U. Of Kansas Turns Matchmaker to Save Rural Businesses

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RedTire is the product of the University of Kansas Business School. By Budimir Jevtic/Shutterstock

It's a tough economy out there for many small, independent business owners — especially as the owners get older. It's equally tough for people who want to launch new businesses. That's particularly true in rural areas with an aging demographic, pressures from urban migration and competition from big box stores. That's why the University of Kansas Business School created RedTire, a matchmaking program, to help connect rural business owners looking to retire with Kansas alums and/or experienced business managers who want to live in rural areas and are interested in running their own business.

Here's how it works:

  • Both candidate businesses and would-be business managers are identified via online application, and/or referrals from local bankers, attorneys or development officials.
  • RedTire vets both candidate businesses and managers using information provided in their applications.
  • Successful applicants are informed of their suitability and then further vetted using a nationally known employment research agency (RedTire covers these expenses.)
  • If there is a solid match available, RedTire arranges a meeting at which an estimated purchasable value of the business is presented, from which owners and would-be managers can negotiate the specific terms of the sale.
  • If no match is currently available, RedTire can either keep the applicants' details on file for possible future matches or destroy the records at the request of the applicant.
  • Once a deal is agreed upon, the original business owner helps to mentor the new arrival, and RedTire helps cover the initial bills.
It's a pretty neat system, and reviewing the organization's business listings, it's clear there is much more to this than simply ensuring the retirement of a business owner or giving a prospective entrepreneur a kick-start.