Last week I traveled to a new city to spend 2+ days with 13 women I’d never met (in person) before.
When I first told my three boys I'd be leaving for a business training retreat, one of them was quick to ask, "Mom, why can't you just take an online course?"
Hmm... He had a point.
No time away from family.
No figuring out how to fit everything into my carry on.
No worrying about airport parking and Uber rides.
No awkward first moments of small talk with new people.
No digging in deep and sharing aloud my fears and dreams for my business.
Wouldn't it just be easier, and less expensive, and more comfortable to just sit behind a screen at home and learn what needed to be learned?
Perhaps; but here's the thing: in gaining ease, and $, and comfort, I would have missed out on something far more important; I would have missed out on community.
Google defines community as "a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals."
Some might argue that this can be achieved online, and I’d agree with this on some levels. Yet, in just 2+ days (roughly 24 waking hours), the act of immersing myself in face-to-face community in Nashville taught me volumes more than any online training or textbook could. Not that I came away having it all figured out, but I certainly left inspired and forever impacted by the women I interacted with.
The proof is in the pudding...
1. Thistle Farms
After my plane landed, I hailed my first Uber ride and headed to Thistle Farms' headquarters in Nashville. We've been carrying Thistle Farms products in our shop since we opened, and I've always loved the mission behind their products. But actually visiting and meeting the women behind the brand was no less than incredible. When I arrived, Katrina, who handles all wholesale accounts, took me on a personal tour.
I’ve known Katrina as our email contact, but meeting her in person, hearing her story of joining the Thistle Farms program 14 years ago and working with them ever since, gave me such a bigger picture of what Thistle Farms is about. As we toured the cafe, conference rooms, offices, and production and shipping facilities, I was impressed by the love, support, and care that radiated from the women working at Thistle Farms.
Together, they’ve done the hard work of coming to a place of healing in their individual lives, and that hard work has bonded them together as a family. They’ve formed community together and are stronger for it.
The following day, our group of women entrepreneurs took a field trip to ABLE’s headquarters which is also in Nashville. ABLE is a fashion brand on a mission to end poverty through job creation for women. A few months ago, we started carrying their leather handbags and wallets made in Ethiopia, and I was excited to see their jewelry production which happens on site at their Nashville headquarters.
Once again, I met amazing women who exemplify strength and courage, rising above difficult circumstances with the support and encouragement of the their ABLE team. As I spoke with and listened to the talented women behind ABLE’S necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings, there was a recurring theme: community played a powerful role in their stories as overcomers.
3. Fellow Entrepreneurs
I’d be remiss not to mention the 13 incredible women I joined for the “Get After It Getaway”, all entrepreneurs seeking to do good via their businesses. Have you ever been thrown into a room full of strangers with a similar vision? You might come from different places, your roles might not look exactly the same, and you might not agree on every topic, but as you share your story, you find common ground. And that common ground becomes a place for growth as you learn from one another, sharing where you’ve been and where you’re hoping to go. Bonds are created and the beauty of community finds a place to take root.
How about you? Are you longing for some authentic community? You might not be an entrepreneur headed off to Nashville, but I’d encourage you to take a leap, or even a tentative step, to join in community right where you’re at:
A book club at your library.
A cycling (or barre, or Zumba, or strength training...) class at your gym.
A mom’s group at the park.
A knitting circle at your neighbor’s.
A women’s group at a local church.
A photography class at an art center.
A volunteer group at the food cupboard.
Or maybe instead of joining, you invite others to join in a group you initiate.
The point is, we’re all better together. At times, it’s easy to become an island, to sit behind our safe screens looking in.
But when we enter in?
That’s where beauty and transformation happens - for you and me and those lucky enough to be right there alongside us.
One last word (or two) of advice:
Save the online courses for the academic credits.
Take a risk on community.... I guarantee you won’t regret it.
*Photo credits to @marissarobertsphoto & @emgraysexton
**Special kudos to Em Sexton and her Flourish Market team for a fabulous Get After It Getaway