Tracey shared her story with me, and I could not wait to share it with you. Here it is:
I just wanted to tell you how much your newsletters have inspired me and what I have done with your ideas. I live in a small town of 3500 people about 26 miles west of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Our Main Street downtown has mostly boarded up stores with owners from out of town that use the space as storage. We have a little used book store run by the mayor, a flower shop, a pest control business, a thrift store, and 3 banks. Within 6 months the new highway bypass will open and go around our town.
For the last 12 years I have driven 45 minutes to my job on the other side of Tuscaloosa everyday. My boss has been thinking of retiring so I would drive and think about what I want to do for the rest of my life. That’s where your newsletters gave me inspiration along with Pinterest.
In June, I opened up Learning Block Studio. We teach art, music, dance, fitness, baton, sewing and have a Makers Market for people to sell their products. We have 4 vendors in the market at this time. My teachers are paid on a commission basis so the more classes they introduce the more money they make. Since I still have my day job, I have a retired lady who is a widow running my office, and stay at home moms teaching art and music, college students teaching fitness and baton, and a recent college graduate who was on the dance team at the University of Alabama who wants to eventually own her own dance studio. All these people live in our little community.
By using what I have learned from you, I have made my Learning Block a place where you can rent space to try out your business ideas and hopefully grow to open your own business in our town. I hope the dance classes grow so much that our dance teacher will have to open her own studio. At that point the baton and fitness will build up enough to take up the time spots dance was in.
We also have a large room on the end of our building that had been a pharmacy so we turned that space into a rental space. Right now we rent it to a relative who has opened a snowball and ice cream business using the drive up window for walk up customers. They will change their menu in the fall to sell soups and coffees. I hope they will grow enough where they will move out to their own building too. Then I will use that space for the birthday parties that our art and dance teachers have started doing.
We haven’t had much interest from our town government, but they will come around to our way of doing business – only because they want to know what people are talking about. We will win them over!!
This has been so exciting to watch play out – people start sharing ideas and new ideas start building. Our customers and students come up with ideas making it so much fun. Our motto is ‘We want to teach what you want to learn’.
Thank you again for doing what y’all do – you are making a difference!!!
Keep shaping the future of your town,
PS – If you’ve ever been to the SXSW Festival in Austin, you know that there aren’t a lot of rural voices represented as speakers. That’s why I offered to share the results of our Survey of Rural Challenges at next year’s event. You can see the details, comment and give us a vote on the SXSW PanelPicker