Academic Minute Podcast

Danielle Ailts Campeau, University of St. Thomas – Entrepreneurship Across American: Supporting Rural Startup Ecosystems

Studio portrait of Danielle Campeau taken for new faculty during orientation on August 14, 2023, in St. Paul.

On University of St. Thomas Week: Entrepreneurs don’t just live in bustling cities and sip chai lattes.

Danielle Ailts Campeau, associate dean of the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship and a clinical professor of entrepreneurship, considers rural areas for innovation.

Danielle Campeau is the Associate Dean of the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship and a Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas. Dr. Campeau has a decade of industry experience in the medical device and specialty laboratory sectors, most recently serving as a program manager for product development overseeing the commercialization of novel in-vitro diagnostic devices. She also served as the founding Director of the Center for Innovation and Business Development at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls where she helped establish a business incubator and directed the regional Small Business Development Center. Recognized with the Small Business Development Center Excellence and Innovation Award and the Young Professional of the Year Award in 2019, she continues to inspire students and contribute to regional entrepreneurial ecosystems. Her academic work focuses on entrepreneurship education, rural entrepreneurship, the entrepreneurial mindset, and the intersection of science and entrepreneurship. She holds a BS in Biology, an MBA, and a DBA in Strategy and Management.

Entrepreneurship Across American: Supporting Rural Startup Ecosystems

Imagine the backbone of America’s economy not in bustling city centers, but spread across its wide, open spaces. Entrepreneurship in rural areas, which is often overshadowed by the urban narrative, is a tale of resilience and community. In these settings, where every new business is critical to the local economy, the right support can mean the difference between thriving communities and those left behind.

Based on past research, it is clear that entrepreneurs in rural areas face unique contextual challenges and therefore may benefit from specialized support. In a recent study, my colleague and I explored a wide-spread but relatively unknown government-sponsored entrepreneurship education program that supports entrepreneurs in both rural and urban settings. This program, run by regional Small Business Development Centers, provides would-be entrepreneurs with the foundational basics of starting a business. Through an extensive analysis, we delved into seven years of data with this question in mind: Are these programs effective at increasing the likelihood of starting a business and securing funding and if so, are they equally effective in rural and urban settings?

Our findings were revealing. Participating in these entrepreneurial training programs increased the chances of both starting a business and acquiring capital. More importantly, this boost was as strong for rural entrepreneurs as for their urban counterparts. This is good news for entrepreneurs in rural America – each state in the nation has a Small Business Development Center program and many provide no-cost or low-cost consulting and education for startups in local communities. Our study’s insights lead to a compelling conclusion: small business development centers stand as pillars of local economies, offering not just advice, but providing key educational services to help entrepreneurs turn their visions into reality, irrespective of their zip codes.

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