As an entrepreneur, you probably assume when starting a creative small business that it's you against the world. You are the small fish in the large pond, with sharks lurking around every corner. You're struggling to break even, meanwhile competing against not only other small businesses, but corporate giants who are solidly established in the same industry you're trying to break into. Every client who goes to another competitor is just another indicator that you aren't cut out for this business. Your competitors have over 5K followers across all of their social media platforms and you're struggling to make it to 500. It's easy to resent these other people, right? I mean you deserve what they have. You work hard too! You know your stuff, you know you're talented. If it weren't for your competitors, you'd surely be far more successful and in effect, happier, right?
And now I want you to take everything you've just read, and repeat after me: "That. Is. Bullshit." Excuse my language, but let's call it like it is, shall we? It is that exact mindset that will not only hold you back, but will most likely, eventually run your business into the ground. So now that we have that out of the way, let's talk about #CommunityOverCompetition and how it can not only help grow your business, but your self confidence and ideal clientele as well.
First, let me say that I don't think being competitive is a bad thing. Competition keeps you motivated and striving to be the best you, you can be. It makes you continually reassess how you run your business and how you can grow it. I recently read this quote in an article from The Rising Tide Society (which is an AMAZING entrepreneurial movement centered around community over competition) and it is one of the best explanations I've heard yet: "Community over competition is competition rightly ordered - it's putting relationships before opportunity. It's an understanding that the best businesses serve others. Yes, the best businesses serve others - their customer's lives are enriched through the company's products or services." In layman's terms, be a good person, love on others, and focus on doing right by your customers and your business. It's that simple.
When I first started working for Maggie, I had no idea what to expect from the wedding industry. I'd worked mostly in corporate America, where I would hear, literally everyday, my coworkers bash each other and their competition. It was an extremely negative environment. A big reason why I left, besides finding myself and my passions, was because I was so worn down with the constant stream of neighbor bashing and ill-will. Thank God I was pleasantly surprised by this industry! I have heard nothing but praises, positivity and encouragement from everyone I've spoken to thus far among the wedding industry, whether they be florists, designers and planners or photographers. They all seem to really enjoy each other's company and genuinely want to see each other succeed.
And, to make it even better, community over competition can even HELP your business. But Danielle, you gasp, how could this be possible?! Well, I'm glad you asked. We asked several of our "competitors" AKA good friends within the wedding planning and design industry to share with us how community over competition has helped their business, but first, here's a little inspo from the owner of Double G Events:
When I started this business six years ago, there were only four main planners in the Connecticut area and I never took the time to introduce myself or get to know them. HUGE mistake and if I could do it all over again, I would. As I grew, personally and creatively, I got to work alongside and get to know my competition and understand that they are some of the only people that will know what you are going through on a day to day. These people below are some of the most amazing and talented creatives I have met and now, they are not only my colleagues and co-workers, but my friends, allies and confidants. As a solo-preneur, we don't have the luxury of being in an office environment with someone in the next cubicle to bounce ideas of off, collaborate with, laugh, joke, vent, get lunch ... we are working from our home offices and studios, in our pajamas (yes, this is true - sometimes!) and it's comforting to know that some of these gals and guys are only a phone call, text or G-Chat away. There was a brief moment in 2014 where I wanted to close up shop, pack my bags and move to Colorado; mountains were calling me (they still are but I still got lots to do in Connecticut)! I met with Ms. Amy Cagginello of Amy Champagne Events and she said to me point blank, "I'm your competition and I'm telling you NOT TO QUIT! You have a portfolio, you have a passion. Don't let your past experiences dictate your future." And that re-ignited the fire under my bum. If my direct competitor was telling me to keep going, I was gonna listen. So I reworked my website, re-branded my image, logo, everything and started from scratch. I finally finished my business mentorship with Candice Coppola of Jubilee Events and now, we have just celebrated our sixth anni-birth-sary and I couldn't be more proud. I have learned that if you want to succeed in entrepreneurship you must surround yourself with people who challenge you and make you see things outside of your comfortable box. My fellow creatives have all contributed to my success; we have all jumped at one point and are continuously helping each other fly.
photo credit :: The Rising Tide Society
So, the next time you start hearing that devil on your shoulder, whispering about comparing yourself to others, telling you that you aren't good enough, or even worse, encouraging you to undercut your "competition"... knock him the hell off, brush your shoulders off, hold your head high and embrace #CommunityOverCompetition.