Myth-busting entrepreneurial misconceptions in the Western U.P.


A third of Americans admit that the fear of failure holds them back from starting a business, while 39% don’t start simply because they don’t know how.

As you may know, a myth is a widely held but false belief or idea. In rural areas with less resources, there are many myths associated with starting your entrepreneurial career path, but there doesn’t have to be with the help from organizations like MTEC SmartZone

In our experience, more often than not, entrepreneurs in rural communities will stop their pursuit before they have even begun because of community-shared fear barriers and the misconceptions that surround getting started. 

And truth be told, these barriers hold back some of the greatest entrepreneurs from reaching their full potential which could immensely benefit their local communities.

Let’s break these myths down.

But first, who is MTEC SmartZone?

MTEC SmartZone is the Western U.P.’s hub for entrepreneurship, based in Houghton-Hancock, Michigan. We partner with local founders to help them develop their ideas into market-ready businesses through education, mentorship, resources, and strategic connections. 

Since 2012, we have helped grow 106 companies, which has created 757 job opportunities and generated $180M in sales for our clients and community. Our commercialization process and statewide network allow entrepreneurs to access the knowledge, funding, and people necessary to grow. 

Our clients are Western U.P. residents with business ideas that are valuable in the market. Simple as that. We partner with high tech and small business founders from a wide range of industries, welcoming them into our entrepreneurship hub, and developing their ideas into market-ready businesses and beyond.

In order to ensure our region prospers now and into the future, we encourage all Yoopers to see themselves as potential entrepreneurs, from the techies working in the growing space tech industry to the generations-deep logging families and beyond.

 At MTEC SmartZone, we turn wild ideas into wildly successful businesses.

Now, let’s dive into some of the common myths we hear from unbeknownst entrepreneurs in the Western U.P.:

“My smarts are not of the ‘book’ variety, I must not have what it takes to be an entrepreneur.”

This is the most common myth we hear from those beginning their entrepreneurial path. This makes us believe there are even more members throughout the community who never begin because they’re convinced that this is true. First and foremost, let us reassure you that this is simply not the truth.

Most people in rural areas can’t envision themselves as entrepreneurs, let alone successful ones, because they come from communities and families with generations of miners, loggers, fixers, and blue-collar workers. This creates a culture of hard workers who stick to what they’ve always known and stay clear of uncharted territories.

When you break this myth down, it’s clear that it originates from a lack of confidence, not knowledge. An important common characteristic of entrepreneurs is the ability to see a solution, which is a skill that comes naturally to many blue-collar workers. Remember, self-confidence is the cornerstone of entrepreneurial success.

“I’ll lose my current job if I pursue entrepreneurship too.”

To get an idea or product prepared to be brought to market is a process with many moving parts. So, it’s common that most entrepreneurs must keep a second job in the meantime. 
Regardless if you’re located in a rural area, this is not a new concept for most employers. It’s estimated that 39% of Americans have a “side hustle.” While we cannot control how your employer would take the news of your entrepreneurial pursuit, we can guarantee you that your idea is 100% confidential at MTEC SmartZone. That is, of course, until you’re ready to share it with the public.

“I have to be associated with Michigan Technological University to utilize MTEC SmartZone’s resources.

To debunk this myth, let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room; the name MTEC SmartZone

In the Western U.P., it’s no secret that Michigan Tech has massive influence and with a name like ours it’s easy to misconceive that the two are interchangeable. While we are a proud partner of the university and value our relationship, our services and resources are available to the community at large, regardless of your personal relation to the university.  

In fact, many of our clientele aren’t associated with the university in any way.

“I don’t have the resources to start my entrepreneurial career.”

More often than not, this myth lives on due to a lack of awareness of MTEC SmartZone, which we see as an opportunity for education.

We are a publicly funded nonprofit who provides services and resources to entrepreneurs at no cost. Our goal for every founder is to achieve commercialization, meaning they are generating revenue in the market, in a sustainable way. 

Our process begins by vetting an idea to determine business viability, and then we provide education, mentoring, connections, and resources to transform your idea into a market-ready business. The process from intake to achieving successful commercialization can take time, and requires resilience and tenacity on the part of the founder. Entrepreneurship is a wild ride, but we are here to guide and lead you through it.


In the end, the acknowledgment and debunking of these myths is the first step to overcoming the community-shared fear barriers and misconceptions that surround them.

Don’t let these myths stop you from starting your entrepreneurial career.

At MTEC SmartZone, wild ideas are welcome. 

Getting started with us requires just two elements: a wild idea, and the Sisu-fueled courage to act on it.

Submit your idea today.