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Entrepreneurs, Find Your Starting Point in This Growing City in Mississippi

In Oxford and Lafayette County, you will find a great economy and the resources you need to launch a thriving business.

By Heather Cherry on December 15, 2021

Wildrose Kennels in Oxford, MS
Karen Pulfer Focht

From business resources to a great quality of life, there are a few things all entrepreneurs are looking for when it comes to choosing a location to launch their business. And Oxford-Lafayette County checks all of the boxes and then some as a launch location. Here are just a few reasons why starting a business in Oxford may make sense for you.

Why Oxford?

A study in 2018 by the Walton Family Foundation found that from
1970 to 2016, Oxford experienced a 455% income growth rate
and a 265% gain in employment.

This Region’s on the Rise

Oxford-Lafayette County’s population is on the rise. In fact, it has been cited as one of the fastest growing micropolitan communities in the nation. Lafayette County’s population jumped 14% and Oxford’s rose 27% between 2010 and 2020.

This area’s growth is positive for entrepreneurs because it speaks to the community’s bright future and increases its pool of talent.

Leadership Lafayette Class of 2020/2021
Oxford-Lafayette Chamber of Commerce

Find Strong Support in Oxford

No matter the assistance you need, you are bound to find it in Oxford. One organization ready to help is Builders + Backers, which helps design, build and scale new ventures.

“We work with communities all over the country, and our goal is simple,” says Donna Harris, CEO of Builders + Backers. “We back exceptional entrepreneurs who are building global-scale ventures to power an entirely different future – one where technology creates value for many instead of capturing it for a few.”

The organization partnered with Heartland Forward, a nonpartisan, nonprofit think-and-do tank, to extend its mission, opening its Idea Accelerator initiative to communities.

Test Your Idea Here

Through the Idea Accelerator, participants craft a small experiment
to test their ideas, and the organization fuels that test with a $5,000
Pebble Grant. Oxford was also one of the first cities in the nation
where residents could apply for Pebble Grants.

“Every builder goes through a bootcamp,” Harris says. “Then they take their experiment into the real world. The Pebble Grant allows them to run their experiment at no out-of-pocket cost.”

In addition to Builders + Backers, entrepreneurs have access to The University of Mississippi and the Small Business Development Center.

Success Story: Wildrose Kennels

The Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce also offers support and promotes area businesses. One business owner who has garnered support from the chamber is Tom Smith of Wildrose Kennels.

“The Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce has been great promoting Wildrose to the Oxford community by including us in their Leadership Lafayette and Young Leadership programs about local businesses and entrepreneurship,” Smith says.

“Small businesses and entrepreneurs are a key component to support our community growth. We are fundamentally people-based, and we aim to grow our community without changing our community – the way we do that is through entrepreneurship.”

Jon Maynard | Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation

Wildrose Kennels is the oldest and most prominent British Labrador kennel in North America. Smith, while not originally from the area, says he was welcomed with open arms when he came here.

“I bought a dog in 2008 from Wildrose Kennels and fell in love with Oxford, the dogs and the people at the kennel,” Smith says. “I became an associate trainer in 2010 after I sold my business in Kentucky. I became a general manager in 2014. The previous owner mentored me during all that time. Buying this business was a no-brainer – I wanted to continue the heritage of the company, uphold the reputation and do something I loved.”

Double Decker Arts Festival in Oxford, MS
Tate K. Nations

The Quality of Life Is Outstanding

Oxford and its residents and visitors are also beneficial to businesses launching here.

“Oxford draws visitors from all over the country,” Smith says. “We get many visitors interested in literature and the arts because of William Faulkner (the Nobel Prize-winning novelist who lived here) and the Double Decker Arts Festival. This diverse group of people comes from across the country – it is a part of the fabric of the culture that helps our local businesses.”

And as for the quality of life entrepreneurs can experience here, just listen to Smith. “It’s a fantastic place with beautiful scenery – there is a lot to do,” he says. “The enjoyment of living and operating a business in this area is phenomenal.”

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