2019 Maker City Summit, Mill and Mine, Knoxville, September 2019
In a large sense, that’s what the 2019 Maker City Summit was all about. Today’s small makers will become tomorrow’s small businesses and, some of them, will eventually become Knoxville’s newest large businesses. The headwinds, however, are stiff. Odds are heavily stacked in favor of large businesses and chains. It can be daunting. Mayor Rogero set the tone from the outset, saying, “Makers represent the future of our city, as well as its past.”
Shunta Grant, owner of Because of Zoe Design and author of the Business, Life and Joy podcast pointed out that our job as small business owners shouldn’t be to be busy, but rather to seek harmony between our work and personal lives. She noted that it is easy to stay busy, but stopping requires intentionality.
She likened most small business owners to people playing the Wack-a-Mole game. It’s exhausting. She emphasized the need for a framework and focus, suggesting that less time can be more productive given the use of those two tools. She also encouraged a shift in perspective, saying we need to determine what kind of life we want and having our business serve that goal, not having our business dictate what kind of life we can live. “Time is not the enemy, it is a gift.”
In her business, this meant reducing her line to focus on the core of the business. It meant hiring people to do work that she could hand off. Her shift came with the birth of her children and the desire not to work ten hours every day and miss her moments with them as they grew.
Other striking thoughts included her question to business owners: “Can you say the purpose of your business in one sentence an eleven-year-old could understand?” She added that you must have a clear vision of where you are going, of your purpose, core values and a single short-term focus. Execution, she said, should be the last step.
As the day moved forward, a panel focused on diversity in the workplace. Another focused on valuing yourself and your work appropriately. This panel warned against cheapening your product by undercharging. They also emphasized knowing your customer and providing an experience for them, selling a story, not just a product, and having customers form an emotional reaction to your product.
Ron and Kate McKnight of Funnel Rehabers, talked about the sales funnel, the process of introducing your product to a potential customer and bringing them to the point becoming an actual customer. They asked if the emotion and the story of the product or business is coming through in social media posts. They said the messaging should communicate to potential customers that you “get” them.
Like others through the day, they emphasized establishing an emotional and experiential connection to customers. They also said people value experiences, not products. If you sell tables, for example, you are really selling happy family meals around the table and the memories that will be made around that table.
The event ended with encouragement from Johnathan Clark, Managing Director of Carpet Bag Theatre. Noting the Dunning-Kruger effect, in which some people have an inability to see their incompetence and, so, push to take charge, he encouraged the crowd not to underestimate their own competence. He said the most confident are typically the least competent and sometimes the rest of us have to “get over ourselves and try.”