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Molding Entrepreneurial Culture from Clay

By Jamie Hofling | March 27, 2015

Clay blog 2
Renee Langvardt serves coffee at Java Junkies Total Addiction storefront in downtown Clay Center.

 Clay County, located in north central Kansas, joined the E-Community ​Partnership in January 2014. I have the pleasure of being their E-Community coach and have been working with Lori Huber and the E-Community Team as they deliver entrepreneurial resources to their community. Its always fun to work with a community and a point person who are ambitious about their community’s entrepreneurial potential. Lori and the team fit that description completely.

When Clay County joined the E-Community ​Partnership, t​heir existing "business retention team" adopted the E-Community principles and stepped up their efforts to grow an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Leon Atwell from Advancing Rural Prosperity is working with this group on implementing the E-Accelerator process, a process that was easily assimilated into the work they were already doing as a team. The E-Accelerator process strengthens the foundation for an entrepreneurial culture and is adopted by several E-Communities across Kansas. In the first year as an E-Community, Clay has already made some great discoveries about the business community and have begun executing a strategy created by the team under Leon’s guidance.

After attending a few meetings, it was clear this team was ready to start sharing the spirit of entrepreneurship with the county’s youth. This year, the team wanted kids attending the biannual career fair to hear from local entrepreneurs. Lori and I attended the event and talked to the kids about starting their own business (read more: Entrepreneurship as a Career Choice).

Clay GRB 
The first night of Clay County's session of Growing Rural Businesses focused on the theme of "Creating an Entrepreneurial Mindset."

To demonstrate further just how hungry this community is for entrepreneurial growth, they are well into the second half of the WSU Growing Rural Business certificat​e program. They have approximately 18 local businesses enrolled in the series. ​I recently dropped in to see Renee Langvardt, owner of Total Addiction, an apparel/coffee shop in Clay County. While preparing me a fresh cup of coffee, Renee commented on how much the classes have been helping her in her business. She​ studied marketing in college, so some of what is taught in the class is familiar to her, but she said she now realizes how she can realistically implement these strategies into her business. She said the class is changing the way she looks at her business and how she conducts it.

Within their first year as an E-Community, Clay County is embracing the principles of an E-Community in every way possible. They meet monthly and have an active, ambitious team; they’re educating their youth about entrepreneurship as a career; they’re offering ​education to their existing businesses and executing a strategy that will mold a sustainable ecosystem for existing entrepreneurs and future entrepreneurs.