Welcome to the Growing Small Towns Podcast, a bi-weekly podcast dedicated to sharing the best of what’s working in small towns and receive updates about the Growing Small Towns Innovation Lab, events, and programs. Hang around long enough, your growth is guaranteed.


Ingenuity + Resourcefulness in Small Towns

Resourcefulness and ingenuity are often found in rural America, and the foundation of both of those things are connection and community, and this week’s episode is all about how to go about fostering connection, how we invite people in, and what happens when people feel invested in their small towns. As someone who grew up in a small town(in our very own North Dakota!) but who has lived and traveled in communities of many sizes and is now a researcher and expert in rural resiliency, our guest for episode 89, Dr. Kendra Rosencrans, understands the power of community. In this episode, she shares her wisdom plus some amazing actionable tips and tricks for building community and inviting connection into our own lives to foster resourcefulness and ingenuity to help our small towns grow and thrive.  Read more….

Building Social Capital in Small Towns



This week Rebecca is sharing her top ideas for better handling the people side of change management—something that she’s dealt with head-on over the past year while building Growing Small Towns. She talks about personal growth, the discomfort that comes with that growth, and the critical importance of building and leveraging the social capital in your community or company as you seek to build consensus around ideas.

Key takeaway: we can get all the processes, systems, and data right, but if we don’t take the time to truly invest in social capital, our ideas will fall flat. And, the time required to build commitment and buy-in can be tremendous, but that time will pay off in spades when Launch Day arrives. Read more….

Rural Bus Tour with Jodee Bock


We’re back with the first episode of the new season and we’re so excited! Our guest for this episode is Jodee Bock, Director of People Development with BNG Team, and a participant in this summer’s Rural Bus Tour. Jodee joins us to talk about the tour, about urban-rural collaboration, and corporate investment in small towns. This episode also includes a little update about what’s been going on with Growing Small Towns–big things have been happening while we’ve been away for the summer! Read more….

Behind the Scenes with The Market on the Plaza


Today’s guests are repeat visitors! Brodie Mueller and Carly Pochop, founders of The Market on the Plaza and the Rural Revolution podcast are back to talk to Rebecca about how their first month of business went. We can all watch what gets posted on social media, but as people who want to inspire others to chase their big dreams in their rural places, these two know the value of sharing what happens behind the scenes. Read more….

Climbing a Mountain


Rebecca is flying solo today with something that’s been on her heart and mind for a long time. In February, Rebecca and her family went on a trip to Arizona for a breather, some warm weather, and a chance to connect with family. And maybe an energy vortex. You know. While there, she and her husband and three children went on a hike up Cathedral Rock and she found so many parallels between that amazing hike and doing big things in small towns. Read more….

Meet the Maker: Amanda Hagen of Heartstrings Art Studio


We are so excited to share our first Meet the Maker episode with you! Meet the Maker is all about highlighting small-town artists and makers who enrich our communities and make them more beautiful. This episode features Amanda Hagen, an artist that we are so excited to be working with for the Growing Small Towns building. Amanda is an architect by trade who leaned way in to her lifelong love of painting during the pandemic and eventually started Heartstrings Art Studio. This is the coolest story full of God winks and kindness and community and really leaning in to what you love. Read more….

How the Media Can Help Small Towns


When our founder, Rebecca, was invited to be a guest on Studio 701, a lifestyle show featuring all things North Dakota, she knew she wanted to invite the host and producer, Amber, to be a guest on our podcast! Amber shares the story of how she created the show, how she thinks about media now, and offers some great ideas for those of us living in small towns to ensure our stories and voices are heard. Read more….

Crossover Episode Part Deux


We’re back with Brodie and Carly of the Rural Revolution Podcast for a general life and status update! If you missed the first episode with Brodie and Carly, you can find it hereRead more….

Running a Global Business from a Small Rural Community


When you meet today’s guest, Charissa Rubey, you’ll likely be charmed by her salt-of-the-earth friendliness and unassuming nature. But don’t let that fool you—named North Dakota’s Small Business Person of the Year in 2020, Charissa, alongside her husband, Dave—whom she affectionately refers to as her favorite person in the world—run a manufacturing company with 25 employees and a global dealer network over 700 worldwide.

And they do it all from a town of less than 50 people that no longer even has a post office.

She joins us to share her incredible story. Read more….


Starting a Small-Town Conference

Our local law enforcement agencies are the backbones of our small towns and unless we’re part of that world, we often don’t stop to think about the impact on these professionals dealing with people in our communities when they’re at their worst. 

Today’s guest, Melinda Padilla Lynch, is part of that world and in fact, in her role as an Administrative Assistant to a local police department, she’s an integral part of making everything run smoothly.

When she was feeling like she could use more connection, support, training, and education to help her be more successful (and handle the stress more effectively) she started looking to see what was available to her in North Dakota, the state where she works. 

Finding next to nothing, she started to think about what it might look like to start a conference for this important group of people, and she joins us today to share how she did just that.  Read more….

Who We Are Now

When she found herself out of a job in the midst of a global pandemic, Michelle Fishburne got the idea to hop in her RV and travel the country to find out how people have fared throughout 2020. Her oral history project called Who We Are Now highlights the first-hand stories she’s gathered on her journey and today, she joins us on the podcast to share her insights into what she’s learned about people in small towns. 

At a time when so many things threaten to divide us, this episode reminds us of all the ways in which we’re united. If we can “park judgment” as Michelle says, and keep our minds and hearts open, there is nothing we can’t get through. Read more….

Pursuing Personal Development in a Small Town

Our guests on today’s show are a pair we lovingly deemed “Ord, Nebraska’s power couple” but not because of their affluence and important names or titles, but because of their hearts, their mindfulness, and the way they live their lives with complete intention. 

Together, they run a construction company and a busy household and they join us on the show to talk about the impact a focus on personal development and growth has had on their lives. Talking about topics like a growth mindset, limiting beliefs, and choosing your highest intention are not things that are often discussed on Main Street in small towns. After hearing this episode, you might feel like maybe they should be. Read more….



The Mission-Driven Small Business

When people start businesses, they usually get the most freaked out about all the decisions and details that the process entails. Finding the right suppliers and vendors, creating a marketing plan, and figuring out who to hire—these are the things we spend most of our time considering. 
Today’s guest, Pam Burch, founder of The Peacock Mercantile in Hettinger, ND, didn’t approach it this way. Instead, Pam spent the time it takes to really define and clarify her mission for starting her business. It’s common for people to mistake mission/vision/value statements as fluffy, touchy-feely, non-critical things. Pam is proving how a clear, grounded mission statement makes all those other decisions easier and in this episode, she shares why. Read more….

Alpacas, Fiber Arts, and an Old Schoolhouse

Imagine the owner of a fiber mill partnering with a needle felting sculpture artist. Now try to picture that duo finding, buying, and renovating a 100 year-old building in a rural North Dakota town of about 60 people to house a future facility where people can stay, meet the alpaca/sheep herd, watch how the fiber mill works, eat amazing food prepared by a chef, and get their hands into creating your fiber art projects.

Can you picture it? Does it sound like a pipe dream? Well, you probably can’t and it’s not. Our podcast guests today are Chris Armbrust, the mill owner, and Teresa Perleberg, the needle felting artist and what was described above is what they’ve collaborated on to create and build.

If there was ever an episode that inspired us to believe in the power of what’s possible, this is it. You can’t help but be encouraged by their story. Read more…

Rewriting the Rural Narrative

Ben Winchester
As a research educator with the University of Minnesota Extension’s Center for Community Vitality, today’s guest, Ben Winchester digs into the research data that helps us better understand the truth behind the idea that “rural America is dying”. Not only has he found that the data doesn’t suggest that, but he also helps us see that we are more in control of re-shaping that narrative than we might otherwise believe.  Read more…

How to be Hopeful Going into 2021

Our host, Rebecca is flying solo for this episode, and she’s talking about hope and the new year. 2020 was hard, friends, there’s just no denying it. But this isn’t about looking back on a hard year, it’s about looking forward to what’s coming and some ways that you can keep up your momentum and hope in the new year. This episode is full of encouragement and actionable steps to keep getting closer to your goals, no matter what they are. Read more…

Civic Engagement in Small Towns

As a Civic Engagement and Leadership Specialist with NDSU Extension, today’s guest, Jodi Bruns, knows small towns. She shares her perspective about how to help small communities embrace change, adopt best practices to encourage leadership development, and change the narrative about who we are.  Read more…

Fostering Regional Collaboration

It’s our first-ever crossover episode! Our guests today are Brodie Mueller and Carly Pochop. Both successful business owners in the rural community of Aberdeen, SD, and are co-hosts of the Rural Revolution Podcast and recently co-founded a brand new company called The Market on the Plaza. They join us to talk about the value of collaboration among people and communities because in rural places, no one can do it alone. Read more…

Creative Placemaking in Small Towns

Judy Larson
Judy Larson, writer, musician, and artist, can’t remember a time when she wouldn’t have considered herself a “creative”. On today’s show, she shares her journey of embracing her own creativity, nurturing those skills and talents in others, and the impact it’s had on her own life and her community. Not sure what creative placemaking even is? You need to listen to this one! Read more…

Holding a Vision for Small Towns

Amy Suda
From an early age, today’s guest, Amy Suda, knew that being an entrepreneur would be her future. Being born and raised in Grafton ND, and marrying her high school sweetheart, she also knew that when the time was right, she’d open her business in her hometown. In this episode, she shares the journey to starting her new skincare clinic (opened in May of 2020) and how owning a small-town business has further fueled her vision for her community. Read more…


Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Small Towns

Are rural communities the future hotspot for entrepreneurship? Today’s guest, Jordan DeGree, founder of the Rural Ideas Network, sits down with us to share why he believes they are, and what it means for those of us living and working in rural America. We talk about how the network helps small towns to encourage entrepreneurship, foster creativity, and drive innovation. Whether you’re an entrepreneur in a rural community or a person who cares about supporting small businesses in your town, this episode is for you! Be sure to catch Jordan’s Fast Five (we love a solid soapbox!) to hear his answer to the question posed above. It’s such an exciting time to be in a small town! Read more…

Introducing the Growing Small Towns Show!

Growing Small Towns Teaser Episode Graphic

In this teaser episode, we are excited to introduce The Growing Small Towns Show! Your host, Rebecca Undem, shares all the things you need to know about why we’re rebranding the show, the reasons for these changes, and what to look forward to in the coming months. Read more…

Confronting Racism in Small Towns

On today’s show, we’re joined by Amber Adrian, former Teach For America teacher, to talk about what racism means, how it shows up in our world, and what we, even in our small towns, can do about it. Read more…

Reimagining an Old Movie Theater

On today’s show, Rebecca chats with Adam and Karlyn Armbruster about starting a meaningful, community-focused business in a small town. Adam and Karlyn are both practicing physicians who yearned for some pizzazz for their small-town main street, and what started as a pipe dream ended up as a full-blown business idea and a plan to renovate the town’s nearly-century-old movie theater. Read more…

Purposeful Repositioning

On today’s show, we’re joined by Rebecca’s good friend, Patrick Kirby, to talk about how to move forward with purpose during this difficult time. When all our events are being canceled and the “way we’ve always done it” won’t work anymore, we need to get creative and Patrick’s a great guy to spitball with. He recently moved up his in-person conference 3 whole months to offer it virtually because he knew his audience needed it. He shares the best of what he learned to help us make a similar positioning. Read more…

Lessons From COVID-19 + Hope for Small Towns with Rebecca Undem

On today’s show, Rebecca is flying solo! She’s sharing what she has learned so far from COVID-19, the clarity and opportunity she has found for the future, and the hope she has for small towns. Read more…

Episode 63: COVID-19 Community Response

On today’s show, we’re joined by returning guest, Lee Schwartz, founder of Small Town Labs, to discuss some ideas that communities could consider when dealing with the economic fallout of COVID-19. Read more…

Episode 62: Scaling a Small Business

On today’s show, we’re joined by our guest, Marissa Hoffman, one-half of the sister-duo who founded the brand called The Midwest Girl. She shares the journey of this popular brand’s startup and how she and her sister pragmatically scaled it over time. Read more…

Episode 61: Battling Infertility in a Small Town

On the show today, Tara Brandner, nurse practitioner and passionate infertility advocate, joins us to talk about how her own journey of infertility in a town of around 750 people led her to form a non-profit to help other women feel less alone and to reduce the stigma associated with infertility. Read more…

Episode 60: Creatively Contributing in Small Towns

On the show today, Jessie Veeder, musician, rancher, and author of a weekly column in North Dakota’s largest news publication, joins us to talk about her journey back to her rural community in western North Dakota. She shares about growing up in her community, and how she wasn’t encouraged to return due to the belief that there wasn’t a future for her there. Now, after making her way back home, she’s contributing so much to the vibrancy of her community and she encourages us to do the same. Read more..

Episode 59: When Business Uncovers Passion

On the show today, Stephanie Wilde, founder of Say Anything Jewelry, shares her entrepreneurial journey of starting and growing her jewelry business. She offers lots of insights and wisdom about how to be a business owner and she also shares how her customers turned her on to a cause that she now passionately advocates for—suicide prevention. Rural America is grappling with an increase in suicide so this timely episode is not to be missed. Read more…

Episode 58: Being Artistic in a Small Town

On the show today, Terra Cypher, founder of Wild Goat Design, an Etsy shop where she creates hand-lettered signs and other items, joins us to share how she started her business, what it’s meant to be really encouraged by her loved ones, and why she thinks small towns are the best place to start a new business. Read more…

Episode 57: Blazing Trails in Small Towns

On the show today, Sarah Calhoun, founder of Red Ants Pants and the Red Ants Pants Foundation, which started the Red Ants Pants Musical—the Montana Office of Tourism Event of the Year as determined by the governor of Montana. She shares her passion and love for small towns, along with valuable insights for starting a business and creating a movement regardless of the size of your small town. If you love your small town and want to be inspired to create something that puts your community on the map and gets everyone involved, listen in to this episode! Read more…

Episode 56: Cultivating Community

On the show today, Elizabeth Shipstead, founder of The Rural Sisterhood, shares her story of starting the blog and the eventual Facebook group. She shares about the importance of having a place to be truly vulnerable and how each of us can create a solution to the problems we face in our own lives. Read more…

Episode 55: Dealing with Unsupportive People

On today’s show, Rebecca is back to share some tips! Today, we’re focusing on how to handle people who seem unsupportive of your big ideas or projects. Balancing the need for people’s support and the desire to still feel like a normal person can be tricky when you’re striving for something big. Read more…

Episode 54: Celebrating Backroads + Promoting Local

On the show today, Joan shares her entrepreneurial journey—which started with her selling everything under the sun as a young girl—and her philosophy that you’re never too old to learn something new. As a rural champion, Joan has a passion for celebrating all that’s to love about living and working in rural America. Read more…

Episode 53: Food + Community in Small Towns

On the show today, Deanne shares how she turned her need to create farm-family-friendly meals into a successful blog where she offers practical tips to help busy families keep mealtimes a priority. She also shares how she successfully offered a community dinner in her small town.  Read more…

Episode 52: 5 Things to Stop Doing in Your Small Town

On the show today, the show’s host, Rebecca, shares 5 specific things to commit to stop doing in 2020 to gain more support for your ideas and really get things done in your community. These things will help to overcome groupthink, be more open and transparent in your communication, and help you take accountability for your individual role in the organizations you’re involved with. Read more…

Episode 51: Equipped to Execute with Rebekah Scott

On the show today, Rebekah shares her story of starting her business—she started sewing at 4 years old!—and growing it to a point where she can bless other women and allow them to have lives that support their own values. Rebekah offers great tips for how to stay organized and be sure to check out her website along with links to her podcast and book! Read more…

On the show today, Rebecca shares the top ideas presented by the amazing guests on the show this past season. As your small town looks to the future in 2020, we encourage you to think bigger about what your town could be. We hope these ideas will help! Read more…

Episode 49: Save Your Town with Deb Brown and Becky McCray

On the show today, Deb Brown and Becky McCray of Save Your Town share the results of their 2019 Survey of Rural Challenges and offer a variety of ideas about how we can think differently about how to make things happen in our small towns. You’re going to want to get a pen and some paper ready, because Deb and Becky offer many ideas for small-town growth you can implement right away! Read more…

Episode 48: Pursuing Passions in a Small Town with Dayna Jones

On the show today, Dayna will inspire you to get out there and chase down your dream. She’s a kindergarten teacher by day and takes stages at night as a singer/songwriter. She even shares about how she landed on stage with her idol, Martina McBride, singing a duet! (Check out the links at the bottom to watch the video!) Read more…

Episode 47: Shifting Mindsets in Small Towns with Joe Bartmann

Today’s guest is Joe Bartmann, President of Dakota Resources, an organization that helps rural communities help themselves through innovative processes, tools, training, and research. He joins the show to chat about how small towns can begin shifting their mindsets to embrace creativity, innovation, and the belief that everyone should love the town they live in. Read more…

Episode 46: Mental Health in Small Towns with Tiffaney Holm

On the show today, Tiffaney bravely shares her story of losing her dad to suicide and how she’s grown from and used that experience to guide herself through her own journey as an adult living with a mental health diagnosis. She offers ideas to help all of us feel better equipped to talk about and support each other if dealing with mental health concerns. Read more…

Episode 45: Freelancing in a Small Town with Wendy Royston

On the show today, Wendy Royston will inspire anyone who has a marketable skill of any kind to explore the various ways it could be leveraged into freelance work, regardless of the size of the town where you live. Wendy loves the freedom her work offers to balance her responsibilities of being a mom to her five daughters plus the important choices she’s modeling for her kids as she pursues her passion in a non-traditional way. Read more…

Episode 44: Big Impact in a Small Town with Aubrey Mathis

Today’s guest is Aubrey Mathis, newly published author of the book “Confessions of a Small-Town Florist” and founder of the new non-profit organization Save The Teacher, which exists to bridge funding gaps for rural, small-town teachers and school districts.

On the show today, Aubrey Mathis shares why she believes small-town people are better able to make a big impact than what we’d typically believe.

As a small-town girl who just “went for it” with both her book and the dream of the non-profit she had on her heart, she wants to encourage all of us that live in rural places to lean into what makes them wonderful and think about what it might mean to change the narrative about who small-town people are.

Episode 43: Digital Marketing in Small Towns with Molly Knuth

On the show today, Molly Knuth—or Iowa Rebecca as you’ll hear she now calls herself—joins Rebecca to chat about her journey of becoming a social media marketing expert that supports small-town entrepreneurs and small business owners to better connect with their customers.

Molly shares a wealth of information about how to start doing social media marketing, even if you’re scared or you believe you just don’t have the time to devote to doing it well. She makes a case for why all digital marketing (website and social media) is here to stay and what local businesses are missing out on if they don’t have a web presence. Read more…

Episode 42: Love the One You’re With with Rebecca Undem

On the show today, Rebecca gives you a peek behind the scenes of a recent workshop she provided for Dakota Resources—see all the contact info below—in which she offered several strategies for investing in the people and businesses that already exist in your small town.

The best way to attract new people and businesses is through the evangelists who are so happy to live and work here that they tell everyone they know. The best advertising has always been happy, fulfilled customers.

These strategies can also be applied to existing customers if you’re an entrepreneur, as well. We spend an awful lot of time contemplating how to get “new”: new people, new customers, new residents, new businesses. Rebecca simply encourages us to ask what would happen if we poured all that time and attention back into the ones who are already here? Read more...

Episode 41: Creating Connections in Small Towns with Chrystal Checketts

On the show today, Chrystal Checketts joins Rebecca to discuss the importance of cultivating real connection in small towns, which requires honesty and vulnerability that doesn’t naturally occur in many rural environments.

Chrystal is a “homecomer” and she shares of the beauty of being able to appreciate and honor the work-ethic and legacy of her ranching/farming family while also trying to shape the future for a more open-minded and open-hearted community. Read more…

Episode 40: Continuous Learning in Small-Town Schools with Kraig Steinhoff

On the show today, Kraig Steinhoff, Superintendent of Oakes Public Schools, shares a new and exciting approach to education that is being piloted with selected schools among the nation. Kraig and his team at OPS have a reputation for being innovative, and Kraig believes it’s partly due to their commitment to demonstrating continuous improvement as a school district.

We talk about how the future of education is changing because the future workplace our kids will eventually enter is changing. He shares how important he believes the collaboration between the school and community is as well as what he’d suggest all small-town residents do to take an active role in the success of the community’s education system. Read more…

Episode 39: Small-Town Fundraising with Patrick Kirby

On the show today, Patrick Kirby, founder of Do Good Better Consulting, shares his thoughts on how small-town organizations and nonprofit groups can take a fresh approach to fundraising. We talk about how to make a bigger impact with a simpler approach that’s person-focused and aligned with your values.

Let’s face it: we’re all looking for new ideas to raise money for all the groups we support in our communities and Patrick is just the guy to ask! Read more…

Ep. 38: Five Lessons From A Small-Town Startup with Rebecca Undem

On the show today, Rebecca shares five specific lessons she’s learned while trying to get her social-entrepreneurship startup off the ground in her hometown.

Rebecca shares the big vision for her business venture and where she’s at in the process along with five main takeaways for you to consider if you’re trying to get a big project, idea, or business off the ground in your small town. Read more…

Ep. 37: How to Bloom Where You’re Planted with Elaine Sveet

On the show today, Rebecca chats with Elaine Sveet, a pastor, wife, mom, and founder of a new online community called Chasing Abundant Life, which was created to help women connect about the daily joys and struggles of life. Read more…

Ep. 36: Small Town Marketing Ideas with Lee Schwartz

Welcome to this episode of the Small Town Big Talk Show. Today, we have Lee Schwartz, who is the founder of Small Town Labs and is passionate about helping small towns develop a marketing plan to help them be sustainable in the future. Read more…


Copy of Episode 34 Thumbnail


Episode 34 Thumbnail


Episode 33 Thumbnail


Episode 3 Thumbnail


Copy of Episode 30 Thumbnail


Episode 30 Thumbnail (2)


Episode 29 Thumbnail


Copy of Episode 27 Thumbnail


Episode 26 Thumbnail (1)


Episode 26 Thumbnail


Episode 24 Thumbnail


Copy of Episode 23 Thumbnail


Episode 23 Thumbnail


Episode 22 Thumbnail (1)


Episode 20 Thumbnail


Copy of Episode 19 Thumbnail


Copy of Episode 18 Thumbnail


Episode 18 Thumbnail


EP 17


Episode 16 Thumbnail


Episode 15 Thumbnail


Copy of Episode 13 Thumbnail


Copy of Episode 12 Thumbnail


Copy of Episode 11 Thumbnail


Episode 10 Thumbnail (1)


Episode 10 Thumbnail


Episode 9 Thumbnail (1)


Episode 8 Thumbnail


Episode 7 Thumbnail


Episode 6 Thumbnail


Episode 5 Thumbnail


Episode 4 Thumbnail


Episode 3 Thumbnail


Episode 2 Thumbnail


Faith, Family and Farming