The Center for Rural Entrepreneurship formed about 25 years ago. Before there was a Center, we worked with the Kauffman Foundation and the Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) exploring rural entrepreneurship through our Entrepreneurship Discovery States Initiative (Maine, West Virginia, Missouri, Minnesota, Colorado and Texas). This work led to the Kauffman Foundation and RURPI creating the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship.
Jay Kayne with Kauffman’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership believed the Center could become the “go to resource” for rural America with respect to entrepreneurship. Over time the Center continued to support rural entrepreneurship, evolved expertise in community development philanthropy, youth engagement, attraction and entrepreneurship and program evaluation and documentation. The Center was among a number of Kauffman Foundation initiatives including SourceLink and FastTrac, all birthed about the same time.
The Center’s evolution can be charted by these milestones:
- Foundational to the Center’s work was a decade of work in Nebraska supported by millions of dollars of investment from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation related to HomeTown Competitiveness (HTC), which focused on four “pillars” of community development – leadership, philanthropy, youth and entrepreneurship. HTC was one of six recipients of the Kellogg Foundation 75th Anniversary $2 million entrepreneurship grant.
- Hosted with the Kauffman and Kellogg Foundations, early e2 Institutes focused on “Why Entrepreneurship.” These institutes gathered community, regional and state teams for an intensive, week-long dive into entrepreneurship.·
- 2005 - The first book Energizing Entrepreneurs – Charting a Course for Rural Communities addressed both “why” and “how” questions.
- Next stage e2 Institutes focused on “why” and “how” questions.
- 2011 – The second book Transfer of Wealth in Rural America – Understanding the Potential, Realizing the Opportunity and Creating Wealth for the Future focused on philanthropy and entrepreneurship connections.
- 2014 – The third book Energizing Entrepreneurial Communities – A Pathway to Prosperity highlights the Center’s e2 ecosystem building framework and roadmap.
- 2015 – e2 University rolled out containing all our tools, resources and stories.
- 2017 - The Center was acquired by Virginia Community Capital (VCC), a community development financial institution (CDFI), to be part of the team that launched LOCUS Impact Investing, a social enterprise with a mission to empower place-focused foundations to invest their capital locally to build prosperous, vibrant communities.
- 2019 - The Center for Rural Entrepreneurship’s entrepreneurship work moved to a new home with NetWork Kansas on January 1, 2019. The Center is now named e2 Entrepreneurial Ecosystems.