I haven’t always worked in retail. It is really, in business jargon, my second career. A career that I love, warts and all.
Previous to this stellar gig and after a short college career, I worked for a small advertising agency for two years, and then I was a political consultant for 13 years. Each of these jobs was full of horn tooting for my clients – media releases, television interviews, radio advertising. I honed my skills for getting to the root of the issue/cause and sharing that with the world. Please remember, STUFF has been in business 14 years, so the work I did in those businesses was before the advent of the Internet, Facebook and Twitter. Actually, while at the advertising job, I remember vividly when they purchased their first computer and moved the IBM Selectric III typewriters to the edge of the desks. Heck, right before that, the whole world sped up with the advent of the fax machine. Yep. I’m that old.
So it was with a rather experienced hand that Casey and I began the job of sharing with the world STUFF’s achievements. At times, I struggle with it, because I’d much rather talk about the artists we represent than the business directly. I’d rather talk about artistic processes than award nominations.
This week, we learned that STUFF was nominated for an award at the Dallas Market Center and that we were placed in the top 10 – those being the lucky few to move forward in the award process. I had had an inkling this was coming, because I had received a phone call from a marketing person in Dallas to ask me some “follow-up questions regarding our submission”, and I was struck dumb for a few moments because we didn’t nominate ourselves and had never seen a submission. We had been nominated by a sales representative for a company whose work we carry, and she had pushed our name into their sights because she was amazed by how much STUFF has given to charities in Kansas City. The award she nominated us for is titled “The Next Big Give” and is about small retail stores being involved in their own communities.
She’s right. We were a good fit for this award, and we are honored to have made the top 10. STUFF has a firm commitment to the neighborhood our business resides in, a passion for the city of Kansas City, and a dedication to the not-for-profit institutions that make this city tick and are central to its health. In the past year, we have sponsored events in our store and been involved with events for over 50 local schools and charities. In addition to that financial involvement, Casey and I have been directly involved with fundraising committees and are serving on the board of directors for six local institutions to help those organizations continue to flourish. STUFF also has developed a line of clothing and hats that celebrate the Brookside neighborhood, and a portion of every sale of those items goes to fund more benches and bike racks in Brookside.
Winning an award would be sweet. Winning an award in Dallas would be nice. But the number one thing that’s important to us is giving back to our community and knowing that we are part of the solutions for our city. When governments and their citizens experience financial crisis, basic human needs are usually the first to suffer – health care, education, safe transportation. When we opened our doors 14 years ago, our country wasn’t in a financial recession but we knew that civic involvement would be central to our mission. You can’t spend every working hour building a business based on representing local artists and turn your back on the communities that they, your business (and you!) reside in.
The response to our core mission from the people who shop at our store continues to humble us. They believe as solidly as we do in doing what you can locally to see a change globally. The community is our business. STUFF has made sure to be involved with institutions and organizations that not only meet a set of criteria but that also embrace our mission. We’ve made sure that our helping them is a good fit all around.
In our world, it really isn’t about the win — it’s about being in the game, celebrating a good time, and having good sportsmanship.
There. I tooted our horn.