Wrong? “That can’t be, Joan, say it ain’t so!”
Yes, I am saying that as I rethink by stance here on my Loose Gravel blog, and in my job as an economic development director.
Recently a video was shared on the Learning Network of Dakota Resources. (If your community needs a resource and help; definitely check DR out!) I gleaned a great deal from that video. Greg Tehven of Fargo, ND in a TEDx video states,
“Trouble is coming. Read any newspaper or go to any shopping center. Our economy is changing. Small communities have a huge challenge ahead. The top 30 cities in the world are growing faster than ever before and that means our small communities are struggling and they need to find new ways to reinvent themselves. Conventional and traditional economic development is dead wrong. The idea of recruiting one business from one island to another, from one community to another is not working. Financial incentives, focusing on natural resources where we convince folk to move to our communities or grow, is fundamentally NOT working.”
Greg Tehven makes an outstanding argument and his words cause me to pause and seriously rethink what I’ve been espousing as an ED director and my business. Perhaps after I share here what I’m learning, you might want to add on to your thinking about shopping local.
E-Commerce is a hot topic and basically I have used my little one-woman-EcDev-voice trying to encourage consumers basically to not to use E-commerce, but rather just “shop local.”
Boy, was that naive on my part. Sorry, but that is NOT going to work in this day and age. “Shop Local!” “Shop Small!” has been my mantra for years now, and it still will be but what I am discovering is that it is not that simple. Yes, I am a bit naive.
-Did you know that 50% of American householdsare now using Amazon Prime? And I am sure that number is growing. It was not too long ago here in my blog that I was trying to convince others not to go that route but to shop in their communities instead. I’m beginning to see the error of my ways. Yes, we ABSOLUTELY still want to shop local and small, but what we really NEED to do is build businesses, companies and products that can be sold online. (here is the reason for an online website.) “Money goes where the goods and services are,” says Tehven. That place is on the almighty world wide web; in other words, online.
Our communities need to be about more than survival, if what Tehven says is true “trouble is coming and our conventional ways of doing business is wrong.” Our businesses have to have support of more than just locals. We do need to continue to teach ourselves, our communities, our teens, our children to shop local, but it goes much further than that. It’s about businesses getting websites, and/or online to sell their products. What is the old adage, “If we can’t fight ‘em, join ‘em?”
This too is why I’m an advocate of website companies charging sales tax that goes to our states. Although I’m not real familiar with tax laws and where our states' laws are; I do believe if we have the luxury of buying online, we also need to pay for that luxury.
I do not change my thinking on a whim, and I can be stubborn on a variety of issues, however, after hearing this TEDx video and Mr. Tehven, who I relate to for various reasons but also because he is a neighbor to the north and is use to wide-open spaces; I believe he is right. Enough so to pass it on. I also believe we need to do everything possible to help our local economies in whatever way we can. We can be pro-active; not be like Chicken Little and wait for the sky to fall. This we can begin to fix, to rethink and do more than survive.
A "Bloggette" by Joan (Bloggette = mini Blog) (Written for social media)
When I first took my position in 2011 as Executive Director of Deuel Area Development, I had the job of administering two grants. The office and position was set up for E-Coaching— Entrepreneurial Coaching. I wasn’t even sure what that was. But I had experience in Philip years earlier as a Community Developer so I understood the importance of helping local business.
This job was dictated by grants set up to help Start-Up businesses. I learned quickly that helping people with a business plan was helpful and important yet I’d never done one before. I learned the importance of keeping businesses afloat was imperative. I also learned how important entrepreneurs are to our small towns. But it’s all about “business”— retention, creating, and expanding.
Some people think it’s getting “big industry” to come to town, or jobs for 300 people (I was told my first year in the job that was what I should be working on.) Do we even have 300 people to fill those jobs? Do we have housing for the workforce?
But we live in an era that encourages ENTREPRENEURS; those with a vision. It’s those willing to take risks and venture into the unknown. It’s individuals who believe “the best way to predict the future is to CREATE it.” Entrepreneurship is “the transformation of an idea into an opportunity.”
I’ll give a shout-out to the visionaries who started my position in Deuel County and Clear Lake. Just this year alone, 6 new businesses have begun. Only one of those is in their home so whatever works. In the few years before that, approximately 3-4 others began. All of them are still going. One went bigger and moved to Watertown.
For small communities especially, you need to EMBRACE those START-UPS.
Larger communities you should EMBRACE entrepreneurs, because they have a dream they’re going after and they’re widening the tax base wherever they are and providing for the infrastructure.
I’m proud of my area where I live because we support “small” the best we can. And welcome small business owners and those with ideas. Not all may succeed but at least they tried.
Don’t you have those entrepreneurs in your towns? Let them know in a variety of ways how proud you are of them and let them know you ❤️ entrepreneurs!
By Guest Blogger Katy Kassian
Working together instead of against each other...
When someone - especially someone new - comes into your business and asks for something, how do you respond? How prepared are you (or your staff) to still be helpful if you don’t have what the customer is looking for?
Let me tell you a story~ When we first moved back to the farm, I ran down to the nearest town with a Rexall- 20 miles away- because nearly every Rexall carries at least two colors of thread. I walked in, looked around about ten minutes and did not find what I was looking for. In that amount of time, not once did the clerk speak to me. Not even a “Hello”. By this time I got the drift that I was inconveniencing the clerk by being there. I asked her where the thread was and the only response I got was “We don’t have any”.
So, off I went. 40 MORE miles to the city where they had a fabric store. After I went there, I also visited the hardware, grocery, feed store, gas station and took myself to lunch. ALL things I could have done back in the little town. I had not wanted to spend an entire day on the road.
Guess what? A month later I found out there was a quilt shop at the other end of the street! WHY didn’t she say anything? Was she worried someone else might get the sale? Was it small town politics at work?
Or did she simply not know any better?
When businesses cooperate and help each other, everybody wins. You win. The customer wins. The community wins.
No community or business is an island.
Not having what a customer is looking for is not a valid reason to send them out of town. Know what your other stores have and don’t hesitate to send your customer there.
So many wonderful things happen when you adopt a ‘front porch’ attitude about your community and businesses.
By knowing your neighbors, you can better help your customers, which in turn helps everybody. It keeps money right in your town. You see, if that clerk had just said “Hey! Check the quilt shop” I would have shopped nearly all the stores because they were all on my list of places we needed something from.
Plus, there is the matter of goodwill. I would have remembered that she tried to help and I would have returned the next time I needed something. So while that particular store may not have gotten our business today, they would have made up for it in repeat business. Instead, we chose to take our business to the next small town over for many years.
Take some time and get to know your fellow businesses. Look for what they have that you may not. How can you compliment each other or leverage each others resources to enhance your own? Remember that competition is a good thing. It fosters creativity, innovation, customer service and brings more reasons for more people to come shop or live in your town.
There is a New Way of Thinking
There is a new generation of business owners on the rise leading the charge. There are no so-called “clubs” to belong to in community or online. Thought-patterns are shifting as we progress into the future. New entrepreneurs are working together to collaborate. It is a new way to think about business and creating value in the market and in our economies from what use to be.
Why can’t a store with shoppers mention when leaving their store, “Have you tried the ice cream store down the street? Or “there is another boutique around the block.” OR go so far as to say “have you had your meal yet, there are two businesses in town you can eat at.” Help promote each other and KEEP the consumer's business in town. What a deal!
When businesses team up, communicate and promote together, the likelihood of pulling traffic off the highway or shoppers taking side trips, grows because of collaboration and more places to shop and eat at.
So now when Holiday Open Houses' are happening or special events -- work together and work as a team. Then get your heads together for the next season or month. It brings success for all involved!
I remember the first time in Boston when I traveled my first roundabout. It was so foreign and new to me and clever. I loved the difference there to what I'd grown up with in South Dakota. Roundabouts, I believe, are to prevent major accidents from happening at intersections, but they're also designed to keep traffic moving and at a normal pace. The flow is not interrupted and they're suppose to save time. Now they're showing up in South Dakota, and the midwest. We are getting with it! ;)
I never gave it any thought about naming my blog. I thought "roundabout" fell right into sync with Travel Backroads. I originally named my pricing list "Find your Avenue". I like idioms. I've chosen "Loose Gravel" I feel that name might suit me better, if you knew me.
Traveling any road for local is important to me. It just so happens when you live in our part of the world (the great plains) there are a great many businesses tucked away on country roads, secondary highways and totally off a beaten path. I remember as a youth growing up in Rapid City, my mother wanted to stop at many businesses she'd see on the highways and my dad would speed by. From that so called "intersection" between the two of them, came some discord, ha! I realize however that businesses are not just on those highways and byways but down city streets and alleys as well.
Business owners, are travelers stopping at your place, or do you rely mostly on local to support you?
If you do, I believe you're missing the mark. Your local community cannot be that "knight in shining armor" all the time. Many times they are maxed out in various ways including supporting local stores. Those motorists need to stop by your place (spread the delight!) and you need to let them know you are there. That has to rank up there as a number one priority. Not on a roundabout and not getting off however.
So how do you do that? In a way, you want to be like a roundabout. You want the traffic to keep moving, at a good pace, you want to prevent collisions but you also need them to take the 2nd or 3rd exit. You need them to stop eventually however and that is key to your business success. My tag line is "Driving the Passion to Go Local" but it also is we need that passion to drive traffic through our business' doors daily, whether you're city council, Ec Dev Corp or a Chamber of Commerce.
If you live rural, I wonder if you realize how foreign 'rural' is to a city person? They like the I-90's and I-29's. Like all of us, we like the familiar, and the idea of rural living might be very foreign. Many times it's even difficult for them to stop at a business they've admired from a distance.
Are you and your business everything you can be to your customers and potential customers? Recently a friend and colleague of mine, Paula from Dakota Resources, shared this great short 3 minute presentation from Jason Salamun on Rapid City's City Council. In her words, "he hits the nail on the head". Take a look here and listen by clicking on this link #OUTLIVEYOURLIFE. It's inspiring and a great reminder to all of us. You do not have to live rural to get the most from your community. It can be anywhere you live, and as Mr. Salamun says "a city is only as good as it's citizens".
While you're at it, check out Dakota Resources' President Joe Bartman's slides from his RuralX presentation this summer. Especially if you're are rural and not familiar with Dakota Resources, you can be a #RURALSHAPERS. It is a new rural.
Whether you live rural or in a city...whether you own a business or shop at them...whether you travel or not...I hope you're a believer.
Joan of "Loose Gravel"
When I was a teenager, with a size 9 shoe and trying to find that shoe size long before internet and mail order, it was difficult to locate. I grew up in Rapid City, so you would not think it would have been difficult in the 60's, but it was. "Sweetbriars" was the name of the local store and there was definitely not the selection that a teenager would see today. Seems funny today when you think about it.
We all have our pet peeves or in this case a cause, and this one might seem trite to some. Seeking "plus size" fashions is near and dear to my heart and has been a longtime quest of mine to locate them outside of a 'department store', and those that actually fit to size. When I was in high school it should not have been that difficult because of my size at the time, then add height and it was a recipe for trouble; it was difficult, and frustrating and remains that way today. However, it is considerably easier these days with stores like Lane Bryant, CJ Banks, Catharines, Avenue, Torrid and others. This brings me to why I'm blogging about this topic today.
Boutiques are bursting on the scene. Maybe they have always been there; they are just identified as 'boutiques' these days. In my opinion, and maybe I'm misguided, but most of them have skinny fashions and fit those who really seem to have what society deems...the "perfect" or "preferred" body size. Finding boutiques that feature all sizes is going to be a quest of mine, especially "plus sizes." I want to know about them and share with you about my service.
It's not easy for a boutique owner, or small business to provide for all the sizes there are in this world, and not just sizes, but individual tastes as well. How does a small business begin to target everyone, AND afford it?
Not that my opinion matters but I guarantee you "plus size fashions" is a market you do not want to leave behind. I think there has always been a need for it, but it's a Hollywood thing..."plus size" doesn't meet up with the cute, twiggy type influence, plain and simple. Don't leave us behind. We are a cash-credit-debit-card-carrying market that you do not want to over look. Those shops or boutiques that do leave us behind will miss out. If you know or own a business with "plus size" fashions, please let the world know and that begins with Travel Backroads. Check out my website under Directory by Category and let's get your small business listed so others can find you and your "plus sizes!"
Looking forward to doing business with you,
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 Calhounand 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...