I've come to understand more and more these days, that the old adage “it takes a village to raise a child” actually applies to just about everything in life. From polling Facebook for insurance agent recommendations, to workshopping a book idea with friends, it's become obvious to me that good ideas come from many voices. Even further, when we cast a net for information to our networks, the enthusiasm and eagerness that comes back at us is unparalleled. People are ever willing to give an opinion, lend a hand and help. All we need to do is ask - to put it out there, into the big, scary ether.
All this seems contrary to what we hear in the news every day. The 24 hour news cycle would have us believe that there is nothing out there besides "dog eat dog", or "every man for himself". Once in a while, after a catastrophe like a hurricane or flood, do we see human interest pieces popping up where neighbours help neighbours or minorities (gasp!) help majorities. Maybe its because disillusionment is sexier or sells more airtime. Whatever the reason, I don’t believe it for a second. I am glad, on some level, to realize that i have not become the cranky old lady I was always destined to be. THIS old lady is optimistic about the world, and about humanity.
When i had the chance to start a business of my own, I jumped at the chance to create an entity that had meaning, at least for me. Along this crazy, difficult and sometimes daunting journey, I have realized for the first time how much support and generosity actually exist out there in the world.
It took a village to start my business and that village is showing no signs of weakness. My village is a force to behold.
I have friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers (yes! Strangers!) offering help, to purchase, to promote and offering ideas or encouragement. When my parents tell me they are proud of me, I glow a little (ok… I preen a little). When a stranger tells me this, however, I admit to getting a lump in my throat. I am not a pretty crier, so I do try to get a grip on myself. Funnily enough, this kind of support is always offered when I am at my lowest. When I am sitting in a dark room, re-evaluating my life choices and trying to figure out if I should just give it all up. In those dark times, the universe has never failed to present me with a sign. Sometimes that sign comes in the form of a friendly face at a market. Or a gushy email from a happy customer. Or a friendly account manager who promises to be the “easiest company you will ever work with”.
During a recent crunch time before a big order was to be delivered, I had 6 - count them: SIX - friends tell me they were ready to jump in as soon as I said GO. I did end up calling a few of them, to help me and my courageous family bang out 4000 units of product. The making, the bottling, the labeling, the boxing and price ticketing seemed, at first, like something I would never get through. But, step by step and day by day and help by help - we all got it done.
We got it done early.
I didn’t pay these people. In some cases, my helpers made ME lunch (thanks mom!) or my helpers skipped their own work to be there (thanks dad!). They didn’t ask for anything back. They just wanted to help, to experience and to be able to say they had a hand in the birth of a company. What an amazing feeling to be surrounded by lovely, generous and kind people.
Thanks to the eye opening events of the last two years, I have made it my mission to give back in any way I can. What does that mean in practical terms? It means I always take the call. I always arrange the meeting. I always tell some random person I am proud of them. I try to promote other small businesses and give out information and tips. I am generous with praise and always look vendors in the eye at artisan markets. I show them I know they are human. I know they are struggling and I know they are hopeful.
I will happily help you label a billion jars on a Saturday or heatedly discuss the pros and cons of sugar vs salt for your new product line.
Small business owners come from all backgrounds and walks of life. No two have similar education, life experience, mentor support or vision. Helping each other ultimately helps us, because there is a force in the world that keeps track of these things. Some call it karma, some call it energy and some call it being a decent human being.
The next time you pass a earnest entrepreneur hustling their butts off, take a moment to chat. Tell them they are doing a great job. Offer a cookie. Do anything to make their day a little brighter. I guarantee it will brighten yours too.