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As I told a crowd earlier this week, I think I delivered 30 to 35 speeches last year. And when I announced I was starting my own business, I half-wondered if I’d ever be asked again.
I am not the type to take audience interest for granted, so I wasn’t sure if anyone would care much about what I had to say if I wasn’t connected to a large media outlet or a big organization.
Matthew Paulson, who helps coordinate One Million Cups, quickly sent me a signal that I probably would still get these requests.
He asked me to speak at the weekly event featuring entrepreneurs back in February – before he, or even I, really knew what my business would look like.
I was a little nervous about it back then, and I was a little bit more nervous this past week when I got up in front of a standing-room-only crowd to deliver my first speech about Align Content Studio, which marks its three-month anniversary this week.
Typically, Paulson told me, you have to be in business for a year before talking at One Million Cups. There’s a good reason for that, if you ask me, because at this early stage I often find myself with plenty of my own questions about my business. And the audience at One Million Cups is an astute one. I knew they would have solid topics they would want me to tackle.
They didn’t disappoint, but I didn’t feel as unprepared as I feared I might be, either.
We talked about content marketing, which is the central focus of my business model, and about balancing the news we cover with the clients we serve. I talked about how I wanted to flip the traditional model for media and focus on creating products designed to reach specific audiences that businesses want to target. I talked about how I wanted to create a better user experience, one that doesn’t involve cluttered advertising and that provides truly interesting and engaging content – the kind of stories you want to talk about and share.
But I neglected to mention something important about why I’m doing what I’m doing.
It’s not the primary driver behind my business model, but it is really gratifying to offer locally owned news to the Sioux Falls community.
I have watched news organizations get bigger and bigger in a quest to achieve more scale, and what tends to happen is the local communities served take on a diminished role within the larger company. It’s just a natural consequence of that type of corporate strategy. And it can mean fewer resources, more red tape and less flexibility for the media outlet and the community it serves.
We’re still a very small piece of the local media landscape, but I can tell already that being locally owned makes a difference. It has allowed us to create unique partnerships, respond nimbly to opportunities and freely experiment with our products.
Media needs that kind of approach now more than ever. I know we won’t be the last locally owned media organization to emerge, and that’s exciting. It should mean good things for the marketplace.
One of our sponsors asked me last week how things were going, and we got to talking about how fortunate I feel that my business reporting connects me constantly with people who give me new ways to think about my own business.
I had a moment like that when I talked with Chris Hanmer, owner of the downtown pastry shop CH Patisserie about the new ice cream shop he has planned for Washington Square.
He is uncompromising when it comes to the quality of his product. And it showed when he talked about the vision he has for Parlour Ice Cream House.
“When you walk in, you’re going to feel that the person behind this ice cream really cares,” he told me.
“We’re going to be the premier ice cream shop I can make, not just good for Sioux Falls but good for anywhere else in the world.”
That stuck with me. It’s a very high standard, but it’s worth trying to set no matter what product or service you offer.
I have no doubt he will meet it. But I figure if I get even close in my business, our market will be better for it.
As I told a crowd last week, I think I delivered 30 to 35 speeches last year. And when I announced I was starting my own business, I half-wondered if I’d ever be asked again.