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Helping You Grow Rural & Small Town Business Ecosystems

Are you a leader in rural or small-town economic development? SmartStart Business Development can help you build a thriving small business ecosystem within your community. 


Our mission is to help small towns start and grow their small business ecosystems.

Here's how
we help

SmartStart helps emerging small business owners (ESBOs) in rural communities succeed by guiding them through a proven business development process, connecting them to expert support, and fostering a strong business community.


We do this through Engagement, Education, and Support.



Targeted, non- traditional marketing strategies

Small business outreach and engagement can get lost in the shuffle of your regular business activities. ESBOs are notoriously hard to reach, and even harder to keep engaged. They are busy with the day-to-day running of their businesses, which are often started as a side hustle outside their regular 9-5 job. 


We can help.


Our targeted, non- traditional marketing strategy creates a strong brand and messaging that resonates with ESBOs and has a proven track record of reaching these hard-to-find business owners. 


Our expert marketing team goes way beyond the basics, curating content and engaging with local business owners to become THE resource for networking, asking questions, and business best practices in your community.


Fully developed small business curriculum

We know your calendars are busy! Between your Board meetings, annual festivals, and monthly mixers, it can be hard to find the time to curate resources specific to the small business owners in your town.


SmartStart makes this process easy with a fully developed schedule of small business support curriculum that is plug and play for your community.


We are business owners ourselves, and we bring that energy and perspective to our monthly Education Workshops. Our workshops are designed to be interactive so small business owners not only learn essential skills of business development—they apply them right then and there with peer and expert feedback. No dry lectures here!



Individualized and interactive guides

Even two years post-pandemic, economic development and small business assistance programs struggle to meet everyone’s needs when it comes to accessing services.


The SmartStart Dashboard is an individualized and interactive step-by-step guide to help entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses, virtually.


The SmartStart Dashboard eliminates the uncertainty of starting a business by outlining what steps to take and when to take them, and identifying who can help at each step of the way. It is designed to be free for business owners


The Education Workshop curriculum cadence follows the phases of the Dashboard, so small business owners can DIY or attend the monthly workshop to dive in deeper and get more support.

Learn more about the Dashboard by clicking the button below.

SmartStart has amplified our community's entrepreneurial ecosystem and engagement. SmartStart’s innovative platform guides aspiring business owners along a clear business journey to success while connecting them with seasoned mentors and local resources. Through monthly workshops and continuous communication, SmartStart has actively cultivated growth and collaboration, ensuring Morton continues to foster a strong and sustainable economy.

Leigh Ann Brown, Executive Director and CEO, Morton Economic Development Council and Morton Chamber of Commerce

SmartStart Delavan has been pivotal in transforming Delavan's entrepreneurial landscape through exceptional small business coaching and mentorship. Their efforts have created an environment that encourages innovation and growth. By strengthening relationships within the business community, they've spurred economic development, attracting investment and talent to our city. As the City Administrator, I'm impressed by their impact on both new and established businesses, contributing greatly to our community's newfound vibrancy.

Matt Fick, City Administrator, City Of Delavan, IL

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