Tools to Foster a Comeback and Build the Entrepreneurial Community You Want

September 24 | 9:00 am – 10:45 am

This should be like capturing wild yeast. In Belgium, beer is brewed without adding additional yeast. Rather, breweries set conditions that allow various yeast strains passing by in the air to be captured in their equipment. Embedded in the Belgian concept is that we in essence make our own luck, or set ourselves up to capture all of the opportunity that comes into and around our communities. It is also a nod to the fact that we can’t force anything. Communities have to present their authentic selves, and work from the assets they have, but also be diligent about marshaling resources to make those assets as productive as possible. Panelists will discuss the strategies their small town has used to help businesses start and grow by utilizing the empty storefronts, financial instruments for rural communities to encourage economic growth, and what worked for small businesses to stay in business during the pandemic.

Speaker: Ben Doyle, Associate Director of USDA Rural Development; Rich Grogan, Executive Director of Northern Border Regional Commission



The PitchFork Challenge: A Pitch Competition with a Rural Fit

September 24 | 11:00 am – 12:45 pm

The PitchFork Challenge provides money and momentum for local rural entrepreneurs to apply to be part of a business pitch competition. Over the summer local entrepreneurs are coached to create a compelling pitch and pitch deck describing their business opportunity in pursuit of a cash award. There are two different tracks and awards; one for a rural small business and one to encourage the most important phase, the idea phase, by having soon to be entrepreneurs pitch their business idea with a cash award of $10,000 and $1,000 respectively. Join the excitement as these local rural entrepreneurs pitch their business and receive the “operating manual” on how to run this event in your own community.

Speaker: TBD



Rebuilding Our Rural Communities, Co-operatively!

September 24 | 2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

Many of us may equate “co-ops” with natural products, bulk buying, and organic foods.  In fact, co-operative business operates across the economy, with 1 in 3 people in the U.S. being co-op members. Historically, co-operative enterprise has been a powerful tool for economic development in rural communities, providing everything from farm supplies to marketing agricultural products, and financial services to electricity.  Today, we are seeing co-ops used in new and innovative ways.  Come learn how co-ops are helping small towns provide access to fresh food when the last independent grocery stores left the area.  Or how co-ops in the South are playing a key role in community development and supporting land ownership for Black farmers.  Or how retiring business owners are using co-ops to transition to shared ownership with their employees and communities, keeping local economic infrastructure intact.  Co-operatives are member-owned and democratically-governed, offering a business model that is more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient. As we work to rebuild from the social and economic impacts of COVID-19, let’s rebuild co-operatively.

Speaker: Rob Brown, Program Director of Cooperative Development Institute; Erbin Crowell, Executive Director of Neighboring Food Co-op Association; Lori Capouch, Rural Development Director for North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives; Paul Bradley, Preseident of ROC USA, LLC

Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship Key Partners

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