I have a dream about a supportive network of people in business who are loving, encouraging, helpful and constructive. Who are always there to like and share posts, promote and hype you up every chance they get. They let you know if you need a new table cloth or if you are sitting too much instead of engaging with potential customers and who may have a little extra of something they see you might need and so they share just because. I so want to believe in this dream and I hold onto it and keep my eyes open for those who emulate its magic.
Unfortunately, I've had more than my fair share of the opposite.
A woman and I co founded and organized a biannual market at a local, unutilized venue. We thought it was such a waste for this perfectly accommodating venue to go unused. We managed sometimes over 72 tables, the advertising, promos and application processes. We learned through trial and error what worked and what didn't and tried to find the balance between keeping it affordable for vendors while also making a bit to account for the time and effort it took to liaison. We would keep our eyes open for potential vendors and invite them to join and it was during one of these recruiting moments that things got a little underhanded.
I had gone to a local healthfood store and came across a seemingly lovely lady who was giving out free samples of her wares to promote. We talked a bit about the event, where it was, it's biannualness, the venue and she expressed great interest. We exchanged emails and within a week or so, she was messaging to receive more info and the application. So far, everything was normal, some vendors are interested, some not and so it goes. Soon after there was a story printed in the paper about a new market which was set up to utilized the same venue and the 2 people organizing it stated within the interview that they had been thinking of a perfect venue for their market and thought, why don't we use this perfectly accommodating venue that was currently being unused. The thought had just come to them. Out of nowhere. Verbatim. Yes, one of those 2 people organizing was the seemingly lovely lady who I had spoken with and had handed over all the vendor application information to.
Well yes, this seemed a little... suspicious. But my brain just pushed it aside and thought, whatever - markets at the same venue - its all good. So being in charge of marketing, I decided to include their promotion within our own to build the momentum towards people getting used to the idea of coming to this ideal venue for markets. I advertised their times and dates and tried to bring in as much enthusiasm as possible and even tagged their page to let them and everyone else know that we could co-exist and support each other.
Were my posts ever acknowledged by these people you might be wondering? Did they like, share or comment on any of our posts that included them? Did they return the favor and include us and our dates and times in their posts?
Nope. Not at all. Not even once.
Within my dream, they approached me right from the get go and I was so relieved that someone else was wanting to organize a market there. I gladly shared any info that might be helpful for them and gracefully walked away while continuing to promote and support whenever possible. But alas, this dream wasn't real. These people only managed to leave a distrustful and underhanded taste in the mouth.
Another experience I had with the owner of a company also woke me up from the dream. I was offering Henna at a staff appreciation event and when the owner of a company came in and saw me offering henna she stated with much enthusiasm that I should come talk to her. I never got a chance to during that event and it wasn't until maybe 2-4 years later that I actually got it together enough to make an appointment to come talk to her. One of her clients was a friend of mine at the time who spoke nothing but the best of her and how creative she was and that I should totally follow up and talk with her. So, with appointment set, I took a contact sheet of images and set out to co-conspire with this woman in the hopes of some mutual support.
Not only was she 10 minutes late for our appointment, upon entering the premises where I was waiting, she walked passed me without acknowledging me and proceeded to preoccupy herself making me wait for another 10 minutes. We are now 20 minutes passed our appointment time. While she, somewhere in the back room and I, still unacknowledged, I offer that if this wasn't a good time, perhaps we should reschedule. She then comes out full of skepticism and defensiveness and was pretty much like, okay fine, what do you want. I push through as best as I can within a place of vulnerability because I am literally putting myself out there to someone who has already treated me unprofessionally. Even though I got my pitch out after having to break down what seemed like some preconceived defenses, I left there deciding that that is not the kind of person I want to do or be in business with.
I have a friend/fellow vendor, who has been nothing but supportive and was actually the one who made a great point about sitting versus engaging with potential customers, tell me I should join her women in business social networking group. A group that meets a couple times a month and has these 2 women from my previous experiences as members.
Perhaps they have grown and learned from their mistakes. Perhaps they have seen themselves from another perspective and have thought to themselves, well that was shitty so I will from now on make it a priority to never step on another head again. I'm not surprized by my hesitations.
I dream about a supportive network of people in business who are loving, encouraging, helpful and constructive. Who are always there to like and share posts, promote and hype you up every chance they get. People who let you know if you need a new table cloth or if you are sitting too much instead of engaging with potential customers and who if they have a little extra of something they see you might need, they share just because.
Dreams do come true. I believe that and as much as I dream about a supportive network of fellow entrepreneurs, the reality is that there are lots who would rather step on your head to get themselves higher than link arms and rise together.
Proceed with caution but never lose sight of the dream.