FILED IN: Behind-the-Scenes, M&G Happenings
Posted By: Jamie
Happy Monday everyone! I've been dying to share all about our very first #TuesdaysTogether Bethesda gathering from last week! But first, I think it's important to share with you exactly why I decided to put myself out there and send in an application to the Rising Tide Society be a group leader.
You may have caught my recent recap of the nine lessons I've learned in my first year as a creative entrepreneur. It gave a little background into how I decided to leave behind an 11-year career in medical/surgical sales to pursue my dream of running my own welcome gift company. But what I didn't explain there was how in my previous career, I functioned as an island. Being in sales, it was all about ME. All about MY numbers. I could literally go days without speaking to a fellow rep in my area and sometimes even days without speaking to my boss. Working on full commission and all the ins and out of working in healthcare, it could get stressful. Felt like the weight of the world on my shoulders.
Owning a small business isn't much different. The ENTIRE business literally IS on your shoulders from sales to shipping/receiving to social media to blogging to operations to accounting to PR to advertising...Chief Everything Officer, right? But without a doubt, the KEY difference between then and now for me has been community! I've been lucky enough to get to know others in my same boat who are a simply call or text away offering encouraging words and sound advice. No matter what happens in a day...good, bad or in-between. The amount of work and stress are the same but it just somehow FEELS more manageable when you have people in your court cheering you on. This sense of community I've found over the last year has revived my heart and made such a profound difference in my life, that I instantly knew I wanted to lead a Bethesda group and form an even deeper sense of community in my local area. I want to help create an environment that would make it easy and natural for relationships to form. A sense of community that matters. A sense of community that can take a business owner from feeling like they "just can't take it anymore" to feeling like they can take on the world!!!
Okay, no more mushy stuff. Can we talk about our very first gathering last Tuesday?! It was HUGE success! As the initial RSVP number swelled to almost forty, I knew we could no longer have it at the local french cafe like originally planned. I made the decision to move the gathering to my home. At first, I was SO worried that people would feel uncomfortable coming to a total stranger's house but in the end it ended up fine. It was cozy, warm, intimate and I sensed that people connected more quickly in a home environment versus being in a public place where a group of our size would never be able to all sit together and interact. A big thanks to Liz of Elizabeth Fogarty Photography for showing up early to help set up. As creatives kept coming through the front door, they were bringing all kinds of snacks and goodies to share. So generous!!! As I was answering the door, greeting guests, and getting them to put on name tags, Caroline of Caroline Dutton Events was doing what she does best. She was racing around to set things up and make everyone feel welcome, especially those who showed up not knowing a soul. Also, a huge shout-out to Ali of J'Adorn Designs who baked a gluten-free strawberry crisp in a heart-shaped baking dish. Absolutely ah-mazing!
We ended up with a group of twenty five (yay!) consisting of photographers, wedding planners, graphic designers, branding experts, a calligrapher, a jewelry designer, a florist and myself, a welcome gift designer. We began with mixing and mingling freely over snacks and all kinds of drinks, including bubbly! Once everyone arrived, it was time for a group pic! With plenty of photographers on hand, it was fairly easy getting everyone arranged. Renee of Renee Hollinghead Photography gave my husband Jeff a quick tutorial on how to use the camera and we ended up with this! Not bad, huh? Even my little rescue pup Lewis made it into the shot, thanks to Sara of Photos from the Harty scooping him up!
We came back inside and everyone gathered around in the family room. Some were on sofas, others on folding chairs, and some even chose cushions on the floor. We went around the room introducing ourselves and our businesses and expressed what we each hope to get out of the group. Some mentioned simply meeting others in their local area and forming a deeper sense of community since entrepreneurship can be lonely. A few mentioned regaining momentum in their businesses since they'd been around for several years. Many wish to further educate themselves on issues such as pricing, contracts, handling customer disputes and other such business topics. It touched my heart to hear the passion each person has for their business, whether it be in the early stages or whether they're 10+ years in! The sense of community over competition was alive and well!
Each month we'll have a pre-determined topic for discussion set by the Rising Tide Society. The topic isn't set-in-stone but it's a great guideline to start from and get discussion going! For the first meeting, our topic was "Tools of the Trade" where we shared our opinions on apps and technology that make our lives easier as small business owners. A main area of interested seemed to be the use of Payal versus other payment methods such as Square, PayJunction, SparkPay and even the old-fashioned check-in-the-mail. Others discussed were SelfControl for helping to limit time spent on social media, Evernote for time/task management, Sidekick for monitoring when people open your emails, Boomerang for scheduling emails, RescueTime for tracking your computer activity, and the mobile version of Google Analytics. People not only offered advice but also felt comfortable enough to ask questions of the group.
We even veered off topic somewhat when a one or two individuals expressed concerns about some things that were happening with their business operations. It sparked an in-depth dialogue on contracts and importance of having one in place. It was an incredibly supportive and encouraging environment where I honestly feel people felt safe discussing not only their achievements but also some vulnerabilities.
The time seemed to fly and before we knew it, it was already well past our stopping point of 9 pm. Since being a creative takes energy, I set up a trail mix bar so everyone could prepare a little snack to-go. It seemed to be a hit and prompted even more mingling on everyone's way out.
It filled my heart with pure joy to see so many initial connections made and I can't wait to see this crazy group of creatives again next month, along with new faces as well! Meetings are held the second Tuesday of every month from 7-9 pm in Chevy Chase, MD. Check out the group Facebook page for more details, or feel free to contact me for more information!