If you have an online business and zero employees and are happy to travel 24-7, then your physical address doesn’t matter much. Everyone else? “No question, the resources available to CEOs depend on where they locate their company,” says Peter Cohan, an investor and author of Disciplined Growth Strategies. “Beyond a great product, strong marketing and sufficient capital, startups thrive or fizzle depending on their environment and the people in them.”
That’s why we asked Livability.com to assemble a list of the best cities for entrepreneurs. But even if your city isn’t named and you’re not looking to move, it should serve as an important reminder: Businesses prosper when locals band together. Where you are is intricately linked to who you know, and you can always find new value in your community. We heard that repeatedly from people in the cities on our list — that their lives improved when they joined Meetup groups for founders, referred customers to neighboring businesses, traded the home couch for a coworking space and more. “Join professional organizations, get involved in your chamber of commerce, find local small-business groups and attend community events,” advises Lisa Gundry, Ph.D., a professor of management and entrepreneurship at DePaul University. Those relationships will make or break a business.
For Kathryn Hawkins, cofounder of Portland, Maine-based Eucalypt Media, sleuthing for the right events has even served as a low-cost, crash-course MBA: She has soaked up insights from entrepreneurs across the country at the annual Maine Startup and Create Week; workshopped her company issues with local business leaders at House of Genius, a monthly, invitation-only panel devoted to solving a startup’s specific problems; and she gets a regular boost from her ongoing FocusMe group of women entrepreneurs. Last year, she and her cofounder participated in ScaleUp, a free program funded by the Small Business Association, complete with curriculum, homework and guest speakers. “We used what we learned to hire our first full-time employee, and we’ve since grown the team to five,” she says. “We’ve found a very grounded, supportive community here.”
As you read this list, you’ll discover results of Livability’s analysis as well as unique ways cities are leveraging their unique talents and capabilities. Hopefully their strategies will inspire you to find new ways to make the most of your own town.
About our list: Entrepreneur partnered with Livability.com to find the top 50 small and midsize cities that can help business founders flourish. The Livability team crunched a mountain of data, including household income growth, employment rate, housing affordability, per capita spending, commute times, safety, diversity, rates of healthcare coverage, wage growth and more.
We’ve included just a sampling here. For the full list of 50, check out the April print issue. For a deeper dive into each city, visit Livability.
Start the slideshow to see the 25 best cities in America to live as an entrepreneur.