Entrepreneurial Communities and Social Enterprise

Rural Action Entrepreneurial Communities: Asset Based Economic Development 

Entrepreneurs see opportunities and pull together the resources that drive community economic development. The Entrepreneurial Communities framework is based on the work of the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship and provides a process for creating stronger and more sustainable local economies. Often both start-up and experienced businesses often do not know where to turn for the resources they need. With the help of the Entrepreneurial Communities approach many rural communities have found that the best long term prosperity plan is to create a broad-based local support network for entrepreneurs that helps to grow more successful business ventures.

The Entrepreneurial Communities approach emphasizes local organizing and local leadership to create a long term support system for businesses of all sizes, products, and stages of growth. Rural Action believes that communities have many talented people that are running or want to run a business, and every community has people that want to see their local businesses thrive. Entrepreneurial community teams are currently working to support and grow local business in Amesville, McArthur, Nelsonville, Logan, and Pomeroy. To find out more, contact Dan Vorisek  dan@ruralaction.org  

Rural Action Social Enterprise: Building Up Communities Through Market-Based Ventures

Rural Action has 25 years of experience working directly in Appalachian Ohio communities, growing value chains that lead to new business opportunities and great community development projects. By connecting people to markets and supporting business ventures (for-profit or not-for-profit) in sectors where we work—sustainable agriculture, forestry, zero waste, environmental education, watershed restoration, tourism, and energy—we will grow our impact in communities. One way we do this is by building social enterprises—business ventures that generate profit while also creating positive environmental and social impacts in communities.

We own and operate two social enterprises: Zero Waste Event Productions and the Chesterhill Produce Auction. As these enterprises grow, we are able to green our regional tourism economy, provide more local produce to the people of Southeast Ohio, and create new business opportunities around sustainable agriculture and waste reduction.

Are you a social entrepreneur—or would you like to become one? Please contact Rural Action’s Social Enterprise Coordinator to talk about how we can work with you.

Our Current Social Enterprises and Activities


Chesterhill Produce Auction

The Chesterhill Produce Auction is a rural food hub in Appalachian Ohio operated by Rural Action with support from community members. Started in 2005, the auction is a marketplace for dozens of local growers reaching hundreds of buyers. Every Monday and Thursday from May through October the auction is both an economic and social center in Morgan County, bringing together business owners as well as friends and neighbors enjoying camaraderie around local food. Learn More


Zero Waste Event Productions

Zero Waste Event Productions provides waste reduction and disposal services to festivals, indoor and outdoor concerts, large events, and conferences. Our goal is to help more events get to zero waste status—meaning 90% or more of all waste generated is diverted from the landfill through composting or recycling. We also strive to educate event attendees on the merits of recycling and composting to help move us toward a zero waste economy. Learn More

True Pigments

True Pigments is a social enterprise of Rural Action that uses innovative technology to bring streams that have been impacted by acid mine drainage back to life by removing iron oxide and processing it into pigment, a valuable commodity that can be sold to pay for the process, create jobs in rural communities, and fund additional watershed restoration projects. The initiative earned a  J.M. Kaplan Innovation Prize in 2019.  Learn More



The Mountain Association for Community Economic Development has a Social Enterprise Support Initiative to support social enterprises in the Central Appalachian region with technical assistance and innovative capital products. Learn More

The Wells Foundation

The Tony Wells Foundation offers a three-day impact investing course, as well as other trainings, designed to “enable nonprofit and social enterprise leaders to leverage the power of social enterprise and social impact investing together to increase their impact, improve their stability, and grow the sustainability of their organizations.” Learn More


Venturize is an online platform to help small businesses and startups understand the world of lending. It helps potential borrowers understand the variety of business credit available, the advantages of disadvantages of each, and has several calculators to explain the impact borrowing will have on a small business. Visit the Website

Mapping the Journey to Impact Investing

The Surdna Foundation is a private foundation that seeks to foster sustainable communities in the United States. In February 2017 they published a report detailing their path to impact investing. This resource could be useful for foundations considering impact investing in addition to their traditional grantmaking activities. Read the Report


Paul PattonAs the Social Enterprise Director, Paul provides technical and development assistance to Rural Action’s three social enterprises — Zero Waste Event Productions, Chesterhill Produce Auction, and True Pigments LLC — and evaluates opportunities for the development of new ventures. Before joining Rural Action, Paul worked with Rural Action’s Sustainable Agriculture team through the Initiative for Appalachian Food and Culture.

Paul received a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Ohio State University, and a master’s in Environmental Studies from Ohio University. Paul is one of the founders of the Lost Crops Garden Network that studies and attempts to redomesticate the original crop complex of the Appalachian region. He serves on the board of directors for Wisteria Event Site in Meigs County, one of the venues where Zero Waste Event Productions got its start. You can contact Paul at paul@ruralaction.org for more information on the Entrepreneurial Communities Initiative


Dan VorisekDan Vorisek is Rural Action’s Entrepreneurial Communities Coach. Dan worked as an outdoor recreation program director at Ohio University, and as faculty with SUNY Delhi College of Technology. His main focus at Ohio University was to design and implement program initiatives based on an experiential learning approach to assist with student and community leadership development.

Dan’s work with community development led him through Frost Valley YMCA where he helped to launch the Newark Partnership for Families initiative, directed the Active Older Adult program, and coordinated recreation and wellness programming that served over 6,000 participants annually. Dan completed degrees in education at Penn State University (BS) and Minnesota State University (MS), and most recently finished his MBA at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. He presently lives in Amesville Ohio with his wife and three children. You can contact Dan at dan@ruralaction.org for more information on the Entrepreneurial Communities Initiative.

 Sponsors + Partners


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