes are not always accessible, he says, and service industries work at their own pace. Raim has also had to deal with an unreliable electric service, which has often forced him to rely on backup batteries and generators to keep his business up and running.