Blank-of-the-year game: Great business discovery of 2009


I'm late getting on board Gwen Bell's backwards-for-forwards Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, but as La Bell herself sez, you can jump on that bus anytime you want. And turn it into a train, plane, or bicycle ride, as you like: if you are blog-free, you can tweet your thoughts, slip them into someone else's comment stream, scribble them into a notebook, etc. The juicy goodness is in the excavation. Join us!

Referral Friday began as a prompt from Duct Tape Marketer Jim Jantsch, a grass-roots, hyper-local/hyperspace response to the craptastic economy we were waking up to at the beginning of this year.

John called for an Internet-wide Make-a-Referral Week, where each of us made a daily effort to hook up a small business with someone who might need that business' services. Being a wily, opportunistic type, I jumped at the chance to (finally) create some static referral pages for the designers, writers and other service providers whose contact info I was repeatedly typing out as a response to requests for same.

Once the week had passed, though, I didn't see why we should stop. Neither did a lot of other people, I guess, and the idea of "Referral Monday" was born. Only I'm a stubborn cuss with a standing Monday essay feature and a love of internal alliteration*, so I stuck it on Fridays and became the referral caboose (one gets used to carrying up the rear when one's last name begins with a "W").

Like Make-a-Referral Week, Referral Friday was a boon, a win/win/win triple-"amen" score. I got to pass along the word of great businesses I'd discovered, thereby increasing the chances that they'd thrive (and I'd continue to be able to enjoy them), I got warm fuzzies for doing so, and I reduced my own writer's anxiety with the addition of a regular feature.

That's right: my greatest business discovery of 2010 was not a business, but a practice that's not even limited to business: helping other people helps me at least as much, if not more.

Of course, I did have a few favorite discoveries of actual businesses in 2009:

  • Brown Bag Books blew me away with their curatorial excellence, delightful repurposed notebooks and ingenious business model
  • Brad Nack, artist and global wanderer, similarly knocked me sideways with his sly, accomplished style and marketing moxie
  • Adam Lisagor, friend and sometime co-conspirator, most inspired me with his wildly creative business output, adding Birdhouse and Put This On! to his other list of accomplishments

And if forced to choose one sweet, sweet discovery that made my year, it would have to be the lovingly restored Camas Hotel in Camas, WA, just down the block from Vancouver and across the river from Portland. Everything about it made me smile, including the owners, Karen and Tom Hall, who are the poster children for Doing It Right. From first spotting the dilapidated mess to marketing it via social media and the web, they made all the right moves; they created another anchor in their small community and a home away from home for me.

Thank you, all, for inspiring me and giving me what I needed to keep getting up in the morning. (You especially, Gwen Bell. Can't believe it took me this long to make your acquaintance.)

And now, back to the business of excavation...


*Yeah, I know that's not the real term. Gotta learn me some REAL poets' lingo in 2010.