PurposeEntrepreneurial ecosystems – the inter-related forces that promote and sustain regional entrepreneurship – are receiving intense academic, policymaker and practitioner attention. Prior research primarily focuses on mature entrepreneurial ecosystems (EEs) in large, urban areas. Scholars are slow to examine the functioning of EEs in small towns, which face unique challenges in spurring entrepreneurial activity. Most notably, small town EEs are dependent on a key stakeholder group – local customers – which receives almost no attention in prior research on ecosystems. The purpose of this paper is to develop a theoretical framework for understanding the role of customers in EEs.Design/methodology/approachThis paper integrates work on the service-dominant logic and service ecosystems with entrepreneurship research to theorize about the influence of customers in small town EEs.FindingsThe proposed theory draws attention to the role of customers in evaluating the services provided by entrepreneurs and co-creating value in small town EEs. Theory is developed about the influence of three sets of customer characteristics on entrepreneurial activities: the local market potential (based on the number of local and transient customers), customers’ abilities to access the ecosystem (based on income levels) and customers’ preferences for services provided by the ecosystem’s entrepreneurs (based on preferences for innovativeness, local versus global brands and in- versus out-shopping).Originality/valueEntrepreneurial ecosystems research has implicitly adopted a producer-dominant logic focusing on entrepreneurs and their ventures as the primary creators of value. The proposed theoretical framework applies the service-dominant logic to EEs and conceptualizes EEs as a unique type of service ecosystem. The theorizing generates implications for scholars and practitioners and suggests that more work is needed at the interface of entrepreneurship, marketing and regional economic development.
Journal of Research in Marketing and Entrepreneurship – Emerald Publishing
Published: Oct 15, 2018