When there's a problem impacting your community, it's personal. This means you'll be more inclined to be knowledgeable and passionate about it. If it's a big enough problem, you can also be pretty confident that people in your community will want what you're selling. This is a great process to follow when starting a business.
After spending our second year on the mountain, we thought it might be helpful to use our awesome community as an example. We've love living here and our hope is to share a few problems we (and the community) have noticed to hopefully inspire you to solve a problem in your own community and turn it into a business!
Example: Running Springs Community
In a recent post to our local community Facebook group, a member asked the Running Springs community "what type of business would be most helpful up here?"
Our community is unique in that we are a mountain community comprised of mostly short-termers (they either have a second home that they vacation to on the weekends, or they rent out their house as an Airbnb), and then a smaller amount of us full-timers.
With a population of around 5,000 people, we have 5 restaurants (one of the community favorite's, Blondie's, recently closed after the owners retired, a Coffee House & Bakery, a small grocery store, and 2 liquor stores.
There's a building that once belonged to a veterinarian that has been sitting empty for a couple of years, and a hotel that is currently being converted into a boutique store for several shops. The community has also talked about a new restaurant that should be opening any week now, and many have enjoyed guessing what type of food will be served. We're also excited about an Outdoor & Sporting Goods shop, Mountain Life Supply Co, that has updated an old snowboard shop and is opening next week.
We also can't forget to mention our local farmers market that runs from Apr - Nov from 9am - 1pm on Saturdays.
In addition to local farms with fresh produce, there are many great local vendors who attend, so if you haven't been, it's definitely worth checking it out!
It feels like our town is coming to life more as entrepreneurs open new businesses and bring buildings that were starting to look run down back to life. There's a new mobile grooming & spa service for dogs, an auto shop, 2 thrift stores, 2 chiropractors, a hardware store, a CPA, hairdresser, plumbing & heating business & more!
People will also often post to offer services for yard cleanup, snow plowing, car washing, dog walking, and gutter cleaning. We love the independence, but willingness to lend a hand that comes with our community, and that everyone looks out for each other.
Based on feedback in the group & our take, here's what our community is missing:
Food Delivery (GrubHub, DoorDash, UberEats & no restaurants deliver)
Laundromat (local one closed several years ago)
Dog Daycare & Boarding (would be great for out-of-towners who need to board their dog while exploring the mountain, but want them close by)
Bar (would be extra excited for one with good pub food - steak & ale pies, shepherds pie, fish & chips, etc.)
Handyman & Construction (always needed on the mountain)
Driving Service (if your car is in the shop, or you'd like to go out for some drinks and would like a DD, there's a fabulous woman here named Susan with Tabby Cat Ride Service. If she's unavailable, it would be nice to have some more ride options)
Problems in the Community
Traffic up here (especially during winter months) is especially problematic, as many who are not local to the area don't know how to drive on mountain roads or deal with snow. During winter months, there ends up being lines of people putting on chains too early or too late, and it heavily impacts traffic. We also get people who want to sled right by the highway, or they'll go onto resident's property to play in the snow.
There's also no street parking allowed when there's snow (snow plows and emergency vehicles need full road access), so it ends up leading to a craziness with parking. Many folks who have rented an Airbnb won't know where they're allowed to park, and they often get stuck in the snow and have to ask a local for help. Because of all this, when we hear a snow storm is coming, we usually to go to the grocery store early and hunker down for a few days to avoid all the chaos on the roads.
Another problem is that we don't have mailboxes up here, so we don't get mail delivered to our house. UPS and FedEx will deliver packages to your house, but anything from the USPS will need to be delivered to a PO box. This means that those who are elderly, disabled, or without a car might have a tough time getting their mail on a regular basis.
A final problem is that many of our local shelters are overrun with pets. Many people will come up here to dump their animals with the thought that they'll have a happier life in the wild (they won't, we have bears, bobcats, coyotes, snakes, etc.), or they just don't care and dump them. This means that many shelters up here are overwhelmed. There are several volunteers who share updates on animals in groups online, but it's definitely an issue that animals are put in this position in the first place.
Questions to Consider When Identifying a Problem in Your Community
What are some common complaints you hear in your community?
How often does the problem happen?
How many people does the problem impact?
How much does the problem impact normal life?
Does the problem deprive people of legal or moral rights?
Once you've identified a problem, you can begin working on solutions. A business that is created with a solution to a specific problem in mind will have a higher chance of success.
5 Small Business Grants to Help You Get Started
Hopefully you have some ideas in mind for a potential business, and are excited to solve a problem in your community.
If you're wondering how you'll fund your idea, we've put together a list of 5 great small business grants. Keep in mind that in addition to this list, there are many others out there!
1. California Dream Fund
The California Drum Fund is a $35 million grant program setup to encourage entrepreneurship and small business creation in California. Those who are selected will complete an intensive training program and will then be eligible to apply for a microgrant of up to $10,000.
2. USDA Rural Business Development Grant
This grant program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides financing to strengthen and grow small businesses specifically in rural communities. Businesses must have less than 50 employees, make less than $1 million in gross revenue and be located in an eligible rural area to qualify.
3. Small Business Development Centers
SBDC Programs offer individualized business advising and technical assistance to existing and pre-venture business owners. They can help small businesses gain access to capital, improve business planning, operations, financial management and other areas that help with small business growth and expansion.
4. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Dream Big Awards
This grant recognizes small businesses for their contributions to the U.S. economy and offers a grant of $25,000. There are awards to businesses in several categories, and although you must have an existing business to qualify, the requirement is only one year in business.
5. Amber Grant for Women
WomensNet offers a monthly $10,000 grant and two $25,000 grants on an annual basis. There's a single application to fill out and both startups and existing women-owned businesses are eligible.
Still Unsure What Business to Start?
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