Skipping School

Business in the Boondocks

Sure, the scenery's great, but is the rural life right for you?

Admit it. You've got 'em, too. You know, those fantasies of leaving big-city life for the calm of the countryside. But is the simple life really that simple? When you're starting a business, the country can come with its own brand of drama.

Josh Beggs, co-founder of Web development company Raspberry Media, knows that only too well. His home is Sebastopol, California, a town of about 7,700 residents 50 miles north of San Francisco. Setting up Raspberry Media in a converted barn, Beggs encountered some unique challenges. "We had a skunk problem for about a month," says Beggs, 29. "One got trapped under the barn and died."

Then there were the difficulties of getting a T1 line out in the boonies. According to Stephen Roulac, a location expert with a book called Tell Me Where You Live and I'll Tell You Who You Are in the works, getting basic services like equipment repair, Internet and mail delivery is not an uncommon difficulty. Beggs and his staff had to work around the problem with 56Kbps dial-up modems for the first two years of their venture.

Working in the country isn't all bad, however. There are some trade-offs as well. For example, though you might have a smaller talent pool to choose from, once you do find employees, they tend to be more loyal.

Though it's taken courage (and an expansion into an office in Sebastopol) to stick it out in a rural area for years, Beggs says his business' surroundings of apple orchards and vineyards are worth it: "We plan to be here a long time."

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This article was originally published in the August 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Skipping School.

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