Given the hype about how well urban areas are doing, you might be wondering whether a small business can survive at all in a rural area. You might argue that you’ve got no footfall, employment prospects are poorer, broadband is slow – and well, as the country and western singer said, your wife done left and your dog up and died!
In the US, an interest in shopping local and the lower costs of living and doing business are cited as reasons to be hopeful.
In Ireland, the upcoming election is another reason to be hopeful – it’s time to get lobbying your local representatives, particularly about broadband. In the UK, slow broadband speed is one thing holding back six out of ten rural businesses, according to the Federation of Small Businesses.
However, the Irish government says that every house and business in Ireland – including those in the country’s most isolated rural areas – will eventually have access to high-speed broadband. Though it didn’t say when exactly, possibly 2020, and the building of the physical infrastructure isn’t expected to start until late 2016. That’s a lot of time to hang on for a business.
But, you should make use of the fact that your customers do have good broadband and do access the Internet and do so increasingly on tablets and mobile phones. So, the Interweb (!) and its online reviews and its wide reach makes everyone a local. It’s up to you to make sure you can be found online, that your website has SEO, that it reads well on small screens, that your Facebook page is up to date, that your Twitter account is witty, that you’re using every method you can to contact your ‘local’ customer base.
Rural is hot right now, and national bodies have come together to throw a spotlight on rural Ireland and the social and economic policies that affect those of us with green fields in our line of vision on a daily basis! Initially, the organisations involved include Muintir na Tíre, The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association, The Irish Countrywomen’s Association, the Irish Postmasters’ Union, the National Forum of Community Flood Committees, Macra na Feirme, and the Post Office Users’ Group.
So, can a business survive in rural Ireland?
I believe so, but you’ve got to be creative in how you promote your product or service. You’ve got to think outside the box, figure out what’s unique to you (and that may be well be all those green fields), and promote with personality.
And, don’t forget to support other small businesses in your locality. Local money spent in local shops and restaurants directly benefits the community that you and your kids live in.