The purpose of this paper is to challenge calls for a monolithic rural home‐based business (HBB) sector and instead propose meaningful sub‐sectors of HBB that fit within contemporary rural economic development theory. This informs business support and policy objectives.
Survey analysis of rural microbusinesses in the North East of England compares home‐based and other rural microbusinesses to illustrate their defining characteristics. Case study interviews are then used to test theory development and provide greater understanding about the motivations and aspirations of HBB owners.
The research demonstrates that the rural HBB sector is not homogenous. For some, the home is the business, for others it is a convenient location and for others it is not the place of work, simply the registered business address. This has significant implications for the needs of each type of business and their prospects for growth.
This paper introduces the concept of sub‐sectors of HBBs but more detailed survey work can establish whether these are fully inclusive. With a changing economic climate, further research might also examine the resilience of these businesses in recession and their ability to react to growth opportunities in a period of upturn.
As an emergent area of study in the fields of small business and rural economy, HBBs are potential vehicles for both social and economic development. With large numbers of HBBs in rural areas, this paper illustrates the need to understand both their potential and their limitations in order to maximise their contribution to vibrant and sustainable rural economy.
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