Community. What word. Community support, community college, community service (the kind you do to help not because a judge asks you to), community engagement, community activism, community banking, etc.
It can mean a lot of different things, but for me community is about home. Our community, Tallahassee, Florida, is where we work, root (go as a team, generic college football not Gator cheer), and play and where we all call home.
I recently embarked on a self-published book project to document my experiences in 2020 as a business owner.
After seven months we had a copy in hand and when the finished product hit the streets I was blown away by the support from the community.
We first launched the book at the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce Annual Community Conference. That was the goal for the beginning of January that my Story Telling director, Jay Revell, and I concretely defined. Prepare a book as a marketing giveaway at the event for each attendee. Mission accomplished.
We’ve been doing a sponsorship marketing article for 15 years and everyone I’ve spoken to has never said, “A book? It’s awesome ”, or something like that.
I also had a panic attack at the beach bar on Friday thinking “what did I do”…. is this book good? I didn’t think I would have a Pulitzer the next time I read tarot cards and knew it was good quality, but I had that brief moment of dread. Either way, it ended up passing.
When I wasn’t discussing the book, I spent the weekend chatting with other small business owners, elected officials, and leaders of nonprofits. I have seen people of different backgrounds, different beliefs and political opinions, advance their mission and share our commonalities as citizens of North Florida.
One of my favorite conversations was with law student Landus Anderson, who was attending the conference for the first time as a clerk at Stearns Weaver Miller. Now that I’m older, meeting the next generation of Tallahassee business leaders is quite impressive, as I wouldn’t have been able to have many discussions at the conference during my regular job at Aegis. This is one of the reasons I love it.
I then followed up with Landus and he shared this with me about the conference: “The Tallahassee Chamber Conference had a huge impact on my perception of the Tallahassee business community. The smiling faces and bright minds really inspired me to dream bigger. If we continue to add value to as many people as possible (especially young people), Tallahassee will continue to be home to a world of opportunity. “
After returning home, I continued to see the community embrace my little book project.
Tom Flanigan with WFSU had done an interview on the book right before I left and when I returned Greg Tish with 93.3 put me on the show on Monday. We discussed everything about the book then Rowland Publishing (thanks McKenzie & Zandra) published a great article on the book in 850 magazine, the Tallahassee Democrat did the same (thanks William, Martha and TaMaryn for the pre-mention – conference, you rock) and then to our book launch at Midtown Reader.
People introduced themselves. Just like that moment of fear that the book would be unreadable, I was like what if no one shows up?
I posted a photo that morning on Instagram of the scene from the movie “Spinal Tap” where no one shows up for the band’s record signing.
But folks did come, one attendee, Lee, said he was a huge fan and brought me a laminated copy of the book’s press release. The people I know from work, play, family, the Leadership Tally 27 class in the house, and people I met that evening all showed up to our meeting.
There is no better community advocate than Sally Bradshaw (owner of Midtown Reader) and her support has been incredible (go visit the store and grab your copy of Professionally Distanced). At the end of the evening, WCTV’s Katie Kaplan also stopped by to cover the event. She could have gone home for the day, they could have skipped her but she took the time and the 11pm news report was awesome.
Thanks, Katia. Howard of Live in Tallahassee also stopped by for an interview. I have never seen anything like it. The book and all of the events surrounding it reminded me of how blessed we are to live in a community like Tallahassee and although we still have a lot to work on, I wouldn’t call anywhere else home.
Thank you for your support, friendship and kindness (especially Tim and Norman for driving from the beach to the book signing) not only for the book, but for everyone doing their best for everyone.
This one is for you and whatever project you are working on. I can’t wait to see it and see our community support it because that’s what we do. Health to you.
Blake Dowling is the CEO of Aegis Business Technologies, author of the Professionally Distanced book, host of the Biz & Tech podcast and writes columns for several organizations. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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