When people hear the word “entrepreneur,” the picture that comes to mind may be a high-tech startup or an enterprising inventor with a new gadget. However, 91 percent of downtown storefronts are locally owned and operated, and these businesses are entrepreneurial ventures in the truest sense of the word.  Webster’s dictionary defines an entrepreneur as “a person who organizes and operates a business, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.” Storefront businesses not only take on financial risks, but also invest substantial time in growing not only a business but the community. Much more so than for other types of startups, the success of a storefront business is tied to the success of the local community. This vested interest in creating a welcoming customer environment is just as critical to the success of a downtown as volunteer contributions and private investment.

Downtown businesses tend to be small, but collectively they play a significant role in the local economy. The downtown areas of Wisconsin Main Street communities are home to businesses that account for 14 percent of retail sales and 22 percent of restaurant sales made within their host communities. Most of these businesses start out small, with an average of $5,000 in cash on hand, and many rely on locally funded public and private financial assistance programs to make the improvements necessary to repurpose historic storefronts for new use.

Read more about community entrepreneurship strategies here.