What does community engagement have to do with my business?
My journey as an entrepreneur began as a new mom and recent college grad in my 30s. You could say that there were a lot of detours or as I like to call them fact-finding missions. I am happy to report that being a waitress at the downtown diner as the bars let out was not the kind of career I wanted. I can also confirm that being an auditor for Medicare, while a lack-luster endeavor, taught me sooo much and gave me the needed confidence to tackle college (the thing only really smart or privileged people do - or so I thought).
So when the company lost the contract and the processing of claims was moving outside Chico I got a jumpstart. Off to college I went. I started at my local community college then transferred to the university. I went from academic probation (a failed prior attempt) to graduating with honors. It wasn't easy but I learned that passion and accessing the right resources can make all the difference.
I learned more about how to engage with my community. I learned that others gave back as just part of their every-day lifestyle. I was inspired. Shortly after my first child was born in the depths of postpartum depression, I read an article about the plight of other mothers that were struggling to diaper their babies. I was heartbroken. I had to give back - I had to help.
At first, I thought I could just donate to a local organization if I did a diaper drive - but it quickly became clear that there was no such organization committed to the cause. The Shalom Free Clinic had been doing what they could through their store but with that closing down there was a gap for those in need.
Another mother, Katie Fox and I started to pull together what is now the Fontaine Foundation. It was a labor of love. Wonderful volunteers from other areas of my life came together, some mothers themselves and some not. They all felt the call to give of themselves and helped bring my dream to fruition.
Over the last 5 years our volunteers have given away thousands and thousands of diapers to those in need. One of our clients - that volunteered with us even when in need - went on to open her own business Son of a Wich - we would like to think in some small way we helped give her a little bit more power in her own life to take on such an endeavor.
We have provided relief efforts after the Oroville Dam evacuations, Campfire, Floods, Bear fire, and so on.
For me, when I decided to start Pearl Consulting I thought, this can't be much more challenging that running a non-profit. To be honest, they are both challenging for very different reasons but I wouldn't trade it for the world because in both my non-profit and my business I want to be the change I want to see in the world.
As business owners, we have the power to lift others up through engaging with our community. We can give of our time or resources by supporting the needs of the community. We can organize meals for the elderly or homeless. We can offer educational opportunities to underprivileged youth through scholarships, classes or internships.
We can identify a problem, like the example above, and organize our community to solve the problem. We can work to help people on different side of an issue understand where the other might be coming from. We can directly volunteer our time or do staff volunteer activities for team building. You can volunteer your expertise as a business for organizations or projects that don't have the budget to afford one.
You can sit on a board or lead research studies or effect change on an institutional level like changing legislation or helping others gain access to their local public library. The possibilities are endless.
Global Community Engagement Day brings countries all over the world together to recognize the importance of community engagement and as you can see above - there are sooo many options.
I help businesses humanize themselves and develop their culture, tone and messaging. Part of that is showing the world how they feel and what they find important. What better way, especially as a business, than to build up your community? When you do this, not only do you make your community stronger and more successful but you also get to really know your community which helps you find your niche.
Pearl Consulting came about because I saw the movement in marketing toward authenticity. Some days it is challenging to show your authentic self - not everyone will like it. For me, I saw that the Chico I love wasn't being represented on social media, in marketing, and I wanted to help others achieve that.
I wanted to see businesses survive this pandemic and come out the other side stronger for it, what better way that showing people why they should support you? I saw another problem I could help solve.
What about you? What problem do you see that you want to solve? How are you engaging with your community? You are never too young or too old to start, you just have to start somewhere.