On Iniö - The Impact of Social Networks on Rural Entrepreneurs
School of Business | Master's thesis
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Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management
AbstractSustaining the vitality of rural areas has been a hot topic for discussion in recent years, especially in developed countries such as Finland. The constant flow to more urban areas puts an understandable pressure on local services and there are few signs that this trend is to curb in the near future. The primary goal of this thesis is to dig deeper into rural entrepreneurship as a potential solution to many of the problems that the people living in the rural areas of developed countries face. Schumpeter introduces the term, creative destruction, which implies that the role of an entrepreneur to combine existing resources in a unique way to create value. As traditional ways of making a living are under threat, one could hypothesise entrepreneurship could portray a potential solution to this problem. Quite simply, rural entrepreneurship is entrepreneurship that takes place in a rural context. Rurality refers to a location that is difficult to access, due to long distances or otherwise challenging terrane. From an entrepreneurial standpoint, rurality offers unique characteristics to the business that are not typical in an urban setting. This research concentrates on of role that the entrepreneur’s social networks plays on them as entrepreneurs, and whether their professional self is affected by the social environment. The empirical stage was conducted on the main island of Iniö, which is a collection of islands located in the Archipelago Sea close to the sea border of Åland. The archipelagic area is known for beautiful scenery and is a popular summer destination for tourists and a coveted location for a summerhouse. Only around 200 local inhabitants live year-round on the islands of Iniö, but the population soars during the summer months. I chose Iniö as the setting for this research due to my personal connection with the area and the locals, as I have had the opportunity to live there managing the village shop and guest harbour for a total of two years. My personal knowledge of the local context was helpful when conducting the focused ethnographic research. The first main finding of this research was related to the benefits that modern technology offers to entrepreneurs located in rural areas. The entrepreneurs are able to access information with relative ease, which does not put them in a secondary position compared to urban entrepreneurs. Secondly, the entrepreneurs seemed to have a certain etiquette when doing business with people they have a close relationship, such as engaging in barter or drawing up official contracts. Thirdly, conflicts seem to be created with people that the entrepreneurs were not close with, but there was some type of social obligation towards. This seems to be a significant challenge for the entrepreneur, and there did not seem to be an obvious answer to this issue.
Thesis advisorFarny, Steffen
entrepreneurship, rural entrepreneurship, social network, social ties