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When you ask a schoolkid, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” you don’t usually get the answer, “I’m going to open my own business.”But the key to building wealth in rural America, say many experts today, is to create economic havens where entrepreneurs can come alive. This focus on entrepreneurship in rural areas is especially noticeable in south-central Missouri, as KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson reports.
Reporter Standup:“I’m in the parking lot of the West Plains Civic Center, and I’m standing next to rows of big, orange school buses. They've come from Mansfield, Mtn. View, West Plains, Lutie, Bakersfield, Gainesville and Thayer. They’ve brought over 300 students here for one purpose:to teach them not to be afraid of opening their own businesses.”
[Sound: speaker in auditorium]
Inside, a young speaker with the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour is sharing his business story with a packed auditorium.
The tour is put together by a national group called “Impact.” Shradha Agarwal is part of it.
Agarwal and two friends came up with their business idea in college seven years ago. Her Chicago-based business installs educational videos screens in hospital waiting rooms.
“I think it definitely is important to learn entrepreneurial skills in areas that don’t have access to a lot of the different resources that larger, urban areas do. It shows people that there are always options; that there is freedom of choice, [and] that there are ways to really make an impact,” Agarwal said.
The goal of this event, she said, is to show the students that they can have an entrepreneurial spirit—in her words, that’s “learning to be fearless.”
The University of Missouri Extension is helping with the event. Willis Mushrush is the business development specialist for the extension in 11 rural Missouri counties.
He says he reminds young, potential entrepreneurs to be pragmatic.
“The number one thing we try to teach them is that there’s a lot of risk involved in starting a business. But that risk can be overcome if they do their planning upfront,” Mushrush said.
West Plains also has a new business incubator near the downtown square, which has created about 40 jobs since opening just over a year ago.
For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Davidson.