Starting a new business in Italy: small town or big city?

Starting a new business in Italy: small town or big city?

When considering the possibility of starting a new business, most of us focus on what we would like to do and how, and we tend to take the “where” for granted. Even those who plan to start a business in a foreign Country tend to focus on the easiest or more familiar options. Some will pick the capital city, which is usually synonymous with better business connections and a more international environment, while others will choose to move to a city they have already visited, for no better reason that it is at least partly familiar. If you are planning of starting a new business in Italy, however, we can offer at least 4 reasons you should start your new business in a small town rather than in a city.

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Starting a new business in Italy: small town or big city?

Your business needs context

When drafting your business plan, you need to factor in several variables, such as competition, size of market and your placement therein, and whether or not the product or service you are going to provide is already available on that market and to what extent. However, it’s not only your brand new business that needs to be put into context: you do too. Cost of living and quality of life, for instance, need to be considered, particularly in the first months of your enterprise, when earnings might not be rolling in at full speed yet, but expenses will probably be at their highest. Moving to a big – and likely expensive – city might force you into a faster pace than you are able to handle and burn you out before you can get your new business up and running.

How small is a small town?

From an entrepreneur’s perspective, a small town is any urban area with less than a million people. There are plenty of cities in Italy that fit this simple requirement and offer excellent quality of life and affordable housing. Drawbacks might include a pressing need to learn the language as quickly as possible and the customary difficulties of trying to fit into a close-knit community.

Local and global markets

We are all familiar with the classic tale of the small-town entrepreneur that looks at a row of empty shops and sees potential, is seized by the desire to create jobs for the local community and strives for a healthier work-life balance in the process. This might be the case for certain types of business, particularly those who have a local market, whereas startuppers who aim at reaching their customers online might not relate to it. And yet, the stories of several international startups opening in small towns across Italy tell a rather different tale. In fact, those who plan to position themselves on the global market by providing online services, are those that profit the most from living in a town, rather than a big city. Online businesses don’t need to be located in a metropolitan commercial district, as they will have to compete for their customer’s attention on global marketplaces. Their shop windows can be accessed from anywhere and can be positioned on the hottest platforms, while their owners enjoy the simple pleasures of being part of a small community and taking life at an easier pace.

How will I fit in?

The diffusion of the English language as the lingua franca of the western world has allowed large communities of expats to prosper more or less everywhere. English, however, is both the safety blanket and the bane of those who rely on it to get by in a foreign Country. While speaking English will help you get through the paces of settling in a new place quicker, it may also prevent you from learning the language of your Country of residence, forcing you to interact exclusively with other expats at best a handful of locals. Moving to a small town, in which speaking English is rarely an option, will probably make for a harder beginning, but it will force you to immerse yourself in the local language and culture, which is the best way to become a part of the community. You could get the best of both worlds by moving to one of the towns that have become vibrant startup hubs over the past few years.

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She is a part-time digital nomad. She would go full-time, if only she could stay away from Berlin for long enough without pining for a Pretzel. She was born in Italy and she enjoys life as an expat, but visits home often enough and can still remember how to bake a perfect lasagna. She is passionate about writing, marketing, languages and the systematic demolition of cultural stereotypes.

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