This note is a reflection that came out of a newsletter we recently sent. I thought it would be good to share it with everyone because so many people I know think their big break will come in their business if someone really "important" and known just pays attention to them in the right way. While I think people like this can have very big and positive impacts on a business, it's not the same kind battle-tested camaraderie that can help you through many, many trials in your business.
I know personally if I didn't have people who have been in the trenches with me for awhile now, people like Dave Conrey of Fresh Rag or Rebecca Saylor of Oodle Badoodle, I would have had a serious breakdown at some point. It's exciting to see their businesses grow as mine does too. I look forward to more years of that happening!
I'm going to share a lesson with you that took me awhile to learn. Yesterday I was listening to #ahasmember Katie Hunt's keynote at Schoolhouse Craft that was based off the Danielle LaPorte quote to "Find Your Tribe and Love Them Hard." As I listened, I was remembering the early days of AHAS.
KC and I were inspired to start AHAS by the wonderful community of makers we were already in. These people, whether or not they saw themselves becoming members were SOOOO supportive of us doing this. There was also another creative supporter peer network who was also wanted to help in any way they could.
As we looked to spread the word and grow, my PR instincts took over a bit. I often felt like that if we could just be "seen" by the right influencer who could let more people know about us, then we'd really take off. It didn't help that when you start a business that you get all sorts of advice about how...
"Maybe you should contact Martha Stewart! She would totally tweet about this."
"Have you tried reaching out to Etsy?"
All of this advice and thinking somehow implies that your success largely rests in the hands of the "big guys." And over two years into this (and having never worked with the big guys above but also having worked with others who are) I can tell you now that going into our third year, the most valuable relationships to the sustainability of our business (ASIDE from the relationships we have with our members) is the relationships we have built with our peers.
Sometimes these peers were a bit more established than us, so kind to lend their better known name as credibility as we were establishing ours. But this was never in the way that was the big-break-Moby-Dick-White-Whale kind of way that we had been encouraged to pursue.
Our successes in business often come from creating strong and meaningful (I avoided the word authentic because I know it has a gag reflex for many now, but really, yes, authentic) relationships with peers who are in a similar boat to you. They are equally hungry. Their priorities in life and business are the same. Their passion for creative pursuits are similar. They see the same flaws in the world and want to fix them. They want to go about making and creating with a similar ethic.
So, it's not about looking up for success. It's about looking to your right and to your left to find the people who will become your support network. These are the people who not only will invest in you, but who you will find wonderfully fulfilling opportunities to support them.
Our businesses don't exist in bubbles. They live in diverse ecosystems that you need to make sure have the right kind of mixture of customers, peers and mentors.
Who do you have to work alongside with you? We'd love to have you working with us in our community. I think you'll find likeminded makers if you decide to become a member.