Congratulations to Olivia of Lavish Engagements, Mary of Mary’s, and Atlas Café! Three of the businesses that were winners in our April #LIFTVIP promotion. In May, your #LIFTVIP shared selfie could win you and a LIFT VIP friend each gift cards to The Waverley Hotel. But this post isn’t about our current promotion. It’s about why I want entrepreneurs to try our new 14-day free trial LIFT VIP membership.
It’s a treat to create contests and give away prizes. But promoting and growing local businesses is only part of what we do with LIFT. I started this project in 2015, as The #WeAreYQQ Project. My intention, to inspire a grassroots movement of entrepreneurs in my community because I saw a need. Bear with me while I tell some of that story.
The 3-Rs and how they’re not the solution
I grew up in Black Creek, just north of Courtenay in the Comox Valley. That was almost 58 years ago. Like many Vancouver Island communities, ours was a logging and fishing-based economy. Things changed dramatically in the 1980s. Local governments scrambled to respond. But really, what can government do? (More on that later.)
I’ve watched as we’ve poured millions of taxpayer dollars into supporting the development of what I call a “3-Rs economy” of retirement, retail, and recreation services. All good stuff. But somehow missing the point of what my community is really about: talented people, passionate about this place.
And how are our 3-Rs doing, a generation after the decline of fishing and forestry as sources of jobs and wealth? Two years ago we lost 200 young families. To me that means the 3-Rs are failing to provide the incomes and opportunities we once enjoyed with our resource sector economy.
I’m betting that talent, however, is the solution
I’ve been doing community economic development work on Vancouver Island off and on since 1994. During that time I’ve both ignored the problem, and complained about how our tax dollars are being spent. In late 2014, frustrated at what I saw as a failure of imagination in local agencies and government, I decided to stop complaining. I was going to do something about this economic problem.
That “something” was, and is, to focus on talent as the solution. I’d bring speakers in who inspired me. I’d invite entrepreneurs and creatives to come together to grow businesses and jobs. To celebrate the local talents that I think will grow our “next economy.”
Just getting started!
I’ve made it my job to generate visibility for the businesses I work with, the businesses that have become charter members of LIFT. I call them LIFT VIPs. They’re special, because in a region that is very lifestyle focused and old-school (even sleepy) when it comes to business, they’re growth oriented. Open to new ideas. Open to help each other make economic shift happen. One of my first initiatives was to launch the #WeAreYQQ tag as a “talent brand” for our region, for anyone to use. Ever since launching the #WeAreYQQ my focus has been on getting more attention for local business – locally, regionally, and beyond. It’s starting to pay off.
Smart and talented people make LIFT shift happen. The list is long. We’ve now got over 100 entrepreneurs involved, mostly from the Comox Valley, but some from Campbell River. This Spring we’ve come up with a few new ideas. These will fuel changes. They will accelerate the marketing momentum we’ve generated – and help LIFT VIPs grow their businesses. We’re also going to be streamlining and restructuring our membership model. That means more great benefits for LIFT VIPs.
This month: Free trial memberships
I want Comox Valley, Campbell River, and Qualicum businesses to benefit from what we’re doing. I’m focused on this region because I think we have a lot in common, including rapidly aging population, a need to attract and retain young families, and – paradoxically – a growing “talent” population. Entrepreneurs and creatives who aren’t afraid to do business in a new way.
I also want to touch every one of these young (and some, not so young) talents. I want them to try what we have to offer, and see if it helps them grow their businesses. To that end, I’m inviting any business in the region to enjoy a free 14-day trial LIFT membership. If you like the idea of being part of a dynamic, growth-oriented entrepreneur network, contact us via this form – or better yet, give me a call at 250-792-1408 and let’s make that shift happen for you today!
Grow your businesses. And vote
Back to my comment earlier, about what can we expect from government. Government is not entrepreneurial. But it can do things to help startups start and grow. Help small businesses become medium-sized businesses. Keep the big businesses from monopolising the marketplace. As entrepreneurs, perhaps the biggest thing government can do for us is support grassroots initiatives and experiments. As entrepreneurs, the best thing we can do for our governments is vote. I’m writing this on the eve of a provincial election. I urge every entrepreneur to get out and vote.
I won’t tell you how you should vote, or how I’m going to vote. But I will tell you that I think we need to see voting and the exercise of our democratic powers as one of the things we do to ensure the success of our businesses. Just like inventory or taxes. Not necessarily very exciting. But necessary.
Finally, LIFT is an experiment. A unique experiment in grassroots business and community economic development. I’m doing this because I believe talent in business, the arts, non-profits, and more are the solution to economic challenges in my community. The 100+ LIFT VIPs are doing this for a number of reasons, most of which are about growing their businesses and growing a supportive entrepreneur community. We’re making shift happen.
If you’ve got ideas about how we can make LIFT even better, better, please be in touch. If you’d like to become part of the LIFT VIP community, check out our events. If you’re ready to come on board as a LIFT VIP, please use this contact form – or call me at 250-792-1408. Let’s make this shift happen – now!
ps. Coming up soon to LIFT your biz…
May 17: BizOnDeck with Bella Photo and Panther Workwear
May 31: Community Voices II & #WeAreYQQ After Party
June 5: BizOnDeck with Dustin Whiteside Financial and Studio in Bloom
and more coming to our events page.