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The Magic of Entrepreneurship

There is a magical alley in my town. Some that enter are instantly transported to a winter wonderland with snow and twinkling trees. Others step into the prettiest pumpkin patch you’ve ever seen, while some choose the simplicity of being surrounded by green plants and clean lines. The alley is not very big, maybe ten feet across, but it doesn’t take much space to create a dreamland. The line to enter sometimes wraps around the whole block as people wait their turn for a charmed experience, even if it only lasts a moment.

The brainchild of Sandra and Kurt Jones, Photography in the Alley is a trend that has taken Russellville by storm. Utilizing social media for advertising, the duo shares the theme, date, and time of the session and puts out an open call for attendees. People can come as they are, dress up, bring their pets, family, or friends and get their picture taken in whatever beautiful scene is set up for the day. The event is so special and setting so unique, recently a young couple used The Alley as their wedding venue with Kurt Jones Photography taking the official photos. It was, in a word, magical.

Entrepreneurship plays a pivotal role in community development.

Small businesses change the landscape of a city, catering and connecting to the local population while simultaneously providing a substantial fiscal contribution. The enchantment found at The Alley cannot be duplicated in the sterile environment of an Olan Mills, and people certainly aren’t signing up to get married in the back of a K-Mart. Small businesses and entrepreneurial support increase the quality of place by establishing familial roots in the community, contributing to local economy, and creating a culture that embraces innovation.

Community Roots

Businesses are not started in a vacuum. They involve bankers, lawyers, government officials, property managers, utility workers, media outlets, and the list goes on. The entrepreneurs themselves also do not operate on an island. They get married, make friends, have children, play sports, buy food, and join churches, Rotaries, and PTOs. While investing in their business, the entrepreneurs are investing in the community, deepening their roots and strengthening their relationships with those around them. Small business owners are less likely to re-locate to another city because a lucrative position opened up on the career ladder. Entrepreneurs are valuable advocates for the city as they promote the community while promoting their businesses.

Economic Contributions

Money spent at local businesses is reinvested back into the community at a higher percentage than money spent at a chain retailer. A study from Michigan State University found that for every $100 spent at a local business, $73 stays in the community, while out of every $100 spent at a chain store, $43 stays in the community. They also found that 91% of locally owned businesses directly give back to their community through non-profit and school assistance, donations, and volunteer hours. Money spent at a local business is more likely to be re-circulated throughout the community than money spent at a chain store, which is circulated to its shareholders. An example of re-circulation is when someone buys a glove and bat at a local sports store, and the sports store owner then buys a piece of art from a local artist, who in turn buys dinner on a date at a local restaurant.


Entrepreneurs are master problem solvers, able to identify a need and create a viable solution. This innovative way of thinking is not limited to owning a business, but can also be used in education, human services, health issues, and other philanthropic endeavors. Entrepreneurs are living examples of the benefits of taking risks, either by succeeding or showing what can be learned through failure. They are advocates of collaboration and increasing diversity, understanding the importance of working together. Entrepreneurs work to make things better, thinking of approaches that have never been considered. It is through an innovative thought process that an entrepreneur turned an empty alley into a whimsical photography studio.

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Entrepreneurs need support from their community as well. It can be systematic support, by including entrepreneurship in the local education system, providing community programming that promotes small businesses, or having free to low cost consulting and resources to assist with business creation. Support also needs to come from individuals who are open to innovative thinking, embrace new merchants or services, and of course, spend money in local establishments. When the educational system, government agencies, business community, and local citizens work together to support startups, an entrepreneurial ecosystem is formed. The strength of the ecosystem is determined by people like you and me, who work at the banks, serve on the city council, teach at the schools, and live in the community. We can choose to keep things the same, comfortable in the familiarity of our routine. Or we can give startups a chance, welcoming entrepreneurs into our community, and take the time to visit local businesses. Because honestly, couldn’t all of our towns use a little more magic?

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