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(NewsUSA) - Starting and maintaining a successful small business is a challenge in any setting. For rural entrepreneurs, that struggle is even greater when it comes to accessing capital, high-speed internet and quality workers, according to a survey from SCORE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping small businesses since 1964.
SCORE’s Fall 2022 Megaphone of Main Street: The Small Business Rural/Urban Divide surveyed more than 3,000 entrepreneurs and discovered that population shifts away from rural areas are challenging small business owners in desperate need of reliable talent and technology.
Rural business owners report higher expenses and fewer customers than non-rural counterparts, according to the survey. Rising fuel costs (49.3%), slowing customer spending (48.6%), tight marketing budgets (47.6%) and a limited local customer base (34.6%) are their most vexing customer-related challenges. In addition, rural businesses are 26% more likely to have trouble finding qualified employees, says SCORE.
Noting that the technology gap between rural and non-rural businesses persists, SCORE’s survey found that twice as many rural entrepreneurs (19.2%) compared to non-rural entrepreneurs (9%) struggle with access to broadband/high-speed internet, making it harder for them to conduct business, reach customers and grow. Small businesses in both rural and non-rural areas say they’re challenged by a lack of technological knowledge or assistance.
“As a small business owner in a rural area of Erie County in Western New York, it has been challenging over the last decade to attract staff, being at least a 30-minute drive from the city of Buffalo and the surrounding suburbs,” says Kerry Planck of Alpine Made LLC in South Wales, N.Y. “My latest long-term employee, who lives 30-plus miles away, recently quit, due in part to the long commuting distance and higher gas prices,” she adds. “I generally give six-month raises to my employees; however, they have not kept up with current inflation levels.”
Planck has worked with SCORE mentor David Bunis for 10 years, most recently on staffing- retention issues. “I was advised by SCORE to work with local colleges to recruit paid student interns,” says Planck. “This has helped me greatly throughout the last two years.”
SCORE provides tangible solutions for all entrepreneurs in the form of free mentoring from small business experts, as well as online tools and workshops. Local SCORE chapters also offer in-person events and roundtable discussions. Since 1964, SCORE has helped 11 million entrepreneurs start or grow a business.
Visit score.org for more information and to download the complete Megaphone of Main Street: The Small Business Rural/Urban Divide data report.