HERE FOR YOU
The Rural Ideas Network sparks growth for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial ecosystems in rural communities.
WHY WE EXIST
The Rural Ideas Network originated in Iowa, a state in which more than 75% of counties are rural.
We know first-hand how beautiful rural life can be - open natural spaces, low cost of living, and friendly neighbors.
We also know starting and running a business in rural communities is full of unique opportunities and challenges.
That's why we develop and share proven programs and best practices to help rural entrepreneurs succeed.
With national trends showing overall decreases in rural populations, there's a clear need to be proactive. Our work helps rural communities create vibrant economic opportunities, attract & retain a talented workforce, and approach the future with optimism and innovation.
We believe in a bright future for rural America. We exist to help rural entrepreneurs and communities spark growth together.
I'm an educator-turned-entrepreneur living in Eastern Iowa with my wife, three kids, and two dogs. I studied English Education at Iowa State and then earned a master's in Educational Leadership. I enjoy spending time outside, renovating buildings, reading, and exploring new ideas.
My entrepreneurial journey started in 2008, when I launched Idea Bright, a community nonprofit that designs, tests, and shares great ideas to improve lives and build communities. Idea Bright is currently working on ideas in creative education, play equity, rural economic development, entrepreneurship, and collaborative innovation. In addition to my nonprofit work, I develop and manage various real estate ventures. So far I've built a property portfolio worth just over $5 million that includes commercial, mixed-use, and residential assets.
I’m a nonprofit marketer living in North Carolina. As a former midwesterner (Wisconsin and Iowa, respectively), I’ve officially become one of those people who forgot what snow feels like and is ‘cold’ when it dips below 50 degrees. I apologize. My husband and I have three kids and in my free time, I enjoy exploring new places, hiking, photography, and finding great restaurants.
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Advertising and Public Relations from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. I have over 15 years of experience in communications and development and have worked in various industries including healthcare, housing, and community foundations. In my role as Communications Director for the Rural Ideas Network, I help tell our story in unique ways, develop marketing resources for rural entrepreneurs and communities, and work to develop partnerships that support our work through grant funders and corporate donors.
peer learning coordinator
I'm a proud mom of four children, living in Northeast South Dakota. During the summer, my family and I eagerly head to the lake where we all participate on the local water ski team. On the flip side, once winter rolls around, my favorite pastime is to hit the slopes snow skiing in my home state of Montana.
After teaching for several years, I've switched gears and now dedicate my time to supporting our rural community by serving as an incubator for budding businesses. My passion for supporting rural entrepreneurship stems from my own experiences growing up in a small, tight-knit community and running my own business as a young adult. By nurturing area businesses, I believe we are able to forge a path towards a more resilient community.
JESSICA PFOHL PAISLEY
community program specialist
I am a passionate creative and community builder from the beautiful state of Iowa. Since I was young, I have always been captivated by the power of community, culture, and collaboration when bringing people together. Born and raised in a small town in Iowa, I developed a deep appreciation for the tight-knit communities that flourish in this part of the country. Growing up, I discovered my own creative inclinations and the desire to be in spaces where creators and innovators could connect, inspire, and build.
I have professional experience in nonprofit, DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), entrepreneurship, production, and many other creative works. In my free time, you can often find me spending time with my family, attending local events and performances, or connecting with fellow community builders. I am grateful for the opportunity to channel my passion into meaningful work that strengthens the bonds of our community.
business & nonprofit coach
I live in Galena, IL with my wife Carolyn and dog Henry. We have 2 adult sons who we've successfully launched from the nest. I enjoy all the good things the Driftless Region has to offer – outdoors, scenery, local food, and great people.
I think I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life, starting my first business when I was 14. I bring 30+ years of experience in retail, business, and nonprofits. I launched MainStreet Cheesecakes with my wife Carolyn in 1997 and sold it in 2014. I’m a co-founder of an $18 million senior living facility and run a project-management services company. I've also launched numerous community initiatives and two nonprofit organizations.
I have been involved in entrepreneurship most of my life. I grew up on a farm and still live on one with my husband, horses, cattle, and an abundance of wildlife. We have two grown sons, two lovely daughters-in-law, and 7 grandkids that keep us very busy.
I have over 30 years of experience in finance, ops, digital marketing, and people management in the tech space. In 1998, I co-founded an online personal tax software company called TaxAct and sold it in 2012. Since then, I have invested in, advised, and coached startups and growing businesses in Iowa and across the nation. I have an accounting degree but spent most of my career in marketing and product development, both of which require listening to your customer. I find a thrill in analytics, using numbers to make smart decisions that result in reaching your goals...which might be to grow, increase profits, or better position yourself for an exit.
Maryann Baldwin is the owner and manager of Lansing Office Works, a rural coworking community in Lansing, Iowa, which opened to the public in October of 2021. Prior to her entry into coworking, she owned the Lansing Fitness Center, a business she ran for nearly 4 years. Maryann has a passion for both owning and supporting small-town businesses, which has inspired her to join the ranks of the Rural Ideas Network’s coaching team.
Throughout her 35-year career in media, entertainment, and consumer market research, she has been an entrepreneur in a variety of roles, never holding a job that had existed before her arrival at the organization. She enjoys the challenge of forging new paths and seeking optimal approaches to identifying
and solving problems and leading individuals and teams through the process.
Born in Guatemala City, raised in Southern California, brought to Eastern Iowa by a crazy redhead, and settled down with a Galena gal. Life is full of surprises and I enjoy every second of it. My name is Edgar and together with my wife (Holly) we run a small transportation insurance agency in the Midwest. I'm a family man - 3 little ones, 4 dogs, 8 cats, and too many chickens, ducks, and guinea fowl to count!
After 2 decades of working in Corporate America, I decided to leave the corporate world behind and focus on becoming a small-town entrepreneur. I'm a teacher at heart and take the "coach approach" when it comes to business. I love collaborating with people who don't shy away from working hard to provide for their families, share new ideas, and accumulate wisdom from life experiences. In my spare time, I listen to podcasts, audiobooks and work on house projects. Looking forward to serving you to the best of my ability as your business coach.
I’m an entrepreneur and educator living in an old farmhouse in Middle Tennessee with my wife (my high school sweetheart), and our 5 kids. I grew up in a small Northern California town where we’d hang our sports schedules in the windows of Main Street businesses. I saw firsthand how my friends and family that ran small businesses struggled with marketing - I knew I wanted to help them. I focused my MBA at the University of Washington on marketing strategy. I’m also a space geek with an MS in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota.
I started Locable and wrote Marketing 3-4-5™ to simplify local marketing - to help you turn 15 minutes into effective marketing - and to automate cross-promotion. I’ve taught Marketing 3-4-5™ across the country to thousands and visited some 400 communities with my family in tow. Today, our software has tens of thousands of users nationwide with hundreds of Main Streets, Chambers, Tourism, and local media businesses leveraging our approach to simplify marketing.