I’d like to preface this article by saying I am not a business expert, I am not the founder of a unicorn startup that has a valuation of a billion dollars. What I can say is that I have been interested in owning a business my whole life, and as a result, I find that I like to learn as much as possible about problems other people are facing. After I learn as much as possible about a problem, I try to figure out how I can apply my skill set, knowledge and energy to provide as much value as possible. So, when I co-founded a company this past June (06/14/2019) it didn’t feel forced. To me starting a business felt like a natural progression to achieve what I’d like to achieve in my life.
From my perspective, starting a business and building a successful business are completely different things. My experience as a business owner may be limited, but I believe providing value is a crucial component of business. If you start a business that provides no value then you may be doomed to fail. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn if businesses that provide value can still end up failing as well. I believe ‘Value’ can be broken up into components too. This is because there are many different ways to provide value – customers, consumers, and the local community do not always value the exact same things so it is important to learn what each one values in order to improve over time. In this article I would like to hone in and focus on how I started trying to learn what my local community values. Currently I’m a firm believer that whether your business is a multinational Fortune 500 company, or a brick-and-mortar mom-and-pop, getting involved in and learning about the community where your business is located is beneficial.
During the months leading up to starting my first business, I felt that I needed to learn about the city I’m located in – Louisville Kentucky. After some research it turns out that Louisville Kentucky has what some call an ‘Entrepreneurial Ecosystem’. There are several organizations working together to facilitate events for young entrepreneurs and early stage businesses. Entrepreneurs who are interested in these events can go to them in order to learn and grow. As I learned more, it turned out that there were (and still are) many FREE events available for entrepreneurs to go to. I even found a website that was aggregating available events and displaying them on a calendar. Between the website I found, and other event/meetup websites I quickly realized there were more events available to entrepreneurs than I could go to. Since there was no shortage of community events, I decided to just pick one. The event that I decided to go to was named ‘Open Coffee’ , it met every Monday morning at 8 A.M. in a co-working space, provided coffee, and had entrepreneurial guest speakers. I thought, there’s no better way to learn about the local community than to jump right in and hear from business owners. I attended these Open Coffees every week for a couple of months. Along the way I listened to and learned from venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, business owners, and other co-working space owners.
Eventually someone recommended I go to an event where the objective was to pitch an idea, build a team of entrepreneurs and try to make a minimal viable product in 48 hours. My team ended up losing, but I learned about a book called Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want. In my opinion, learning about the book made it well worth attending the event. During the event I also met another entrepreneur exploring the idea of building their own business. We started meeting bi-weekly where we would each bring a to-do lists and then execute the tasks we gave ourselves. This method of holding each other accountable definitely improved my productivity and a few weeks after the event I had co-founded my first company TeriGrowth.
At this point I had started a business after being shown some interest and I knew the real hard work was about to begin. The entrepreneur I would meet with and I went to another event full of freelancers, and local business owners. I ended up getting a meeting with one of the local business owners where we talked about our experience, and they expressed an interest in using Terigrowth’s services. We scheduled follow-up meetings and after hashing out some terms, they referred another local business owner to us, who my co-founder and I are currently talking with.
I’m sharing this with you all in hopes of showing you how important I think it is to get involved with your local community. Another point I hope for you to take away from this is that things take TIME. It takes time to build business relationships, it takes time for others to learn who you are, it takes time for you to learn who other people are and how you can provide value to them. It has been almost 8 months since I went to my first Louisville Kentucky ‘Open Coffee’ event to learn about my local community, and the results I am seeing right now are from the groundwork I did all those months ago.
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