It takes a great deal of awareness to think of who exactly are "entrepreneurs." Sometimes we think of retail friends selling their style or fashion of clothing in a store front. It might even be a website strictly online, or out of their home. I remember when I first heard the word "Fax" back in the 90's; I had no idea what that was. I felt similar when I heard the word Entrepreneur 8 years ago! It seemed like a big word with certain connotations in my mind, and my thought was "a person as a big CEO" or "or they're in a metropolitan area".
It's become familiar now as I coach entrepreneurs with dreams. It's taken a shift in my thinking. All those vendors who sell at Farmer's Markets are entrepreneurs too. I am thrilled to add Melissa and Darin of Waldner Farms on my directory. See their listing "here"! They put the capital "E" in entrepreneur and I'm happy to promote their produce and their POPCORN!!! It's great and they work hard. If you're in the Webster Area, passing through, or you fish and camp in Waubay, stop in at their Farm, their Farmer's Market on Tuesday and Saturdays. You can also go to their website... .
I do feel positivity mounting. Do YOU? Is your community feeling it?
I mentioned last time about synergy and "feeling" it. I cannot put my finger on it; I do feel that there is something different in the air than I felt 4-5 years ago.
Is it the result of Dakota Resources, SDSU Extension Energize, Grow South Dakota and many others that are helping small, rural communities?
When I was asked to apply for the first position of Community Coordinator for Philip, SD, I was not sure what I was getting myself into or what the job entailed. I would quickly find out--the sky was the limit. I was hired by Philip's Chamber of Commerce. This to me spoke volumes and STILL speaks volumes when I think back to a community that had the capability of having such a vision to hire a staff person for community development and in the process help with economic development. To me, economic and community development are linked together; you cannot have one without the other in rural.
When I started my position in Philip, grants seemed out of reach. It seemed, unlike today, they were not in place to support rural communities very readily. George Mickelson, Governor at the time, had just encouraged thinking outside the box and building community centers in communities, but he also focused on 'cottage industries'. Today they are called "start-ups" and the word "entrepreneur" is used. I believe he was a triggering device that eventually lead to Governor Daugaard's successful policy on Economic Development and where it is today with GOED and leadership that keeps SD in the forefront for business, leadership, development. Along with all that, we are encouraging others to return to SD, or simple give SD a try for living and working and to discover for themselves we are a great state in which to do business, and more.
The insurgence I'm sensing, I believe is real. I see my professional colleagues developing agri-tourism, downtown revitalization, festivals, mural art, entrepreneurial incubators, and much more to keep their communities growing. People seem fired up. Just recently at a RuralX Summit Conference, a colleague Tammy Caffee from Hand County ED Corp saw an idea while on vacation, and brought the idea to a breakout session attended registrants. Sharing the idea planted the seed and the brainstorming was off and running.
There are doers and there are those that sit back and watch and do nothing. There are naysayers and then there are yeasayers. We have resources right under our noses to tap into. We have returnees and newcomers in our communities that have experienced life elsewhere. We have locals that are willing to work and do. There are positive people that "show up" at community events. We need to tap into this synergy and move within our communities. Don't be caught watching from the sidelines, help build the future for your community. ...and start today!
It's time people,
I've learned a great deal in this past year. I've also raced through a variety of moods and thoughts about my mission. I'm proud to say my Travel Backroads website has been rock'in it for a year now. So, Happy Birthday to my website!!
So a couple things I have learned...
I've learned that I'm NOT much of a sales person. I believe my business should succeed on it's own merit. In other words, look at it, see the price and what I'm offering you. It's a NO BRAINER!! :D I know there is a likelihood it could fail because I am not a salesperson. I like the fact that my videos (social media and youtube) can talk for themselves. I'm loving the word of mouth system too!
I've learned that although you think people are loyal, they are not always. Disappointingly, I'm able to put a name to it and recognize it in people I trusted. I therefore have to move in a new direction and decide then how I feel about trust with others. I want the people I serve with my website, and the businesses I promote "locally", to trust me, and let it be obvious.
I've learned that businesses are working every minute of the day to stay alive. In just this past year, two businesses that I am aware of and had contact with, closed their doors. I actually am sad when that happens because it might mean another empty building on a rural community's main street. It could mean that person worked endlessly only to have their hopes and dreams dashed. Hopefully they find their next niche'.
I've also learned that some businesses do not know how to play well with others. In other words, "collaboration". Some owners are in biz strictly for themselves and not for others. This day and age businesses that are succeeding are working together and bringing customers to their little world because of that.
I've learned in the 8 years I've been an economic development director, there is a 'new rural' that seems to be emerging on the scene. There is something different in the air now. The synergy level seems off the charts in my small regional realm. "Newcomers" and "Returnees" are also leading a charge. New ideas are breaking out and the sky is the limit; work with those that feel the same way.
In closing, I've also learned that I'm grateful for those that comment to me that they appreciate what I stand for and what I bring to "local". The feedback has been amazing and I'm appreciative that you notice it. You've noticed the fact that this...
Is NOT a JOB TO ME- but something more.
--oh YAH--It is my PASSION! And learning, in all its forms, is great!
Happy July and find your piece of synergy for local,
Joan, back from a 'blogging hiatus'
Owner of Travel Backroads
If you or you get someone else to sign-up for my emails, I will give them 20% off a new basic listing price for their business or a business of their choosing.
What Brings You Joy...
Certain things bring me joy: my grandsons, house plants, growing Iris because my mom was a master at them, or instrumental sound tracks from films like Out of Africaor Rudy. Listening to some music moves me deeply.
Helping promote "local business" brings me joy. I cannot describe the passion I feel, nor the desire I have to help and do what I can to help them succeed. I often wonder where this passion comes from. I knew when I started Travel Backroads that I had found that passion.
I was told "You care a lot more about this than I do...
I was told last year when I was discussing the future of my directory "You are right, that you care a lot more about this particular project than I do." I'm grateful that somewhere deep down inside, I genuinely desire to see "businesses" succeed. I welcome the challenge to help drive traffic through their doors regardless of where they are.
This past week I was excited to attend a South Dakota State University Extension Conference called "Energize!" AND, it did just that! It was for small town businesses, chamber of commerces, economic development directors, and individuals that want to work to inspire and energizetheir community.
Red Ants Pants....
Have you ever heard of Sarah Calhoun and Red Ants Pants? I had once, maybe about the time Sarah was beginning, from my God-daughter Bethany starting to tell Sarah's story. I remember thinking "that's terrific, how cool is that." This week I met Sarah in person and heard her amazing story at the conference. She's a young entrepreneur that had an idea and ran with it; a work pant for women who have curves. Not women trying to fit into men's pants. She grew up in Connecticut but transplanted herself to White Sulfur Springs, Montana. To sell her pants, she has taken it on the road in her Silver Airstream, made her own commercials, to creating a Red Ants Pants Music Festival where thousands attend and from the funds made, started her foundation. Next she's kicking off a leadership program for women and she has more dreams lined up. Sarah is a success already regardless of how many pants she's sold or not. She had a dream and went after it with hard work and dedication. She's an amazing example of entrepreneurship and a woman; one that inspired me instantly. She started in her 20's; I'm starting in my 60's.
When I grow up, I want to be just like her.
Enthusiasm, tenacity, dedication and passion are four characteristics one has to have in business. One cannot talk about it forever; just begin. Sarah started with her idea, the book Small Business for Dummies and her story began...
I feel the joy I started this blog about--having met Sarah, learning her story and knowing she's a BFF to my God-daughter Bethany... what a great combo.
And I love telling others' stories...
Seeing this article, I’ve been saying this forever and felt at times I’m talking to a brick wall. I even talk to our school children in classrooms when given the chance too. Travel Backroads online directory is just one way I have put actions to my words. I’ve made listing in my Directory so affordable and still I don’t think people “understand.” It’s about seeing the “big” picture here.
Part of the reason I started Travel Backroads is for this very reason. I have blogged about it on my website, I’ve even written articles on it for my job as an economic development director. It’s not just the backroads nor is my Directory just for the backroads. It’s for all those local businesses, stores, specialty foods, and more.
But hit a store like Herbergers and everyone feels it. Now the fight has become even bigger and we’re staring a giant in the face. Now it’s a race to save some of these stores that took business away from our small towns to begin with. We’re going to lose some favorite stores because were buying online, taxes aren’t being paid, dollars are going away. (hoping this changes with our state government to tax us when buying more online.)
Now I begin to wonder is what we’re doing FUTILE?? My starting a directory to help small communities on the highway‘s and byways or downtown cities because theyre independently small businesses, is it a waste of time?
I think I can picture what those early businesses in the 1900’s felt when our country was getting established. How they must have felt when the larger community took their business away and they had to close up shop.
What does the future hold? What do you envision? Use our stores just for items we run out of? We’re fighting to keep a certain lifestyle from being eradicated. What does the future hold for all sizes of communities? It’s coming folks, it’s here and it’s changing.
Have you thought about your role in this?
By Katy Kassian
Long before co-promotion became a buzzword, we were doing it. Most of us were. It is a means of staying relevant and sustainable in even the worst of times and in the most remote of locations. Did I mention FREE??? Or nearly Free??
Twenty plus years ago we purchased a restaurant sight-unseen-on-a-handshake at a football game. Yes- that is a true story.
Most of you know that drumming up business in a very small town, off the beaten path, takes creativity and tenacity. We began co-promoting right away. Our reasons were many; to make more money, to raise awareness, to make advertising more affordable, to get people off the interstate, and on to our little highway and to utilize all the assets our bitty town had. Remember- this is before the advent of social media.
We co-pro’d with our neighbors at the little hotel. They had their brochures at our cafe, and we had menus in every room. We constantly advertised together and did many creative promotions- targeting everyone from travelers to truckers.
We co-pro’d with neighboring towns. Our nearest towns had bitty populations- 29, 300 and 175. That is only 600 combined (including our town) in a hundred mile stretch. Each of these towns cafes, (and not much else) and we all had kids- so we began a summer of “cafe racing” We rotated going to each town and having go cart races in front of each cafe.
We co-pro’d with the bitty video store. Dinner and a (rental) Movie promotions. We let customers drop their movies off with us if they were in town early.
Our version of Redneck Revenue was a little unorthodox, but it did was it was intended to do. It also highlighted what cooperation and collaboration can do.
Fast forward 20+ years. We are now in North Dakota. Again- miles from anywhere. We have co-pro’d with MoJo Roast Coffees, Inner Flair Fashions and others- All of them over 100 hundred miles from me. Even in other states. Thanks to the internet and UPS, anything is possible these days! One of my favorite projects was working with MoJo Roast to design and brand custom gift bags for “Dakota Fred” Hurt of Gold Rush fame (on Discovery channel)
What can I say?
Need more inspiration? How about a limo service pairing with a retirement home to offer discounted rides to shopping and appointments? It is a way to stay busy during slow times, and a limo ride would be fun!
How about a local farmer/gardener pairing with a spa- they could sell fresh fruits and veggies to the spa to make into smoothies for their customers.
A B&B or lodge co-promoting with a florist. The florist could provide a weekly centerpiece in exchange for the B&B recommending the florist for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays etc.
A bank and a coffee shop- The bank could offer a ‘free’ coffee card to to the coffee shop to new customers and the coffee shop could in turn promote the offer.
A local contractor could co-promote with the wedding planner to offer discounted services to newlyweds on their fixer-upper.
So~How many things can you think of?? Get creative. Think outside the box. Work together.
Everybody wins when you work together.
Katy "Kate" Kassian is a rural and small town consultant with Tait and Kate Consulting. She and her partner Annette are passionate about helping small towns and local businesses thrive. Drawing on a combined 50+ years of experience, Tait and Kate showcase "whole town" salesmanship and customer service, hidden assets, co-promotions and more. Katy and her family farm is in central North Dakota and is also the owner of Buffalo Gals Mercantile.
Telling People Where to Go
Boy, do I like to do that!! I can bark orders with the best of them! It just dawned on me that I have been experiencing telling others "where to go" for a very long time!
Grayline Bus Tours
For as long as I can remember, (yes that is a long time), I’ve been directing people where to go. And by that I mean—what highway, what by-way, what tourist attraction, and what bus to take.
During my summers in high school and college, my job was working for Grayline Bus Tours in the Black Hills. I sat at a desk in numerous hotel lobbies in Rapid City. Some summers I also drove to other motels and touched base with them about Grayline Tours and brochures..
It was at the height of the tourism ‘years’ that our tour busses were packed full. It was a great time to be in tourism. We had buses going to the Southern Hills and to the Northern Hills and then three times a week to the Passion Play in Spearfish. I worked hard talking to customers and making it easy and convenient for them to get a tour and inform them about what they would be visiting by bus or by their own transportation. Oh, the questions that came up--I could have written a book!
I’ll Be Their Guide
Another job I had during this time was working at a very large campground in Rapid City at the time. It was when Holiday Inn’s had campgrounds and I worked the desk, helping tourists. Those were the best times and I loved my jobs. It came easy for me to guide them on a map and tell there what sites they needed to see. The Holiday Inn Trav’L Park had over 200 sites for camping and that did not include tenting space. There were times that we needed overflow too as the tourism business was booming.
Family and friends had always come out to the Hills when I was growing up. There would be discussions as to what to go see and how to make several days of it, and how to make those destination stops. It continued on into my adult years-- what tourist attractions to go to and what not to miss or any special events going on that we wanted to be sure to visit. Even my father and uncle, during their college years, drove tour buses in the hills.
It’s In My Blood…
I LOVE guiding people and making sure they get to the sites they want to see, or even sites they had no idea about. There are many times that I wish I had gone into tourism as a profession, but now I get the best of all worlds. I get to work on the economic and community development side in our state, rural countryside, and I also help others through Travel Backroads .
Via my online directory, I am wanting to help tourists and weekend travelers find their destination and business, or a service that they should know about. Some people want me to sample a business's chicken, or pie. I love knowing that and enjoy marketing businesses and services. My problem is there is only one of me and thousands of businesses. But I believe I have a service to offer and it IS of VALUE.
I care more than many about local business, I believe that. I will do what it takes to help others know how to find my customers' business. My directory is just getting it’s “feet wet” and we're off and running.
…It Does Comes Natural to Me!
Let's do this!
What are you Passionate about?
I had another conversation the other day with a gentleman. He told me that he does not care whether he shops local or not. He does not care if his community shrivels up and dies, or not. Surely he does care somewhere inside of him.
When do things become an obsession with someone? I think I have crossed over into that obsession zone. My heart kind of fell when I heard him say that so emphatically. Here I am so concerned for our small rural communities and small rural businesses, and he does not really care.
Then I ask myself, why do I care so much?
They say to be worried when you talk to yourself, but be very afraid when you answer yourself back!
I do not know why I care so much, I just do.
I suppose if our grocery stores disappear, we just do the "Amazon" thing or the new Walmart Blue Box, or Hello Fresh or Blue Apron. We can now shop and get a boxed meal and drive up to get it, or if you live a distance away, they will probably mail it to you. This too shall run its course. Entrepreneurs and big box stores have found a new niche'. Big stores especially have to remain pertinent and viable too or they are looking at bankruptcy.
It is Not Easy...
I thought selling Ads, Videos, "The Works" would be easy for me at Travel Backroads. It is not. Some have jumped on my bandwagon and see my vision for their businesses. I live, eat, and breathe Travel Backroads but it's not an easy thing to sell my vision to other businesses. One problem might be that I'm not a salesperson, yet this is the easiest thing in the world for me to sell. I believe in it and I am passionate about what value I am bringing to the table.
We all have to find our passion. I know day in and day out you might face another day where there are few customers or the weather has shut you down again. Maybe you have had to go out of business and your dream came crashing down. Be open to working with others in your community because it is that "co-opetition" that is going to help you in the long run and the "collaboration". It is not easy day in and day out to find that passion. But I think we all just need to think back to what got us started on our dream to begin with.
I have wondered if it is about aging that I do not really care to walk to a Walmart anymore; even with 'falling prices". The whole "Big Box" idea seems so impersonal and I'm not crazy about the size of these mega beasts. (and...specifically produce. I think that Walmarts' have to pluck their fruit trees way before the fruit is even ready and let it ripen in their apple boxes. It seems that most everything is tasteless.) I really do not want to walk from the dog food aisle to the back corner for a gallon of milk. I have a close friend that owned her own business in another location and when Walmart was built in the town next to hers, she never set foot in it. Before "Shop Local" or "Shop Small" was even popular, she probably could have coined the practice of it. She grasped early on how they would affect the business climate in the community it was in and the surrounding communities. Remember Vermont who fought Sam Walton from coming into their state? They fought and held them out temporarily because they knew what would happen. I don't mean to bash Walmart though--I realize they provide many jobs and meet many budgets.
Some specialists in the field of business and the Wall Street Journal are talking about "dead malls". I find that amazing remembering when they were all the rage; but understand they are needing to change as well or they'll end. Strip malls appeal more to me because I can run in and run out after getting what I'm after.
Small Retailers are Increasing
We are definitely seeing a change in "retail." Deb & Becky from SaveYour.Town say that small retailers are increasing at a faster rate. John Schallert states that sales are being made "in person" and that does not always happen in the big stores. Consumers are beginning to look locally. They want to feel a connection to the product or the person making it, or they want to know their purchase really made a difference.
Thinking Outside the Box
I believe what we are witnessing however are the copycat stores who thought the best idea was to add more locations upon locations. Retail however now is being reinvented in some very big ways. If you can think it in your small business, then make it happen. It is going to be those proactive retailers that make themselves "destinations" and provide something new to their customer. The concept will only gather strength. If you can think it, make it happen for your store; creativity, rethinking, being proactive, personal and creating the "experience" will help small retail thrive, and despite competition, to grow. Think outside the box with retail. Try new things: after the normal 'open hours' and track sales during that time, train your employees to sell, embrace "shoppertainment", and the list goes on.
Offline and Online Sales
Spotify encourages "small retailers" to connect by jumping into the "off-line" AND "on-line" arena; make sales every way possible. I'm not an expert but can read and process like everyone when researching. One of the biggest things I'm learning is that you need online for your store as much as you need offline. You need a website to sell. Last summer when I made a video of a store, a woman inquired about a product they saw in the video. Make it easy for the consumer to track your products. Sell, sell, sell...if you can think it, you can make it happen.
Travel Backroads is another tool to use and to help travellers and locals find you. There is nothing I will not try to help you with. Have you listed with me? Check here in Services for pricing!
What ideas are you thinking about or making happen that helps your business?
I'd love it if you'd share.