Some years ago I had a new neighbor and her husband buy the old schoolhouse next to the fire station up the road. Cute place, nicely restored by a glass artist friend who wanted to move to Portland to seek fame and fortune in the big city. Not that we’re the official Welcome Wagon of the South End, but we invited our newcomers over for dinner, got to know them over the following year and were surprised when we saw the For Sale sign on the front yard and their furniture gone. They had had grand plans for establishing a Tea Shop for her and a furniture shop for him on the island.
Okay, people come and go on the turbulent South End, for various reasons ranging from lack of health care in their proximity to the long and dreary winters. The grass is definitely greener here but folks get tired of mowing it. I get that. But what I didn’t get was these new found friends picking up and leaving without a fare thee well or a wave goodbye. Kind of makes a guy like me wonder if my judgement of folks is a waffle or two shy of breakfast.
Jump forward a couple of years and we’re on Orcas Island, wandering the tourist town of Eastsound when we pass by a little tea shop called, interestingly enough, Schoohouse Tea, a little too coincidental for my place in the cosmos, so naturally I want to go inside and see who’s behind the register. And yeah, it’s our old neighbor, more than a little embarrassed to be ‘discovered’ but after a few hems and haws and muted apologies over their fast escape velocity from the South End, she tells us the island just wasn’t spiritual enough for her tastes. Orcas, well, they’re basically refugees from the 60’s and she felt a kinship there she never got from us back on Camano, the island without a soul.
All righty, I guess the South End wasn’t her cuppa tea. We said good to see ya, good luck with the shop and your life, we got to catch the ferry back to perdition. Now the story might have ended here … except … a year later who should roll back into our little hellhole, the one without spirituality, but m’lady from the Age of Aquarius, building a house half a mile south of us. And better yet, she’d become a real estate broker!
I don’t pretend to be a guru of South End spirituality but c’mon, selling off our Paradise parcel by parcel, helping to clog our neighborhood with new traffic, cutting down the forest for McMansions, earning a living this way, trust me, that is not on the roadmap to Nirvana. And if we lacked soul before, I doubt selling used cars or real estate is going to bring us any closer to Shangri-La-La land. Money talks, they tell me, but not as loud here on the South End. That, I think, might be the key to our spirituality, what little we still have.
When you start a new business, it’s important to branch out and integrate with your local community. Your friends and neighbors are not only potential customers but also collaborators and brand ambassadors. Here are some tips for forming a successful new business and connections.
Before you head out and begin to shake hands, it’s important to get the fundamentals of your business right. If you’ve recently moved to the area, it’s important to ensure that all of your paperwork is in order - this means setting up your business structure, bank account, registering for taxes, securing web domains, applying for licenses & permits, calculating financial projections and, of course,
writing a solid business plan. Some of these are regional-specific (for example, business structure) meaning you’ll need to observe state regulations during proceedings.
A business plan is crucial for attracting investment in your business and for its long-term ambitions. You can use this document to structure, run and grow your business - detailing the company, its mission, competitors, structure, products, and financial requirements. There are plenty of resources online to help you nail down this important step.
Once you’re legal, the next step is to get the word out. It might fall outside of your comfort zone but going out and networking in person is still an important part of establishing yourself in the local community. A simple introduction goes a long way but it helps to go a step further. By giving a hand at community events, for example, you can contribute to a cause whilst developing a report with
potential business prospects. Or, by sharing your services, you’ll be getting the word out about your business and lending help to those who need it.
Almost as important as your physical presence is your digital one. Take the time to reach out and connect with those in your local community via social media on Instagram, Facebook, and Linkedin. You may find it helps to join some of the local groups and just engage in conversations/introduce yourself (although it helps not to make discussions so business-centric).
Even with the word out, promoting your business takes precedence if you want to establish yourself in the minds of your local community. Marketing can help with this and encompasses everything from designing a standout logo to paying for advertisement. Often, it’s a good idea to start small with placements in local newspapers, free samples in other shops, sponsoring local events, or even hiring out nearby billboards. The key here is to get yourself as thoroughly involved as possible.
If you have the budget, you may also decide it makes sense to pay for online pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns or with Google placements. Digital marketing is one of the most cost-efficient ways to promote your business and it can help you to expand your reach across the whole community and beyond. Especially in sparsely populated areas of the country, it can be difficult to get eyes on your product but with smartphones and social media, you can tactically place your brand in a digital space where it’s bound to be seen.
In business, having the locals on your side is an advantage that is difficult to measure. If anything goes wrong or if you need a helping hand, you can be sure that your neighbors have your back. Just make sure that whatever goodwill you receive is reciprocated.
Author: Linda Chase of AbleHire.org. Able Hire's Mission is "Helping people with disabilities build rewarding, successful careers."
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This year marks the 23rd year that artists on Camano Island and Stanwood have invited the public into their studios and galleries to share their creativity and love of art and community. The studio tour has become the biggest tourist event on the Island, attributed to a growing artist community with nearly 100 members of the Camano Arts Association. Download the brochure
An Italian breakfast that's sure to please your family and friends! Toasted ciabatta bread topped with homemade basil pesto, scrambled eggs, salami, red onion, and provolone cheese. Serve with mimosas and a platter of fresh fruit! Read more