The daydream can be a reality.

This is my callout to all the young professionals in the city who are old enough to know they are done with the city, but young enough to be considered youthful in a small town... 

MOVE TO A SMALL TOWN! WE NEED YOU!

  • Do you ever daydream about 'making a difference'?
  • Do you ever daydream about moving to the country?
  • Do you ever daydream about simplifying?

Then you are like me and you spend all day daydreaming when you should be working! Get back to work! JK – read the rest of this post, it took me a long time to write it.

I know you are thinking: 'Where will I work if I move to a small town?’ Well, I don't know. It can be tough. But if you have the chops to work freelance, or buddy up with some like-minded entrepreneurs like I finally did, you can make it work. You can live off very little in a town like Marmora and it will be totally worth it.

There are a number of problems facing small town economic development, and marketing especially has it's own set of challenges in a small community. For one, many businesses are owned and operated by one to three people. Very small. They have tried some sort of advertising in the past with little to no success and so they don't see the need to repeat that mistake – just like I don't see the need repeat my mistake of buying skinny jeans that don't stretch. It feels like a big waste of money. 

That makes my job pretty hard; people who own a small business in a small town try to do as much as they can themselves to save money. And that's a good idea... but marketing should be more informed than just throwing a company logo in the newspaper. 

Forsyth Street, Marmora, Ontario - 1922

Forsyth Street, Marmora, Ontario - 1922

And, on the topic of informed advertising, here's another challenge: it's great when you get to work on deep-pocketed clients' business. You strive to have the big brands in your portfolio because they have the money for research, they can give you information on their brand’s status across the country or internationally, how it performs here compared to there. You can capture thousands of engaged customers with the click of a button because you’re working on an established brand – and not only an established brand, you’re probably working with an established agency with established procedures. Established bosses, writers, creative directors, designers... That is far from the situation in a small town. These small businesses can't afford to go to an agency. It is hard for them to engage a large audience quickly, and many people are slow to adopt new technology, so business owners themselves aren't familiar with social media – the most affordable ad platform out there. They need our help the most. 

Which brings me to my next point: you don't have narrow demographics that can sustain a whole business. You kind of need to engage everyone because the population isn't large enough to be exclusive. So it becomes really hard to formulate an interesting voice. Don't you love it when you get a brief from a client and the demographic is ‘everyone’? Cue eye roll. Well, in the case of many small town businesses, that's the way it is. You have to engage people from every demographic, or offer a product people are willing to travel 200km for. 

These are some of the main reasons we need more young professionals in the small towns – not only because the businesses need you, but also because the more there are of us to work together, the better our situation will become. I work closely with a couple that moved here from Toronto. We have banded together because we all bring something to the table that the others don't have. I wouldn't be able to work on many of the projects I have over the past year if they had not moved to town. Who knows, I could have ended up selling insurance or something. True story.

Did anyone ever feel good about helping Coca-Cola make more money? Probably not. But these guys, man, it feels good if you can help a small, struggling business out. 

  • You will be making a difference.
  • You will be in the country.
  • Life can be simple.

16 Reasons Living in a Small Town is Awesome.

I spent my first 11 years of my career in Toronto. It was a city that all my friends from back home, and their differing careers, could head to and get a job. That's the great thing about Toronto; there is a lot of work, and a lot of money to make. In my 20's that city was the bomb. I had a crazy job that I couldn't have ever dreamed of from my hometown in Marmora. Flying around on private jets, getting police escorts through Miami, tarmac parties when we landed in L.A. Who does that? Well, once upon a time I did.

I left that job when I was 27 and advertising was never the same. High pressure, low budgets, no timeline, these things were normal, but there used to be HUGE perks that made it all worth it. Instead work was a lot of the not-so-fun stuff and none of the super-fun-wtf-are-we-doing-here stuff. 

It didn't take long after I left the fun job that my city career ended in a blaze of …not quite glory. It burnt me out. Seriously. So along with that and everything else that was happening in our lives, Derek and I decided to pack up and move back to Marmora. A little before schedule we thought, but also, a little late, my health had been seriously challenged. There were a lot of people that thought I was nuts for deciding to pack it in. How could I leave the city? I mean really leave the city, Not GTA suburbs city, 200Km out of the city...where would we work?

Derek was lucky enough to keep his job and work remotely. It started with him having to drive back to Toronto for two days a week. That sucked, but it has slowly gotten to the point where he goes twice a year. So that worked out.

For me, my annual income has been cut in half, 'yikes!' you say...but so has the stress that came along with that money. Some days I miss being the bread winner, but seriously, the freedom is pretty amazing.

Here are 16 reasons that make the pay cut worth it:

  1. I'm the boss - After a few years in any job the boss becomes an obstacle...haha...no? Well there is no obstacle when you're the boss. I can show up late, make appointments, take a nap and no one gets jealous or complains to the boss. Because I have not developed multiple personality disorder yet.
  2. Zero commuting - I don’t spend any time driving to and from work. Instead of reading the the abandoned molested newspaper, squished between five grumpy TTC-mates, I walk my dog, make a tea, and surf the web in the comfort of my pyjamas.
  3. Fashion - no one cares.
  4. Reasonable hours - I work from 10am – 4pm every day (approximately).
  5. Driving is easy - I live two minutes away from the The Beer Store and it always takes two minutes to get to The Beer Store, no construction, no closed roads, no surprises.
  6. No noise - we hear coyotes, birds, crickets but not squealing TTC cars and traffic or construction.
  7. Shopping is pleasant - when I shop in Marmora the retailers know my name and are super friendly.
  8. The culture is simple - small towns are fun loving, unpretentious, wild and crazy! Just ask anyone who worked with me over the years. 
  9. Perks - right now I am working on my laptop on my deck.
  10. More perks - I also just took a break to play ball with my dog.
  11. More free time - see 1, 2, 4, and 5 
  12. Losing weight - Derek and I both lost weight, just by not ordering food in so often. We have time to cook! 
  13. Space - Our house was $126,000 cheaper than our condo and it is 3x larger, plus a yard.
  14. Air quality - The air smells awesome. Flowers, grass, the occasional smell of a tiny skunk (wink wink), but nothing like old processed cheese melted on the sidewalk and rotting garbage mixed with BO. I don't ever smell that here.
  15. We are young - I am recognized as a young entrepreneur. That’s nice. With all the youths in Toronto, once you're out of your 20's you start to feel old.
  16. Feel good jobs - I have the opportunity to help small and sometimes struggling businesses. It feels good!

I could probably keep going, but you get the point. It’s really nice. Maybe one day I'll make more money. Sure, that would be nice too. But until then, I'll enjoy what I have. And maybe this  will encourage some of my city friends to make the big move to the small town.

 

 

Good Times + Good People = Good Cause

It's funny where ideas come from. Sometimes you spend hours in a boardroom brainstorming for the perfect/big/different idea, and sometimes they just pop into your head. Luckily for me, Two Birds One Stone was a business idea that just bubbled up out of nowhere.

In fact, it came out of an email conversation I was having with my business partner Leigh. While discussing the many projects we are working on Leigh mentioned a decision that would fulfill two of our responsibilities in one action. I had responded that I loved the 'two birds one stone' approach. And there it was, the first seed. Immediately, the business was right in front of us. 

I loved that our business group was Leigh, her husband Andrew, and myself - two chicks and one dude. The metaphor was perfect because Leigh and I can fly away with big ideas and Andrew can ground us with his realist, but equally excitable perspective. Two birds one stone. Plus, a little aside, Leigh and I both have bird tattoos. Andrew is yet to brand himself with a rock, but we'll let that slide.

We knew we were going to start throwing local parties. We had even discussed making donations to the community when the revenue allowed. But this seamed to be a great way to promote a brand positioning that celebrated that idea. We would run events in the name of fun, but use that fun to generate cash for local organizations. Two birds one stone. 

Our first event is fast approaching. Oktoberfest in Marmora should be a hit. It has all the ingredients for a successful good time. Beer, food, and fun people! Plus, we are going to raise money for the Marmora Food Bank, just in time for Thanksgiving. 

Like I said before, who knows why certain ideas are so easy to come by. I guess we'll see if this one was the right one to pay attention to!