Who Are You?
I have to admit I get a bit amused when asked this question. It usually comes via facebook, either on a post or via a private message. I’ve told some of my story before, always a bit differently. I’m happy to do so again.
Some who wondered my identity . . . I LUV Winter Park, WHO ARE YOU? . . . . have actually gotten a bit hostile, territorial. I was initially caught off guard by them, somewhat offended but regard them very differently now. I sort of actually appreciate them, that desire to look out for this community, to ensure anyone who portends to want to do something outside the usual box to celebrate it is on the up and up. Sincerity is important to me, that others understand that I am sincere in every way when I say I LUV Winter Park, seek to celebrate it in new, very positive ways.The more I’ve explained it all the easier it has been for me to see why I so LUV living in Winter Park. I grew up in a small town in North Carolina called Brevard. Many here Locally know it for one of three reasons: 1) camps, 2) the college, 3) Brevard Music Center. It’s funny now to hear Brevard County referred to nearby, as it always takes me back a bit. I understand the names come from the same family. But, I always found my home town a bit too sleepy, which is also the reason many LUV it. It was the number one retirement community in the nation on some list the year I graduated high school. I was 18 and living in the NUMBER ONE RETIREMENT COMMUNITY IN THE NATION. Oy. I had to get out.
I went for two years to Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, then transferred to UNC Chapel Hill. Both Boone, where Appalachian State is located, and Chapel Hill, are wonderful college towns. So is Winter Park.
I lived in Atlanta from 1990 to 2001. In 2001 my life partner and I moved to Fort Lauderdale. In 2006 I desperately needed to escape south Florida and in July of that year we moved to Winter Park. It took a while to adjust, for it to feel like home, of course. I now envy others who have been here longer, grew up here, can truthfully refer to themselves as natives.
I’ve done other things, working for newspapers, retail, but my most important and valuable work experience was certainly with GTE Wireless / Verizon in Atlanta. I worked in a variety of positions, administering that, managing this, and learning a lot about myself. My degree from UNC is advertising / journalism. I now wish I’d majored in business. I could always turn a phrase, string words together. Our education system tends to encourage us down a road where we already have talents. I wish, instead, at an earlier age my view of things had been expanded. I was nominated and participated in a special program at GTE called MMDP – I think that was Marketing Manager Development Program – which was meant to be a mini-MBA program. It helped me to look at business, and especially marketing, quite differently.
I started I LUV Winter Park, Inc., I’ve realized, at least in part due to my participation in that program. Price is one element of marketing, but competing on price alone – well, unless your Walmart – is often a losing proposition. For a small business, it can be disastrous. I looked across the landscape of America in late 2010 and saw the ‘deal sites’ which were popping up, their desire to have businesses discount 50 plus percent, of which the site would then take half. I LOATHE these sites, the impact they can have on small businesses, entire industries. If you are a Local small business, I so want you to succeed, would LUV to help . . . but if you desire to use such a site in the future, please do not ask me to assist you with anything. If you do not respect your product or service, I cannot do it. It is far too difficult to recover from such a move, the message it sends. I wish you luck, but I would, honestly, prefer to work with others who see real value in what they do, believe in their product and service offerings.
I started wanting to be a Local, positive alternative to those sites. I’ve evolved over time, become simply a promoter of what I see around me. What I do with I LUV Winter Park is different than anything else you’ve seen anywhere else. I feel fortunate to live in a community where I believe this works so well, but it is this: I CELEBRATE the wonderfully unique, beautiful environment we call home, from the gorgeous flowers and trees to unique events, people and pets, the museums and parks . . . anything and everything about Local. Then, I celebrate the small businesses I work with right along with it. If you believe in POSITIVE, Local marketing, that’s what I do. I see the wonderful people I’ve met online, those who used to live here, seek to somehow still be a part of it, as an example of success accomplishing my objectives. Yes, I also encourage them to move back!
I am not someone who responds well to in your face marketing. It turns me off like a light switch. And whenever anyone feels entitled to my money just for being there, I avoid them, whether it’s a service or product, membership or anything else. You will find NONE of that with me. I have this old-fashioned work ethic, leading me to feel a deep responsibility to those I work with, when they put their faith in me. I am not perfect by any means, nor is anything I do. But I’ve had Locals remark about my energy and enthusiasm for what I do, that it makes what I do fun to watch, to read, to view, in which to be involved. That’s a wonderful compliment, one I very much appreciate. I also end up writing a good bit, sometimes at length, other times very briefly. I hope she doesn’t mind me quoting her, but Linda – of the Winter Park Diner on Fairbanks – told me earlier this year the pieces I wrote on her diner, of her wonderful story there with her daughters and employees, were the best anyone has written about them. Again, a nice compliment, much appreciated. Her’s is a wonderfully touching story and I tried to do it justice.
What I do for one small business will likely not be exactly what I do for another. I use varying buckets of social media, as everyone knows, but when I work with you, I also seek to find Local partners, promote you to people I believe would be interested in your products, other businesses which compliment what you do. I do a bit of networking for you, while you focus on your business. Believe it or not, I care about the people I work with, I work for, their businesses.
And I LUV Winter Park. I truly do.