(Or, what I learned during last weekend’s pig roast fundraiser for the Staunton Music Guild.)
We don’t know the first thing about roasting a pig. That didn’t stop us from saying “yes” when we were approached to host a pig roast fundraiser. Good thing, because the event was a huge hit.
But, it may be interesting to learn we were the “second fiddle” location (pun intended) because the first venue said,
“Sure, we’ll host your event. Our fee is $X and we expect Y, and Z, too.”
In contrast, we said, “No fee! We’ll even throw in the sides, too!” The sides (potato salad, baked beans, and coleslaw) were our donation to the event. It was a small offering considering the thirsty crowd who attended the all-day event.
I don’t know who the first venue was, but, I thank them!
First, let’s state the obvious. The word “community” is as overplayed & over-hyped in independent business building as the words and phrases like “leverage” or “core competencies” are in corporate-speak.
(In turn the word “community” is almost as overplayed as the phrase “small business” during election season, ha!)
Depending on context the word can instill everything from blind support (yay, our community!) to tones more divisive (ugh, that community!)…
But, rolled together “community” is essential. You can’t have a local business without a local customer base. Sure, some businesses are built primarily on tourist dollars. Others sell primarily to customers outside the local geographic area (e.g. mail order, internet sales, etc.). These business play a role in the local economy, and I have nothing but nice things to say about them.
However, one could argue that if you are measuring a business’s contribution on a community revitalization metric — well, that’s different. The public-facing businesses downtown serving local residents are vital. Our business is just one example — we have plenty of peers.
Oops – there I go again, using the word “community.” In this sense I am referring to the social/economic fabric. A business that offers people something to do; something that fills an empty storefront and signals that yes, this place matters. People are invested here, literally and figuratively.
Back to the pig roast.
The great thing about the event was that it brought a bunch of new people into George Bowers Grocery. You’d think, as we close in on four years of business in a town of 22,000, that we’d have reached everyone here. Not so. This is partially because we’ve only been a music venue for roughly two years. It is also because, like any business, people who are not your typical customers already have an opinion about what you offer and if your business is worth investigating further.
Some “people who are not your typical customers” can be enticed to become your customers — if you offer them something familiar and not too scary — in this case, an event.
You, as the business owner, can facilitate more opportunities to reach out to new people if you approach opportunities with generosity rather than a scarcity mentality (i.e., “there’s not enough for everyone, so I gotta grab mine!”)
Lastly, you’ve got to earn good standing in any community. This currency can be built up, or it can be quickly decimated and destroyed based on how you conduct yourself and your business. This isn’t to say you let people walk all over you, or that you implement idiotic suggestions. It mostly comes down to how you treat people.
Here’s a snap of those same pig roasters jamming after hours. Thanks, Staunton Music Guild!