Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present a methodology for incubating business ideas in rural communities in Portugal. The work provides an example of a bottom-up approach to rural entrepreneurship. Design/methodology/approach – The paper analyses case study of an entrepreneurial support organisation conceived and used in rural European regions and aiming at local development through entrepreneurial boost. Findings – Although the methodology for incubating business ideas was adapted from a similar situation in France, its originality comes from the description of how the awareness of local specificities requires a calibration of the framework. Research limitations/implications – The case study is the outcome of a pioneering study of incubation of business ideas in rural areas. Further research needs to be taken in order to claim generalisability of these findings to other less favoured target groups. Practical implications – The incubation of business ideas can be used to encourage local development in declining rural regions. It is important to calibrate the framework used to the local/regional reality. Originality/value – Apart from being innovative in providing a supportive entrepreneurial infrastructure with mentoring people-based support in the creation of new firms in rural areas, it is also a nation-wide entrepreneurial service innovation.