Since I first got involved with Humboldt Made I have used the phrase Co-opetition so many times in my business dealings. Everyone I state that phrase too lights up, laughs and really becomes inspired by the notion.
Humboldt Made is an organization that helps local small businesses become successful larger businesses. Being behind the Redwood Curtain and all, we are often sheltered from the outside world of commerce and business networks. Tulip is a perfect example of a business that has seen tremendous benefits from becoming a member of Humboldt Made, and I would like to share with you in that experience!
So it all started in March of 2013 when HM's founder Angie Schwab put out an add for a call to local businesses to come and be a part of a buyer tour here at Mad River Brewery Tap Room in Blue Lake. I had not had any local involvement in the business community up until this point. I had been in business for many years and had somehow missed the train to the center of Humboldt's business networks. It wasn't intentional by any means, just unfortunate. I decided to respond to this add and was immediately contacted by Angie about getting involved with Humboldt Made. It was too late to get me on board for that years event, but she really wanted me to attend so that I could start getting involved.
I showed up and of course saw all my local faires that I know and love on display. Everyone was happily sharing what they have and there seemed to be a strong sense of pride and ownership gleaming from these amazing artisan business owners. I knew I wanted to join in. I needed to feel supported in my efforts too, after all I had no one to talk to about business in my world. No one to bounce ideas off of, to help me learn from my mistakes, to help me make better decisions.
Humboldt Made expressed themselves proudly and its business members having "rural sophistication" was the talk of the town. I became engaged. I met so many sweet people with very similar passions as my own. Yes, some of them were in direct competition with me, and many in competition for the dollar in general. This did not stop us from becoming friends and wanting to help each other along the way. I noticed people offering to pass along contact and networking information, or offer to send their competitors samples to a buyer. This is not general practice in the world of business. Everyone knows that your competitors are your enemy right? NO that is the opposite of what happens at Humboldt Made. People are working in Co-opetition and its very inspiring!
After the first buyer tour I was approached by Angie and she mentioned that I had been nominated to be on HM's Board of Directors. I was like, "Me"? And looking around to see make sure. I was so elated that I had been considered for this position. I had no Board experience but Angie said that other board members found me mature and very business minded, and that was what they were looking for. So then my journey working within the organization began.
I felt so proud to sit at a table with all of these professionals in my community. Owners of businesses that I have admired, respected and supported for almost 20 years. Fire and Light, SunValley, Six Rivers Brewery, Mad River Brewery, Eel River Grass Fed Beef, Humboldt Hot Sauce, Los Bagels, Riverbend Cellars and lets not forget Yakima! The board was so diverse with professionals like Chris Gaines from HSU and Alanna Powell from Folklife Society and SnapFan. The experience to work with these folks, mix with them and be of equals boosted my esteem in so many ways. And guess what? It boosted my business. All of a sudden everyone wanted to help me and see Tulip succeed.
We had an event, "Humboldt Made Film Premiere" September of 2013. I was asked to speak at this event which was my first public speaking experience. It was nerve racking. I had just been to New York for an event called Elements NYC, a perfumers showcase in upscale Manhattan. I got up and spoke about my experience, and this is what I shared on stage with a shaky but proud voice...........Going to Elements was not planned very far in advance! I was asked last minute to participate, pulled the funds together and called Angie. "HELP" I said. "I need to pull this off". Angie immediately said she wanted me to take product from HM members over to share with the shows promoters. She called upon Bill Prescott (HM Board member) and Marketing Manager at Sunvalley Foral Farms. "Let's send tons of Tulips to NYC for Tulip's booth"! Next thing I know she has me going over to Baroni to set me up with jewelry sets to wear at the show. Dick Taylor chocolates sent me over with a box of their chocolate bars and Riverbend Cellars with a case of wine! I'm now a walking Humboldt Made ad!! I was overwhelmed with support and encouragement. I still to this day cant thank everyone enough for pulling that together! When my speech was done everyone was clapping and I was crying inside. I felt for the first time in my life that someone appreciated my efforts and I was lifted up to see the horizon of what the future could bring.
Humboldt Made has continued to pull through for Tulip on so many levels. I have had mentoring from Don Banducci, one of Humboldt's most famous business owners, being one of the founders of Yakima. We have had many good talks in "The House that Yakima built" aka Don's home! He has always welcomed all of us budding entrepreneurs into his home and amongst his family. We continue to feel supported by other new mentors as well as Tulip grows!
Giving back? YES! This spring we are working with a group of student from Humboldt State University who are in a Business Consulting class. We have opened up our doors and all of our secrets to allow them to study what we do. It has been a good experience. I personally am mentoring small businesses every chance I can, when I am asked or needed. I hope to continue to give back to new HM members what has been given to me.
So here we are in 2015, and Humboldt Made has a new Executive Director this year, Aaron Carter. Angie moved to North Carolina with her family and we were kind of devastated. More emotionally than anything else! The transition has been a challenge but we are doing so many great things this year and next year, and Humboldt Made is sure to continue to shine and do what it has always done best, help others by working in CO-OPETITION!
Thanks for reading and Happy Spring!
Victoria England - Tulip Founder/Mixologist