- “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” — Henry Ford
Alexandria is home to countless diverse, dynamic and successful small businesses. This is the story of how two of small businesses partnered up and were able to create a unique professional development opportunity for many others.
We met at an Alexandria Small Business Development Center Small Business Roundtable in April 2014. The roundtable provides a monthly, facilitated topical forum that allows small business owners and leaders to gather and discuss a range of issues related to small businesses in the Alexandria area. It provides a free networking opportunity, as well.
Neither of us had attended an ASBDC roundtable event before, and we had no idea how valuable it would be or who we would meet.
Meeting for the first time ever at that roundtable was serendipitous. It turns out we lived in close proximity to each other on Alexandria’s west end, so we met at a local Starbucks and got to know each others’ businesses. Through our talk that day, we recognized the synergy of our industries and discussed how we could work together.
A desire we both had was to be recognized as thought leaders and resources in our respective industries. One way to do this is to provide workshops and presentations that add value to clients and the community. Doing a Lunch and Learn workshop had been on both of our minds, but having a partner at the ready pushed both of us forward quickly.
Our encounter at the ASBDC provided an opportunity for our organizations to connect and we were able to follow up on that with additional meetings, capitalizing on the opportunity to do together what we could not do independently — or at least not as easily or effectively or inexpensively. We needed to leverage each others’ knowledge, relationships and skill sets to make all the moving parts of the event come together smoothly. Important business connections would continue to play a huge role in getting the workshop from idea to reality.
As solopreneurs, finding partners to motivate you, bounce ideas off of and encourage you is critical to success. By motivating and relying on each other equally and focusing on each other’s strengths, we made huge progress in a short time with finding space and time, collaborating on marketing and outreach and preparing the presentation.
We were fortunate to have Jay Thomas from Alphagraphics print up marketing postcards for us — another person we met through ASBDC — and Mark Whitaker of Intelligent Office provided us with space and additional marketing support.
In the end, that room at Intelligent Office Alexandria was nearly filled to capacity. We had 17 small business owners and professionals attend, from several different industries and backgrounds, including real estate, consultants, finance and health services.
Some new relationships started in that room, too. Those have led to new collaborations and business opportunities for both of us, and the feeling of community in that room made us feel proud to be members of such a supportive business community in Alexandria.
It was in many ways a team effort, and a testament to the collaborative spirit of small businesses in this region. The Lunch and Learn was a very rewarding experience. One of the main lessons we learned is that working collaboratively and creatively, we strengthen the economy by strengthening small businesses in Alexandria and beyond. The workload was shared among many and so too was the benefit. The acronym TEAM, “Together Everyone Achieves More” is true in this case.