Brower: How a bumper sticker expresses a point about living, working here
January 3, 2017
The mag chloride-obscured bumper sticker on the local car in front of me drove home an interesting point about my work with entrepreneurs here in Grand County.
It read as follows: "We're All Here Because We're Not All There."
This Yogi-Berra-like aphorism hit home in several ways
Yes, we are all here in Grand County, a place that can be an enjoyable place to live but a difficult place in which to make a living. As I work with people wanting to start and expand businesses in Grand County, I frequently discover a common plight. People love to live here and they want to make this their home because it's a beautiful place full of unique people where there are tons of outdoor things to do.
But there's a catch.
Despite a good tourism-based economy, the population here isn't massive. Consequently, it can be tough to find or make a job that pays well enough to pay the rent, feed the family, cover the insurance and go out and play. So many people hope to expand their earning potential by starting or expanding a business.
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An important part of the mission of the Grand Enterprise Initiative is to nurture entrepreneurs by helping them make a living doing what they love to do while living where they want to live. They want to live here, in Grand County. Hence the "We're All Here."
I get it.
But the difficult part of that equation is expressed well in the follow-up: "Because We're Not All There."
This double entendre makes me laugh and cry all at the same time.
I laugh because it is funny to think that we are not all there (that is, not completely sane and not completely together) because we are here. This suggests that you've got to be a little bit crazy to live here . . . but in a good way.
For entrepreneurs this is only partially true.
For people who want to live here and have a business that depends entirely on the local market, there are issues to contend with.
First, the local market is small. A total of 14,000 people live year-round in the county. That's just not many people when you consider that Summit County has 30,000 people (and it's a third the size of Grand) and that Routt County has more than 30,000 people.
Of course, looking at it the other way around, a person could consider Jackson County, just to our north. That county, although massive geographically, has only about 1,400 residents — one tenth of Grand County!
Any local business that depends on the local market is going to have to capture a huge amount of that small market to make it. That can be a challenge.
Yet many entrepreneurs here depend on the tourist market or on other markets outside the county and they can do well catering to those markets. But as markets get larger they become more difficult to penetrate, which means a robust marketing plan is important.
Perhaps I could say you've got to be a little bit crazy to want to work hard enough to capture a large part of a small market. Or I could say you've got to be a little bit crazy to want to work hard enough to capture a decent amount of those large tourist and "outside the county" markets.
But, we are "here."
And day-to-day, day-in and day-out, I see that many of those business start-ups and entrepreneurs who aren't "all there" are able to make it. They do so with realistic expectations, hard work, good business planning and an attachment to this place that makes it all worthwhile.
And that's the point, after all. To be here and make it, even if we aren't all there.
Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He provides free and confidential business management coaching for anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached at 970-531-0632 or at email@example.com.
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