Making Entrepreneurship Accessible in Rural America

4. Challenges: Early Challenges that Emerged

The Language of Entrepreneurship Was Neither Understood Nor Inclusive

Language can be a barrier to understanding.

As services started to be defined and marketed, it became evident that the language of economic development and entrepreneurship was spoken and received differently in each community. In fact, many didn’t actually agree on the definitions or use of either.

  • Some communities saw the word “entrepreneurship” as reserved for academia.
  • Others saw the terms “entrepreneurship” and “startup” as synonymous with West Coast tech havens, and therefore unattainable.
  • Still others viewed “startup support” as incubation of nascent new research findings, not for ideas that they came up with.
  • Further, understanding also varied greatly across the staff working to define services to be provided.

To learn how we addressed this challenge, jump to Insights: Provide centralized support to promote growth and scaling.

Building a common understanding.

This signaled the need to build a common foundation around entrepreneurship language and potential support offerings.

  • Staff across the network would benefit from learning about the latest terminology, being exposed to best practices in supporting entrepreneurs, and sharing their understanding of what “startup activity” really meant.
  • This would save valuable time and funding by reducing the number of locations that spent time re-inventing the wheel or replicating what was already known.
  • Further, it began the conversation around creating inclusive language so that we did not inadvertently exclude some populations by our choice of words.


Building a language of inclusivity.

The challenge was, how would we go about sharing information across seven different locations, with staff who had different levels of experience with entrepreneurship and community-building, and were at different stages of identifying target audiences and needed support services? And how could we do this while also ensuring that community members felt welcome and supported?

To learn more, jump to Insights: Bring an inclusive lens to everything you do.

Learn more about lessons learned and recommendations.