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Solvency & the Lorax

Avatar photo by Casey Woods, Executive Director | November 2, 2017

Occasionally, I’ll throw pictures of a little blonde three year old (going on four- going on twenty-six) into the e-newsletter. That little spit-fire is my daughter, Brynn. She is at the wonderful age where everything is a creative story that veers off course with impending distractions while I’m trying to convince her to do little things, like actually wear pants. Night times are story times, and we generally read three books (although Brynn tries to negotiate for other books, movies, or essentially anything that keeps her from bed time).

Lately, my nights have been long with Start Your Own Business classes and nighttime activities, but we try to discuss her day in terms of “what did you do today?”. “Doing” for a toddler is not an easy process. It’s much easier to talk about your socks than take them to your room. It’s much easier to express that your friend at daycare was sad than to cheer them up. It’s simpler to comment on the color of the leaves on the ground than to take your “play rake” and pile up the fallen foliage. The thing is, it’s always easier to add commentary and advocate than it is to effect change, regardless of our age.

As Brynn settles down for bed, one of her favorite stories is “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, an individual moves into an area inhabited by a variety of unique animals and some wonderful “Truffula Trees”. The “Onceler”, as the individual is known, decides to cut down the trees to make some products, and eventually all of the flora and fauna was driven out of the area. As trees are being cut down, birds are flying away, and fish crawl to find a new home, the Lorax appears to chastise the Oncler. Eventually, only a desolate area remains, and the story is conveyed to a young boy who is encouraged to plant the last Truffula seed as he’s told “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Brynn is getting to the age where she questions every page of every book every time anything is read, and I remember her asking “why doesn’t he help them?”, to which I responded “why doesn’t who help what?” Brynn pointed to the Lorax standing amid a picture of “glopidy gloop” that was poisoning the fish, and I simply responded “I don’t know, honey.” Even from the viewpoint of a three year old, her insinuation was clear- if the Lorax was aware of a problem, why didn’t he DO something beyond talk about it? Why did he simply “speak for the trees” and then high tail it out of town when the problem simply became untenable?

We can all see things that need to get better in our own organizations, businesses, communities and nation. Do we simply “speak for the trees”, or do we do something to make things better?

This month, we have the convergence of the Start Your Own Business Class Graduation (November 16th, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Lyon County History Center) and Small Business Saturday (November 25th- join us for the “Sugar Stroll”). The class started October 17th and will serve as the culmination of hard work by students, volunteer time provided by a lot of local businesses/organizations, and investment by a few different local agencies. The Sugar Stroll will celebrate participating small businesses during a critical stretch of the shopping year.

Over 60% of all net new jobs in the United States are created in small businesses. In high tech industries, 98.5% of entities are classified as “small businesses”. Small businesses donate a higher percentage of their gross sales back to local communities than their “big” counterparts, they “magnify” their impact by doing business with other small businesses in the community (bankers, accountants, attorneys, marketing agencies, etc.), and their locally centric nature helps rural communities grow. However, last year, startups in the US hit a forty year low.

Main Streeters are trying to “make things better” by growing available loan funds, creating an incubator space, providing educational opportunities (like the SYOB Class, Social Media courses, Destination Boot Camp assistance, and more), offering location assistance, producing events that have real impacts on sales, and a host of other activities. Internally, staff refers to this approach as “solvency”. We are working to solve the underlying causes behind a nationwide decline in entrepreneurship/innovation to give our community a competitive advantage. We understand that we can’t solve problems through “speaking for the trees”, we have to take real actions and commit real resources towards making things better.

For all of you that are shopping small every day (including Small Business Saturday), contributing to our campaign for an incubator space to help grow entrepreneurs, volunteering to assist with the Start Your Own Business Class, assisting with our myriad of events and activities designed to help a multitude of businesses and organizations each year, and join Main Street in focusing efforts on local entrepreneurs- THANK YOU.

When people go beyond advocacy, they can solve underlying problems and make things better- and things continue to get better in Emporia. As long as we remember the hard work and focus that it takes to actually make change occur, we can continue on a positive trajectory. So, to paraphrase my daughter’s night time story: “Because people like you have cared and done a whole lot, things have gotten better- don’t stop.”

About the Author

Casey Woods, Executive Director

Before accepting the director position in March of 2009, Casey worked in both retail and agricultural jobs in the family businesses. A lifelong resident of the Emporia Area, Casey was a ten year volunteer for Emporia Main Street prior to his appointment as director. During that time he served as the board president and chair of the Economic Vitality Committee.

Casey also serves as a partner in PlaceMakers, LLC, a consulting firm that routinely works with both large and small communities, and their businesses, to promote sustainable economic growth through community and economic development practices. Casey consults with businesses, organizations and communities to understand their market capacity and fill vacant spaces. He has been involved in two projects that included crowdfunding as a part of their overall business funding strategies, Radius Brewing and Twin Rivers Winery & Gourmet Shoppe.