Love Small Town America Team Grows!

Jenny Russell joins Love Small Town America along with her associate, Luke Mahin.

Thanks to the continued support and enthusiasm for what Love Small Town America has to offer, we have recently expanded our team. Jenny Russell and Luke Mahin of JenRus Freelance have joined the other six members of the Love Small Town America core group to bring a heightened focus to serving Love Small Town America’s members and helping more small towns join the network and access an affordable web presence.  Continue reading

Picking the Right Social Media Platforms for Your Business

This infographic, from MDG Advertising, helps make some sense of the Return on Investment (ROI) small businesses can expect from the resources they devote to social media.

Last month, we started a conversation about social media (“What’s So Great About Social Media“). Understanding what social media means in a professional context is crucial for success these days, but navigating the waters of instant, online marketing can be tricky. We’re breaking down a few of the basics to help you get a jump on social media for your small business or organization so that you can make the most of being online with Love Small Town America.

You’re still reading, so that must mean that you’re curious. The first step after deciding that you’re going to poke your toe in the water of social media is to pick a platform. In the simplest terms possible, all these fancy names floating around (Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. etc. etc.) are different places you could engage. Think of them as businesses on main street. The best ones aren’t necessarily the biggest, or the newest, or even the busiest. The best ones are the ones that are right for YOU. Think about it. If you sell fish food, you’re not going to reach many people by starting conversations about fish at the mechanic’s. You might catch someone’s interest – but it would be by chance, not design. Since most of us have limited time, we can’t be everywhere at once. We have to choose. Narrowing down your social media platforms is much the same – it’s about thinking through who uses those avenues and then finding the right fit for who you are and why you are online.

For small businesses, there are a few platforms that are too big too ignore, and are almost always going to start a few conversations.

Facebook: Facebook pages for businesses and groups are essential. Everyone is on Facebook, and you and your business need to be on there, too. Claiming your page isn’t just important for developing your online presence – it keeps imposters, spammers, or competitors from nabbing your spot! Facebook can take some time to learn – and requires more frequent updates than some social media platforms, but normally, if you can devote time to perfecting only one social media presence – this is the one you want.

Begin building a Facebook Page for your business.

LinkedIn: Think of LinkedIn as a resume for your business. It’s the ultimate professional networking site. The great thing about a presence on this platform is that it takes less time than some of the others. You can be more active (say, starting a group and posting discussions) but establishing a professional presence on this network helps legitimize what you’re doing – and may even pave the way toward future success. Have trouble finding qualified employees? Looking to develop a new market? This is a great spot to explore.

PinterestThis one is up for debate – but retail businesses especially should take note of Pinterest. Its purpose is still hazy, but this virtual pinboard connects with the visual nature of human beings – and the internet. Share, organize, and repin images that link to their website source in this open platform. Get top traffic (and repins!) by mastering keywords to make it easy for the right people to find your images. It works like a charm for retailers, especially if you sell something that photographs well!You don’t have to sell something tangible to make Pinterest a part of your social media strategy, though. Small towns could become internet sensations by sharing tourist attractions. The local church could share photos of prize-winning recipes from their cookbook. Be creative, seek inspiration as much as you offer it, and challenge yourself to stay abreast of trends and the newest ways to communicate and advertise.

Now, this isn’t an exhaustive list. You  may notice we’ve omitted Twitter, for instance, as well as some other heavyweights. That’s not to say that the other platforms aren’t influential or aren’t appropriate for *you*, but we feel for beginners, they can require a higher investment and offer more risks/fewer rewards than some of the other platforms, like Facebook.

Next time, we’ll delve into some dos and don’ts for your first profile on some of giants in the social media game.

What’s your favorite social media platform for small business?

Infographic Source

Grainfield Kansas’ Historic Opera House Gets Modern Addition

The Grainfield Opera House is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a stately and historic structure situated in the business district of Grainfield. At various points in its history it has held a private school, mercantile, hosted dances, and even been a car dealership. Now, it is home once more to musical performances and special events.

Lovingly restored by Grainfield, Kansas residents, the historic Grainfield opera house recently gained a new addition that promises to keep patrons happy for years to come.  Continue reading

Highlights of Jewell County, Kansas

The dock at beautiful Emerson Lake in Jewell County, Kansas.

With numerous annual events, abundant access to hunting and fishing and a population of just over 3,000, Jewell County offers a high amount of recreation per-capita. Located in North-central Kansas within a short distance of major highways,  Jewell County is populated by charming towns, including the county seat of Mankato, Jewell, Burr Oak, Esbon, and several others.

Continue reading

Why Small Businesses Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Operating in Rural Areas

Normally, the blog posts you read here at Love Small Town America are brought to you  by members of the staff. We delight in sharing our thoughts with you. But we know that there is a whole, wide world of people out there with thoughts and opinions that relate to small town growth and prosperity and today we’re excited to bring you our first guest post, from Phillip J. Reed on behalf of Exede. We were not compensated for this content – we just thought it might make an interesting read for all of you! Access to high speed internet is crucial to the success of small towns and especially small town businesses like ours, so this topic resonates with us. We’d love to hear what you think. Leave us a comment!

Why Small Businesses Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Operating in Rural Areas

By Philip J. Reed, on behalf of Exede

When entrepreneurs think about starting their own business, they usually do not consider rural areas as an attractive place for investment. In fact, many business owners are scared to establish a company in a rural area. However, we know that rural areas provide businesses with many advantages that cannot be matched by large cities. Although that list of advantages is almost endless, we will give you just the five best reasons to establish a business in rural America.

Reliable Communication Infrastructure

One of the most persistent misconceptions about creating businesses in rural areas is that there is a lack of infrastructure, especially when it comes to reliable communication technology. Businesses must have access to telephones and the Internet in order to stay in touch with customers, suppliers and workers.

Fortunately, modern advancements in technology have narrowed the gap between rural and urban areas with respect to communication infrastructure. For instance, penetration rates for broadband Internet access have already reached 75 percent in rural areas, and this number will only increase as more satellite Internet providers offer their services to rural customers.

Lower Business Costs

On average, business owners do tend to have more pricing power in urban areas, which have residents who earn more money than their rural counterparts. However, when it comes to profit calculations, prices are only half of the story.

Business owners must also consider the costs of doing business in a given area, and those costs are often far less in rural areas. Most of the major inputs for a business – land, labor and materials – are much cheaper in places where there is less competition for resources. Unlike rural areas, that competition can be fierce in cities.

This helps to explain one of the defining trends in America over the past thirty years: the migration of companies to the Sun Belt. Desperate to avoid the high costs in congested urban areas, many businesses have flocked to the rural areas in the South. This trend will only continue as more businesses come to appreciate all the benefits of rural living.

Loyal Customer Base

Rural areas tend to be very close-knit communities. Whereas cities are usually filled with groups of strangers, people in rural areas have much stronger social connections that bind them to their neighbors.

The same thing also applies to rural businesses, which can develop better relationships with their customers. A typical urban business may have hundreds or even thousands of customers in a given day; there is no way for those business owners to establish any deep connections with them.

Therefore, rural businesses that treat their customers well tend to garner more loyalty from the community. Word of mouth is a very strong marketing tactic in rural areas; residents will listen to their friends and frequent businesses that receive a good recommendation. This repeat business is especially valuable to entrepreneurs who are attempting to get their companies established in a new area.

Fewer Competitors

Although many business owners focus on the fact that rural areas have fewer total customers than city or suburban areas, they fail to consider the logical flip side of this observation: Rural businesses also have fewer competitors.

For instance, if you were thinking about opening a restaurant, you might think that New York City would be a great place to sell your culinary delights. With a population of more than eight million people who are confined to a relatively small area, New York City would seem like the ideal place to establish your business.

However, many other restaurateurs have already come to the same conclusion, which is why there are 4,200 dining establishments in the five boroughs of New York City. If you come to any small town in rural America you will not see the kind of competition that leads to price wars, which reduce the profits of every business owner in an industry.

Business-Friendly Governments

In general, cities impose more burdens on business owners than rural areas. Not only do cities tend to extract more money in taxes, but they also enact more regulations that increase costs for small businesses.

Alternatively, rural governments tend to work hard to attract new business owners by providing beneficial tax breaks and offering other business-friendly policies. Unlike cities that have thousands of companies, rural areas never take their businesses for granted.
In CNBC’s latest list of business-friendly states, three of the top five states – Virginia, North Carolina and North Dakota – had rural populations that were higher than the national average. The message is clear: Rural America is a great place to start a business.

Conclusion

It should be clear by now that business owners can thrive in rural areas. With low taxes, loyal customers and reliable broadband satellite Internet, rural businesses have access to a unique business environment that helps nurture success. Therefore, if you are a business owner, come join us and enjoy the many benefits of rural living!

What’s So Great About Social Media?

You’ve probably heard a lot about social media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Tumblr, Flickr, YouTube… the list goes on and on – and on! Maybe you even use on or more of these platforms personally. But if you represent a business or organization, it’s imperative you understand what social media means within a professional context and more importantly – what it can do for you. Over the next few months, we’ll be diving into the topic of social media and sharing with you simple explanations, step-by-step instructions, and easy tips to help you decide what to do.

What’s So Great About Social Media?
Social media may seem confusing. Businesses often wonder if they should have a social media strategy or how to “do” social media. We’re going to tell you a secret that may help you understand exactly what social media is and what it means for your business. Social media is a way of communicating. Just like newspapers, telephones, and televisions revolutionized their own societies by creating a new way to share ideas, social media is making waves by helping people talk to each other in a different way. This is the first key to understanding the power of social media and engaging online in a way that positively impacts your bottom line.

The REAL Advantages of Social Media
1.) Real time – share your thoughts instantly. One great example of how to rock this concept is restaurants who share their daily specials. Add an enticing photo taken with your mobile device and time your news so people see it in time for lunch and you’ll have locals banging down the doors. Over time, this can create demand farther and farther away. If you visit Kansas City once a year, but every day see delicious photos and menus from a barbecue restaurant on Facebook – chances are they will earn your business next time you are in town.
2.) Real people – social media feels more real than traditional marketing. This means people are more likely to read and trust what you say – because we care about and trust people more than we do corporations. There are dangers inherent in this, too, and the transparency of social media doesn’t mean you can be sloppy, rude, or inaccurate, but the power of talking with real people behind the businesses and groups you might like to shop at, visit, or join creates buyer loyalty, more sincere engagement, and — more return business if you do it well.

3.) REAL-ly fun – it may feel like work at first, but trust us, social media is an arena where you can really have fun. The lower costs mean you can try new things and be creative. Learning what “works” and gets attention online lets you play mad scientist in the social media world. Take photos, make videos, share funny puns about your products – the sky is your limit! Playing with your social media presence may breathe a creative spark back into your enterprise that you never knew you had lost.

Next month: Picking the Right Social Media Platforms for Your Business

RedTire – Matching Businesses and Business Owners

RedTire is a new program from the KU School of Business that seeks to Redefine Retirement for business owners in rural Kansas communities.

At Love Small Town America, we consider ourselves matchmakers of a sort. We match businesses with employees via our job listings, we match potential citizens with new hometowns, and we match tourists with communities full of attractions that suit them to a tee. So, we were interested to learn of another matchmaking enterprise in our home state of Kansas.

When small town business owners age, they often shut the doors, taking with them the assets, experience, and wealth that business represented in the community. There are many reasons why this happens – but a lot of it comes down to basic economics – supply and demand. A new program called RedTire has been launched by the University of Kansas to offer one possible solution.

The RedTire program promotes their service as allowing business owners to redefine their retirement. The program matches rural business owners seeking an exit strategy with graduates from Kansas universities.

Candidates from both sides – businesses and potential successors – apply through the RedTire website or are referred to the program by third parties.

Ideally, the end result will be contract negotiations between successors and current owners to purchase existing businesses or make other arrangements to transition ownership.

The program is free and aims to help Kansas communities create transition opportunities to keep businesses alive and thriving. RedTire is new, so there aren’t any results to share, but there are an increasing number of attempts across the country to address this issue. We’ll be watching to see how RedTire progresses – so check back for an update!

We can’t help but think what an interesting complement this program – or something like it – provides for the Rural Opportunity Zone program. Theoretically, someone could move to a ROZ county, gaining access to tax credits and tuition reimbursement and possibly also create their own job by buying a business by engaging with RedTire – making the kinds of initiatives that are popping up across the state even more powerful. The future is taking shape before our eyes and there are definitely some interesting possibilities on the horizon.

What do you think? Is RedTire the kind of program that could make a difference?

Interested in applying?

RedTire Contact Information:

Wally Meyer
Lawrence, Kansas 66045
(785) 864-7583
wmeyerjr@ku.edu

Charlotte Tritch
Lawrence, Kansas 66045
(785) 864-7563
ctritch@ku.edu

Cruise, Shoes & Barbecues – A Small Town Celebration Worth Remembering

Classic cars are the "Cruise" part of the Cruise, Shoes & BBQs fundraiser in Grainfield, KS. The car show draws participants from all around.

This post is brought to you by Nicole Godek, CEO and Founder of Love Small Town America. 

My husband has a very creative mind. The ideas he comes up with typically don’t pan out, but it’s always entertaining to hear what he’s thinking. On occasion, one of his ideas works really well, however. Cruise, Shoes & BBQs is one of them.

Living in Grainfield, we often hear people say, “Remember Ag Days? They were so fun!” Fair-style rides. Parades and marching bands. Vendors in the park. Tons of people coming from all over. The image of Ag Days is still fresh in my mind. As I shared memories of that event with Dan, the wheels started turning on how to bring people to Grainfield again. Dan’s passion for BBQ seemed like an easy start. Then we added the rhyming words “Cruise” and “Shoes”. And Cruise, Shoes & BBQs was born.

Some of the volunteers behind the Cruise, Shoes and BBQs fundraiser in Grainfield, KS.

The first year Grainfield’s Harvest Market hosted the event with help from family and friends. The response was amazing! But we needed more hands to grow it. So, the Grainfield Community Development Committee took over and Cruise, Shoes & BBQs will celebrate 5 years next Memorial Day weekend!

This year marked Cruise, Shoes & BBQs’ 4th anniversary. The fundraiser is always hosted over Memorial Day weekend and this year, the two days were packed with entertainment. Friday evening featured a social in the park, vending from the BBQ teams, and a live performance at the historic Opera House (hosted by the Lions Club & Opera House Committee).

Saturday started with cars, motorcycles and a boat cruising in for the namesake Car Show. The barbecue competition is a big part of the weekend, and the aroma of BBQ in the air easily draws in a crowd! Horseshoes began around 10 A.M. on Saturday as did the kids’ activities.

Smoke pours out of the competitors' area where teams craft their best barbecue entries to be judged at the annual BBQ competition.

After a full day of fun, the barbecue competition awards presentation began at 3 P.M. with the buffet at 4:30 P.M. The buffet draws a big crowd since everyone wants to sample the BBQ teams’ pork and brisket. Then we rounded out the day with a dance. This year we offered a live performance from Uncle Turtle and the Live Action (a Gove County favorite) and it was a big hit.

A clown was on hand as part of the kids' activities at the annual Memorial Day weekend fundraiser. The clown was such a hit, he has already been booked for next year's event!

If we could have picked the worst day out of the year for weather, I think we did. There are only so many things you can plan ahead for and weather is not one of them. But despite the 50mph gusts and 100 degree temperature, everyone had a positive attitude. We are grateful that Marvin Beougher let us move the live music and dance into the American Legion. That saved us…and the many people that stuck around after the buffet.

Festivities carried on long into the night after the BBQ competition with a dance. The Grainfield American Legion generously allowed the event to move inside due to high winds. What a wonderful show of community support and fellowship!

My favorite part of the event is probably seeing so many people in Grainfield having a great time. We’re starting to make a name for ourselves and see people return year after year. It reminds me of “Cheers” when everyone yelled “Norm!” It’s those personal relationships that mean the most.

This year we added a clown and the kids loved him! He was amazing and his wife painted some incredible face art. (We’ve already booked them for next year!) We’re making improvements for next year, hoping to make it a Saturday/Sunday event instead of Friday/Saturday. We lose a lot of people to the high school state track meet (helpers and attendees) so we’re hoping to gain them back. Plus, by moving the event to Saturday/Sunday, BBQ teams and volunteers won’t have to take off work Friday.

An authentic native American tipi was on display during this year's 4th annual Cruise, Shoes & BBQs fundraiser in Grainfield, KS, withstanding high temperatures and even higher wind gusts.

I think people should come out to our event because you never know what you’re going to see in our small town. Last year we had a pig dancing on the dance floor. This year we had an authentic Tipi in the park (that withstood the wind!). Who knows what you’ll see next year. But guaranteed you’ll have a great time. And 40 years from now, hopefully we’ll hear people say, “Remember Cruise, Shoes & BBQs? That was so fun!”

-Nicole

 

We are always growing our network of small towns, organizations, and businesses. If you’re interested in joining Love Small Town America and getting an affordable home on our small town network, e-mail us to get started or learn more here

Walking a Path Toward a Healthier Future

Love Small Town America supports communities fighting cancer.

This year's Walk-A-Thon For Health currently seeking sponsors for August 2012 event.

One of the things that we’re so proud to share with small towns is a strong sense of community spirit and mutual support, through the good times and the bad. Every year, millions of Americans struggle with cancer. Associated costs for treatment, like hospital stays, transportation, and other costs can become nearly as overwhelming as the illness itself.

Walk-A-Thon for health provides a path to support neighbors with cancer, raising funds Saturday August 11, 2012 to support Gove and Trego County residents who have been diagnosed with cancer.

The Walk-A-Thon will take place Saturday August 11, 2012 from 5:30 PM until 11:30 PM. The Walk-A-Thon is currently seeking sponsors for the event. In 2011, the charity fundraiser was able to raise more than $33,000 that stayed locally to help individuals battling cancer and was able to raise another $10,000 that went to fund cancer charities.

This year, the Walk-A-Thon for health plans to donate proceeds to Walk-A-Thon for Health cancer patients, Ronald McDonald/Other Designated Hospital Stays, KU Med-Center cancer research, KU Med Center heart research, Special Olympics (local people), Child Passenger Safety (local children).

Cash donations or in-kind donations to support the 2012 Walk-A-Thon for health are appreciated. Contact Kay Goetz for more information.

 

Kay Goetz

Gove County Corporate Chairman

5042 E. Road 130 S

Park, Kansas 67751

(785) 673 – 4304

Featured Organization: Grainfield’s American Legion A Place for Patriotism, Fun

A Flag waves 24/7 outside the Grainfield American Legion

A flag waves 24/7 outside the Grainfield Kansas American Legion. Image courtesy of social_d via Creative Commons License.

At the Grainfield, KS American Legion (George M. Scott Post 301), visitors can count on three things: food, fellowship, and fun. The American Legion’s webpage on Love Small Town America highlights the heritage of the local chapter.

Grainfield’s Legion Post in Grainfield, Kansas was named in honor of George M. Scott who died October 15, 1918 in France during the First World War. He was the first Gove County soldier to die in the war and is buried at the Gove Cemetery. The Legion was chartered in December of 1920 and currently has 64 members. This organization honors Veterans by providing a Color Guard at funerals and at Memorial Day Services.

Special events offer opportunities for community members to enjoy fellowship. On the last Wednesday of each  month, the American Legion hosts a Stag/Stagette supper. Bingo enthusiasts get their weekly fix each Sunday. A special Father’s Day Dinner celebrates dads. All events are listed on the Grainfield calendar and visitors are always welcome.

The American Legion building is a point of pride for the organization, known for being clean and well kept. It’s the perfect spot to host small town gatherings in Grainfield, where, in the words of American Legion representative Marvin Beougher, “Everybody knows everyone else. It’s very friendly.”

It’s worth a trip to Grainfield to visit the American Legion, where the flag flies outside 24/7 and visitors are always welcome in this friendly community.

Want the world to know about how great your group is? Businesses and organizations from participating Love Small Town America communities are eligible to be featured in an upcoming blog post. Get free publicity for your business, organization, or event as part of the Love Small Town America family. Contact us for more information!