Share and Share Alike
The Encouragement Manifesto (Part 8)
When we ran a small business, there were some principles at the heart of it. A code of behaviour. It was owner-run; just the two of us. So the way we worked, who we were, was never written down as such. It was in our hearts. We are pretty sure it was clear to our customers who we were and what was important to us. We worked hard to be consistent, to celebrate others and to stay positive. Our business was built on the successes and strengths of others; kindness and generosity were keystones; we talked about value, not price and that allowed us to find our audience. We gathered up and shared inspiring stories and we sought to be a pebble in the pond, creating ripples. If we’d written this down at the time, we’d have called it The Encouragement Manifesto. Recently we decided to just write it down. We asked some folk we trust and who live and work in the same way, to interpret the 10 principles in their own words. Sometimes, we challenged ourselves to say something about what we were thinking. This is one of those times.
Curate and Share the Inspiring Stuff
We are all really busy.
And there is SO much stuff.
Things to read; boxsets to watch; articles to catch up on; magazines to flick through; opinions to listen to; novels to lose ourselves in; podcasts to listen to; playlists to explore. There are social media posts; long-read blog posts; newsletters; restaurant reviews; film trailers; notes to re-read. Half-written Medium articles to finish.
Maybe next week. Yep, I’ll catch up then.
In the meantime, I’ll try and distil it down into an actual list of things that will give me the value I’m looking for. The inspiration for our newsletter; the thought-provoking article that cuts to the heart of the issue; the book recommendation that really hits the spot … the chapters that I devour … the unputdownable one.
Perhaps I’ll curate a list of the ‘must-reads’.
‘Curate’ … fancy, huh?
Curating sounds like something that only experts can do.
That’s a commonly accepted definition, in any event:
to collect, select and present information or items such as pictures, video, music, etc. for people to use or enjoy, using your professional or expert knowledge.
In the digital age, though, everyone is doing it, so non-experts like us can wallow in the less expert assembly of ‘content’ and claim the role as ours:
to select items from among a large number of possibilities for other people to consume and enjoy; applied to many areas including music, design, fashion, and especially digital media
Not so long ago, we ran a high street delicatessen. Back in 2015 when we started out, we didn’t really give it too much thought. We were the antithesis of those folk who dream a dream, who wrestle with a business plan, design their brand, warm up the audience and write achingly cool social media posts.
Literally, someone asked if we were interested in taking up the lease on the premises … we thought about it while drinking a bottle of wine … we thought it sounded kind of cool … we said ‘yeah, ok, we’ll give it a go”. More than a hint of serendipity. Oh, did I mention we only gave ourselves six weeks to get the shop ready to open?
We frantically scrambled through suppliers’ catalogues and popped some things on the shelves. Lined up all the labels. Took a deep breath … and opened the door. One day of curiosity and decent footfall … followed by weeks of tumbleweed. Turns out, we were pretty rubbish. OK, so not totally but the selection of products on the shelves said nothing, literally nothing, about who or what we stood for or why we’d picked them in the first place.
Something had to change or we were going to get our small business asses kicked hard!
So, we started to handpick our products and our producers. We ‘curated’ our collection of deli items. We served what we stocked so customers built up trust in the choices we were making.
If folk wanted a cheddar, we guided them to the only cheddar-style cheese we stocked … we picked it because it was our favourite and it tasted amazing. If folk asked why we only had that one, we gave them a taste and showed them why. And it was made by good people who are farming in the right way. A small organic farm in the West of Wales. A handpicked product made by people we met and enjoyed working with.
We sold bread made locally by an outstanding baker. The gins that we drank. We served the chutneys we’d chosen on the cheese toasties that we made using that local baker’s bread. Our choices, backed up by quality and provenance.
Sometimes, folk didn’t know they wanted the things we stocked until they saw them and tasted them. Our job was to find the products, tell the stories behind them and guide folk to them.
Our job was to “to select items from among a large number of possibilities for other people to consume and enjoy”.
When we closed our delicatessen to create some space for new projects, we didn’t want to lose that connection to our community and the trust that had built up for our curation. Our newsletter had slowly evolved into a weekly celebration of the inspiring things we had found, and not just food products and food stories. It is a three-year-old curated collection of stories and articles that we feel passionate about. The things that inspire us turn out to be the things that inspire others too.
We have always admired the people who generously popped the cool stuff into our eyeline. People like DO Lectures, Hiut Denim Co, Sarah Hellen of Jwrnal, Charlie Gladstone and The Good Life Experience team … Chris and Rob of With Love Project … Arran Cross … andy foster with the Raise Architects ‘Studio Notes’. People we trust and respect downselecting the things we should be peering into.
One day, we just asked ourselves … why not us? Why shouldn’t we be the curators for our audience?