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Welcome to Outstate, a series exploring entrepreneurship in small-town Missouri.

Forty years ago, about two in 10 American startups were located in rural areas, according to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Today, the rate of rural startups is about half that. That may not sound like a big deal, but consider the employment implications: New businesses account for nearly all net new job creation in this country, according to the Kauffman Foundation. As startups dwindle in rural communities, it’s likely that new jobs will, too.

With Outstate, we wanted to go beyond those statistics. So we went to boutiques and banks, restaurants and theaters, manufacturing floors and supermercados, campgrounds and fairgrounds, community colleges and chambers of commerce, all to get a sense of how entrepreneurship is faring in smaller communities across our state.

The heart of this series is stories of entrepreneurs — that is, the people starting and growing businesses. But we realize those businesses don’t exist in a vacuum, so this project also considers the entrepreneurial ecosystem — in other words, the network of individuals, institutions and organizations within a community that affect its climate for entrepreneurship.

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