Over the years, I’ve been enthralled with the rise and fall of various cities and towns. Both within Grays Harbor and far beyond. For instance, I used to live in Seattle. It was a different place 10 years ago than it is now with a new set of challenges, booms and busts.
I live for trends! I love following along with culture and feeling that energy bubble up, recognizing repetition, and seeing how it flows through the community and eventually becomes an everyday occurrence or transforms into something else completely.
One thing I’ve noticed since moving back to Grays Harbor is that people love to say “change is coming, I can feel the energy.” Not to be a downer, but I’ve been hearing this for years. I was part of the super awesome downtown Hoquiam crew of businesses that popped up in 2012 and have since mostly gone or moved elsewhere. I’ve been a patron and supporter of small businesses that have come and gone and are now unknown to people who are semi-new to the area. There is an ebb and a flow.
So, how can we help to create more flow… as business people, consumers, and community members?
In order to have a “startup culture” we need a few things…
Yep, this might be obvious. We need people with ideas and skills. Something unique and something of high quality. My belief, in particular, is that talent is better when it can come together en masse. For instance, the group of businesses who have committed to starting in downtown Aberdeen has aided in the development of “culture” not just a business. They help each other, whether directly or not, by creating a vibe and community in a small footprint.
We need financing options! Starting a business costs money. There needs to be support from not only banks willing to develop loan programs but also the other variety of options such as grant programs (like Washington Coast Works), community funding (like Grays Harbor Tourism), and individual investors interested in partnering with business owners (check out the upcoming Opportunity Zones event from GGHI or learn more about investment clubs like LION in Port Townsend). If you’re an individual in the community, you might want to consider investing locally! There are rules and regulations, but if you’re in a good financial place and able to support local businesses through investment funding, it seems certain that there are businesses in need of your help.
Don’t be a lone cowboy! Having a mentor or support network will improve your odds of success. This might also apply to the fact that having a business partner makes your business more likely to succeed and have an average of 3x the user growth over a single owner business. Still, if you work alone you can find other ways to gain mentorship. Locally, we have the Greater Grays Harbor Inc. and the Small Business Development Center. You can also find a local mentor simply by asking a business owner you admire to become your mentor! Many people would be willing to meet up occasionally for coffee to discuss your goals and ideas for growth. If you are a business owner, you can help the community growth and startup culture by participating in mentorship whether it’s in a one-on-one situation, attending events like HYPE meetings, or sharing more of your story online through social media and blogging.
I mentioned that there are businesses that have come and gone in a short-ish time. This happens and sometimes can’t be stopped due to economic changes and various business decisions. BUT there is a way we can all help our local culture. We can be committed to Grays Harbor. While doing some research on coworking spaces, we read that it’s integral that people be committed to a community in order to have success – possibly holding the mentality that you will be here for at least 20 years. If you’re here for the long haul, you’re more likely to support local growth projects, spend locally, create something locally, share your knowledge and skills locally, and invest in the community economically through buying real estate and improving the space around you.
Do you think we have all that we need to build a startup culture in Grays Harbor? What’s missing or how can you help?
Britta Jackson is a serial entrepreneur, co-owner of alder|creative, providing consulting and graphic design to small businesses and non-profits in Grays Harbor (and beyond) since 2013. She works from her home in Aberdeen with her husband and 1 year old daughter and enjoys live music, reading business books, and vacationing in small towns.