Archive for Becky’s email newsletter – Page 2

Are your plans turning into brick walls?

It’s possible to get so attached to the plan, that you can’t do anything else. 

Deb told me about a town that decided to rehab some old cabins in their park. They formed a committee that reported to the Parks and Recs committee that reported to the City Council, who made the final approvals. So of course they wrote a plan. 

The head of the committee was determined to stick to the plan. They would raise all of the money before any action was taken. They would only go after donations of $25,000 and larger. That eliminated a lot of locals who wanted to give. It took three years before they could lift a hammer and start on the actual project. 

“We can’t build a house by building one window at a time.” That’s one of the excuses for waiting until you can do the whole plan exactly like it says.

But you’re not building a house. You’re building a community.

It’s more like a coral reef, with lots of tiny contributions by individuals to build a pleasing whole, but no master plan and no one in charge.   

If you do need to write a formal plan, you can try some of these 5 new ways to plan

Keep shaping the future of your town, 
Becky

PS –   End of year planning is upon us. Here’s what you need to know before you write your next plan

No arts scene? Start with this small step

When I toured the picopolitan small town of Rosalia, Washington, I met a painter who had a big corner building downtown. She said that she had moved to town anticipating that an arts scene would develop, and then she could be part of it. Since the arts scene hadn’t really developed, she felt fairly lonely as an artist.

She doesn’t have to wait for someone else to start that arts scene. She can start it herself. 

Just up the block from her studio, there is a small art gallery. She could partner with them, and together they could hold a small arts show. They could invite other artists from the nearby small towns and rural areas to exhibit on the sidewalks between her studio and their gallery just on some weekend afternoon. That might be the start of an arts festival that would encourage more local artists.

They could talk to the artists to gather some positive stories to share online and with the media.

Then to build on that, they could work their networks with other artists and artisans they’ve met through shows and events to invite them for another weekend show. They could look online for local people already selling art, just without a downtown presence. They might search Etsy, Handmade by Amazon, eBay, Shopify, Cafe Press, Deviant Art or Society6, and invite the local artists they uncover.

They could reach out to online writers and creators to share their events and some of the amazing art and artists. In each story, they could talk about their growing arts scene. 

Then another time, they could talk to area real estate agents and find out about available spaces that might work for new galleries, studios or workshops. It would be great to have those spaces clean and ready for visiting artists and arts lovers to tour during any of their events. 

It would be a slow process to build your own arts scene that way, building one small step at a time. But it might be more fun than simply hoping.

What kind of scene are you trying to build, and what small step could you take now? If you can’t think of a small step to get started, hit reply and let’s come up with one together. 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 
Becky

PS – Get even more ideas for building your community with local artisans in our video Crafters Create Prosperity.   

Boost your makers with MFG Day in October

Your town has some crafters, makers, artisans or small manufacturers. The perfect time to celebrate them is during October for MFG Day, aka Manufacturing Day: Creators Wanted!

Officially MFG Day is October 1 this year, but you can celebrate anytime in October. The goal is to build our workforce of future creators.

Here’s how even the smallest of towns can participate. 

  • Pick an existing local event that happens anytime in October, then add a space for makers, crafters and manufacturers to all exhibit.
  • Invite all of your local manufacturers, makers, crafters, and artisans to exhibit what they make.

Here’s how this is going to benefit your community. 

  • You’ll build connections between your makers because they’ll all be in the same place. Maybe some of them will even work together in the future.
  • You’re going to draw attention to your makers and manufacturers, and that will encourage more people to consider making things as a career.
  • You’ll help your creators boost their local sales.

Build pride in what you build locally.

Keep shaping the future of your town,
Becky

PS –  Check out our video Crafters Create Prosperity. It will help you grow your own entrepreneurs with crafts, arts and making.

Can small towns have food halls and public markets?

Let’s make one, #IdeaFriendly style

Howdy  

I think every small town wishes they had a public food market or food hall. You know the kind: a big building with lots of small food related businesses from cafes to farm stands to bakeries to jams and jellies. We’ve visited them in big towns, and we want them for our town too. 

But dang that would be a lot of work. 

In a virtual workshop I led for North Carolina Small Businesses, Inge and Maggie shared that they were working on this kind of a market: bricks and mortar, year round market for produce and local foods, with a coffee and juice bar and a seating area. A lot of work! 

How can they get started in an Idea Friendly Way? Take small steps.

Step 1. Start with an empty lot and a tent. 
Step 2. Pop up a temporary food market inside it with just a few booths.
Step 3. Grow from there. 

Actually, you don’t even need the tent to start. You could start with a single booth of food, if you also use it as a chance to talk to everyone about starting a bigger market. 

  • Set up booths to sell local foods at existing local events. 
  • Set up in the parking lot of another business, or on sidewalks. 
  • Equip a trailer or small truck to travel to nearby towns to sell food at their events.

Never start with buying a building. Start with tiny and temporary steps first. 

Creating a local foods market is just one part of a whole ecosystem of local food businesses. Find out more about creating a local food business ecosystem with this video we created for you.

Keep shaping the future of your town, 
Becky

PS – See the food hall/public market photos and find out what else I told Maggie and Inge in How to grow a food and produce market business in a small town, the Idea Friendly Way.  

Convince others, even when they won’t listen to you

Find your version of the card table community dinner

Howdy  

Convincing other people to try your ideas is hard. It’s easier to entice people instead. I’m not sure what kind of ideas you have, but there’s some way to do a tiny or temporary version of that idea that entices others to join you. 

There’s a woman in Elkhart, Kansas, who told me she dreams of closing down the main street for a community meal. She can imagine gathering everyone in town along a long table stretched right down the middle of the street, everyone talking and eating and really building community. She said she’s been dreaming of that for 4 or 5 years now, but it would take so much work to organize it all, convince the whole community to join her and convince the city leaders to close the street and take a chance on her untested dream of an idea. 

She could start next week by enjoying a meal with just a couple of friends at a folding table on a sidewalk or in a parking lot. Then maybe next time they can entice enough other people to fill two tables. Eventually, it could grow to be so enticing that even the city leaders say yes and close down main street and join the whole community for dinner. 

It feels hard to convince others to listen to you or approve of your idea. It’s so much easier to entice them to experience it in a way that doesn’t feel like a big risk. 

How could you do something tiny or temporary to entice others to try your idea with you? That’s the Idea Friendly Method

If you can’t think of a tiny way to entice others, share your idea with me, and I bet between Deb and I we can come up with something small! 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 
Becky

PS – Find out more ways to entice others using the Idea Friendly Method here.   

 

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SaveYour.Town · PO Box 8 · Hopeton, OK 73746 · USA
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Your next step to be Idea Friendly

Get 75% off and put "Idea Friendly" to work 

Howdy  

The Idea Friendly Method sounds easy, but what’s the next step? How do I actually use it? 

Well, Deb and I have been working on the answer to that for 5 years. So we boiled it down into a 30 minute video for you. We called it “Idea Friendly Next Steps” and we just released it TODAY. 

The video is $5, but only for one week. It goes up to $20 on July 8. 

Writing the video got me thinking about how I came up with the Idea Friendly Method. Throughout my career (and yours, I’m sure) there were always a few people in power who told me I needed to work my way up the ranks, to pay my dues before they would listen to me. They slowed down my ideas, attacked, blocked and even dismantled my work as soon as they could. 

So I started doing projects outside of the old formal structures. 

  • The “shop small” project that rallied local merchants. 
  • The wine tastings in an empty building during the arts festival. 
  • The gatherings of hundreds of small town people who were using social media in new ways. 

I also read a lot more about innovation, crowdsourcing, change science, community, rural development, behavioral motivation, social capital, and open networks. I listened to thousands of rural people in person, in my email and through our survey. 

In fall of 2015, I shared the first draft of the Idea Friendly Method with an audience. They showed a 17% increase in optimism.

This was when Deb Brown was still working as the director of a small town chamber of commerce. She started to make small Idea Friendly changes to the work she was already doing.

She forced me to strip away complications and simplify. It was a perfect learning lab, and we’re still learning. 

The Idea Friendly Method is never “finished” because you keep giving us feedback that makes it better.

There’s more of this story at the bottom of the page here.

Keep shaping the future of your town, 
Becky

PS – The Idea Friendly Next Steps video is 75% off, but only for one week. Don’t miss out. 

 

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SaveYour.Town · PO Box 8 · Hopeton, OK 73746 · USA
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Catch me on RFD-TV tonight! 📺

Do me a favor: call in. You might win a Yeti cooler

Howdy  

We interrupt this newsletter for breaking news!
I’ll be on AARP Live on RFD-TV tonight (US)
7pm Pacific, 8pm Mountain, 9pm Central, 10pm Eastern

Check your streaming or cable line up for RFD-TV or catch it on AARP Live or Sirius XM Channel 147. 

Bonus: They’re giving Yeti coolers to 5 people who call in.  

Secretly, I’m hoping you’ll call in so I’ll have some friendly voices to talk to! You can share a great thing in your town, or share something you are working on. 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 
Becky

PS – In actual news, Deb and I did a 23 minute video about the Survey of Rural Challenges. It’s yours to watch, no charge.

 

 

SaveYour.Town · PO Box 8 · Hopeton, OK 73746 · USA
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How the Survey of Rural Challenges surprised me

It wasn’t meant for the public

Got a quick minute? Watch the video version of why I started the Survey of Rural Challenges.

Howdy  

The very first time I ran the Survey of Rural Challenges, I was only asking people what topics they wanted me to write about on my site Small Biz Survival

I never expected to share the results as a public report. 

Once I read what people told me about their towns, the challenges they were facing, and what they most wanted help with, I realized that other people needed to see this, especially people and organizations who serve small towns. 

For some reason, a lot of the services and assistance that I saw offered to small towns simply didn’t match what the people themselves were saying they most wanted help with.

From 2015 to today, over 1400 rural people have told us what issues they most want help with. And there are some surprises. 

  • Usable buildings are as hard or harder to find than small business loans.
  • Lack of people is more of a limiting factor than lack of money.
  • Poverty, crime and drugs were among the least-often chosen challenges. 

There’s more. A lot more.

Deb and I tell you our biggest surprises in a 23 minute video. There’s no charge, and you don’t have to sign up for anything. Just watch it at SaveYour.Town/survey

Keep shaping the future of your town, 
Becky

PS –  What will you change to better match what rural people tell you they really need? Hit reply and tell me about it.  

 

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Best practices for rural housing

There aren’t any

Howdy  

Each town I visit that has had any success with housing has it’s own special way they did it. 

Some places have special resources. South Dakota has a governor’s houses program. Kansas just changed their state housing bond initiative to make second story lofts eligible. 

But that doesn’t help you if you’re not in those states. 

Tionesta, Pennsylvania, is hemmed in by the national forest, the river, and the foothills. So they’re considering adding housing on an island in the river. 

That probably doesn’t help you unless you have a forest, a river and an island, too. 

What I’m saying is there are no best practices to solving rural housing challenges. But there is a best mindset. 

Cultivate the mindset of being open to new ideas, of testing each idea rather than trusting expert guesses, of taking small steps rather than making big plans and copying what worked somewhere else. 

You don’t have the reinvent the wheel, or the house in this case. But you will have to find a special set of people, resources and places that work in your town. 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 
Becky

PS – Our video Improving Rural Housing is still available. 

 

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1 smart way to draw your community closer together

Fabulous homebuilding location! Close to downtown!

Howdy  

Whether your town is growing fast or in a decline, keep renewing your core. No one likes a mushy core, in an apple or a small town. 

Make the most of your existing water and sewer and street. Build more in the center, less on the outside. 

Draw your community closer together. People who live close to the core can walk and bike more to run errands. They can go downtown for shopping and events more easily. 

Here’s how you do it. Find the empty lots within your existing core residential areas. Then get together and brainstorm ways you can promote building in the core:

  • make people aware which lots are available for building
  • offer incentives like waiving utility startup fees
  • sell empty lots at low prices
  • remove zoning barriers

“Fabulous homebuilding location! Close to downtown!” 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 
Becky

PS – Housing is our theme this month. Discover more good ideas for just $5 at Improving Rural Housing

 

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Get a weekly dose of positivity for small communities from Becky McCray and Deb Brown, co-founders of SaveYour.Town. We share practical steps you can put into action right away.
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