The Internet is transforming rural businesses and extending their reach. Some small rural businesses are now able to operate globally, due to being online.
The University of Minnesota in the Midwest United States conducted a series of case studies profiling how rural Minnesota businesses are using the Internet. Although these case studies profile U.S. companies, many of the same principles would apply to rural businesses in other countries.
Among the ways the Internet has transformed these small businesses:
- A Czechoslovakian pastry baker, Anrej’s European Pastry (case study), is able to do business using the Internet, without even taking credit cards online. It sells its pastries by getting orders via the Internet and then putting the invoice in the box when the pastry is shipped to the customer.
- The owners of an organic fabric business, Wild Rose Farm (case study), are able to have the lifestyle they want, living on a farm, yet reach out beyond their local area. “[The Internet] gives us access to the world and gives the world access to us. But also we work hard at what we do, and because of how we live and where we live we were able to stay in business. We maintain a fairly low overhead by working here on the farm.”
- A recycling container manufacturer, Pro-Tainer (case study), was able to pick up the federal government as a customer because of the Internet: “Without the Internet and without our web page, I don’t think we could have done business with the United States government. That’s probably what got us in the door. We were one of the frontrunners in getting involved with them (in the products that we supply). Not having that, I don’t think we’d be in there today. It really is that important to them. They do everything that way.”
It’s case studies like these that cause me to be puzzled when I read that only half of small businesses have a website. Most of the websites of the businesses profiled are simple and straight forward. That’s all that’s necessary to conduct business.
There are 15 case studies — read them all.