September 9, 2009

Youth Cooperatives to City Sponsored Business Summits

The Business Mind: age 6 to 60.

by Jean Hoiland

Today I attended a business summit sponsored by the city of Enumclaw, Chamber of Commerce and Green River Small Business Center. I didn't really have any expectations, it's that yoga thing of non attachment I guess. I was neither late nor overly early, I got there on time. The first thing I noticed and my words verbatim to my breakout group "what a piss pour turn out by our business owners". I was told 45 people registered but I'm not sure there were even 20 business owners who showed up. I registered but was not even on the list. I didn't want to give up 6 hours of my day figuring out how to draw people to our downtown businesses. I'm sure the other dozen or more people felt the same, but we made the time nonetheless because we care about our community as much as we care about creating sustainable businesses.

The focus of the summit was Economic Development. A pretty important issue to tackle as businesses close, buildings sit vacant and rents increase all around us. Our focus groups came up with some pretty good strategies and action items, but there was nothing earth shattering or really out of the box discussions. As the facilitator said all of these issue were discussed in a similar public hearing ten years ago.

I didn't leave all fired up and confident of the situation improving too much from what we did....quite frankly my thoughts quickly shifted to parent mode and teacher. My afternoon schedule consisted of helping my young entrepreneur and his friend sell their produce and eggs in our neighborhood. I am sorry I did not get another picture to go with this. If you read my last blog you'll know that my son invited his best friend Hunter to bring his eggs to sell on my sons produce route.

Without even knowing it, they formed a 'Cooperative'. We discussed what a 'coop' was as we walked. They even took turns pulling the cart and eventually worked as a team to pull the cart together. First stop a success, each sold something. Then my son refused to stop at the house just across the street. A friend of mine and no doubt he knew I would get talking. When I asked his friend what he thought he said, "This is my first time so I'll do what Brennan wants". So I explained they were passing up a good business opportunity. I didn't think they really understood.

As we walked the discussion turned to creating a website. My son brought this up after hearing me mention it the day before. A few days earlier we left a card in someones door and they called back the next day. The boys liked the idea of distributing flyer's. Next my son was volunteering his 'Poppy' (grandpa) to build them a store to sell out of. My son recently toured the 'Food Coop' in Port Townsend. Isn't it wonderful how the young mind thinks big without a concern for the details.

We came upon a family visiting and playing outside. There was no garden so I said to the boys "why don't you stop and ask if they want to buy anything". They said no they didn't want to. I explained once again they were passing up a good business opportunity. They looked at each other and mutually agreed to turn around and go back. They made a new customer and all it took was a few minutes to introduce themselves and get to know the neighbor. I try my hardest to let them to talk and tell their stories, helping when asked. They let me hold the money which I find kind of surprising.

Once the transaction was complete they were running to the next stop. Really we were running pulling the cart. Not everyone wanted to buy something and it didn't even phase them, they were just off to the next house or passerby on the street. They didn't care why someone didn't want to buy, there was never a thought like "maybe I don't have the right vegetables or was I pleasant enough". They were simply enjoying their time and completing a task so they could get on to something else.

We were out for one hour, met a few new people, the boys learned about 'coops' and I came away from the day with a new perspective. The realization that we as citizens, city administrators, parents, teachers, business owners and what have you, neglect to consider the ideas and input of the children in town. They are so enthusiastic and creative with their own ideas and opinions. They may not be able to specifically say what their ideas and opinions are, but as adults we should be able to observe and make some discoveries that could help our communities Economic Development.

Next blog: My Son's Father thinks I'm raising a peasant boy. (stay tuned)

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