Last time, I noted that Amazon received no HQ2 (second Amazon global headquarters location) proposals from communities in a number of rural states. At the time, I noted that the decision to pass on that opportunity was a well-considered choice.
More importantly, I asked the following question:
What would the impact be if your community had five new, active payrolls of that size five years from now? “Technology” could be software, wood products, water purification, medical research, etc.
Payrolls “of that size” refers to two pizza teams, ie: a team small enough that you can feed it with two pizzas.
I’d like to talk about what communities can do to encourage the formation of two pizza team. Every community can gain from the benefits these teams produce.
You’re not too rural for pizza
Rural communities can benefit from the kind of jobs HQ2 will bring, without bringing Amazon to town. If your community manages to do what’s necessary to help build only one new 300-400K payroll in town every year or two – the benefits are substantial.
The initial question to address is “What should communities do to create a local culture that encourages the formation of these teams?”
Your town already has an entrepreneurial petri dish, but in most cases, new business creation currently depends on:
1) the bullheaded optimism of entrepreneurs (and sometimes, their access to capital), or
2) Desperate situations demanding that the impacted family do something, anything to create an income.
In both cases, these creations tend to be tied to a short list of highly-motivated (internally or externally) individuals. Some families have always started businesses, so their kids learn to do the same. Others are forced into it. Both groups experience varying levels of success.
We want to create conditions that make your entrepreneurial petri dish a bit warmer and a bit more nutritious, making it easier to grow something in it. A stronger entrepreneurial culture is more likely to hatch a creation that can survive on its own when transplanted into the real world.
While funding is important for some businesses, most two pizza teams start off as knowledge-based businesses that don’t need large capital expenses to get started. Capital needs will likely appear during periods of fast growth.
Fuel for two pizza teams
Two pizza teams need:
- ideas that serve a hungry market
- people with the right skills and the spare time to devote to their “side hustle”
- the confidence to adjust & keep trying when things aren’t going so well
Communities don’t need an inventory of unserved ideas to hand out to wanna-be entrepreneurs. Instead, create conditions that consistently produce ideas. These include Startup Weekends, makerspaces, meetups, & coworking spaces.
Almost any clean, empty warehouse / retail space will do. Dedicated, fancy areas aren’t required. Start with a library or business conference room. Meeting in a clean, safe, empty warehouse or retail space is an inexpensive way to get meeting space while raising awareness of a space looking for its next productive use.
The keys? Create a constructive environment for discussion, formation, & execution of ideas – and get the right mix of people there.
How can community leaders help?
Every community has people with the skills to create a side hustle. What they often lack is experience, confidence, a group to brainstorm with and to ask “Does this make any sense at all?”.
What encourages people to have the confidence to suffer through the rough times? Experience. Mentors. Sounding boards. A community of business owners / side-hustlers who are going through & have gone through that bramble of thorns and roses.
Community leaders can leverage their connections to experienced business owners / managers & local angel groups to get them involved and gain access to meeting space. Like-minded people with the right skills & spare time meet each other at these gatherings. When experienced business owners add their voice, their insight & mentoring builds confidence in those trying to figure it all out.
The confidence part is important. When a small group of people is dedicated to turning an idea into a side hustle & then a payroll, they need the self assurance to weather whatever storms come over the ridge. They need know that it’s OK to pivot (ie: adjust their business and business model to reality) rather than quit.
Every community has a meeting space, experienced business people & folks looking to start a business who need advice & critical mass. Get them together.
Photo by cote