Follow the Fellows Post #3 – How Far They've Come!

While brainstorming what topic we wanted to cover in this version of the Fellows Series, Megan and I both stumbled upon the realization that it’s been ten full months since our first day at UnBound, which was somewhat shocking to say the least. In one sense it feels like only yesterday that we officially became team members. Despite that, we’ve accomplished so much as a team that it’s difficult weighing it against such a short time frame.

Due to the nature of our jobs and our daily work, the progress that we track and evaluate ourselves against cannot be measured by looking exclusively at the action items and goals we set for ourselves. In fact, the majority of our work is grounded with some long-term focus and perspective in mind, whether it is for internal operations, but even more so for our entrepreneurs and their small businesses. The result of all of this is days and weeks where the results of our efforts may not be as directly visible or tangible as we would like. Fortunately, there are very few days, if any that pass without offering at least some form of reinforcement that reminds us of the importance of our work.

We came on in early June of 2015, three weeks before the graduation of our first class of entrepreneurs. The first project we were tasked to undertake was an overhaul of the curriculum for our six-week personal branding workshop, which would be starting in a little over a month for our second class of entrepreneurs. At the time, neither Megan or I had any idea how important that six week workshop is to the foundation of our program and the relationships that act as the unifying bond between our staff and our entrepreneurs. We simply plugged and chugged in hopes of being fully prepared for our July start date.

I mention the long-term focus of our daily work because the work and planning we prepared for our six-week personal branding workshop is a perfect example of that. While it was incredibly apparent from the jump where our curriculum was very strong and where we needed to improve, the deeper takeaways continue to manifest themselves up to a year later, and those takeaways are most visible through our daily interactions with our entrepreneurs and the benchmarks they hit as business owners. One example that perhaps best illustrates this is the “aha” moment Avian Mills had when she decided that she wanted to start a professional organizing business. After two months of self-exploration and plenty of frustration, Avian came to the realization that it fit perfectly in line with her passions and skills, almost as if it had been her calling all along. The seemingly unrelated experiences from her past suddenly connected, and it was this moment Avian discovered it was this she was meant to be doing. Our excitement was contagious, partly due to our confidence in Avian’s ability to succeed in that business, but we also knew it was a pivotal point in her journey, giving her something tangible to show for all the work she had put in. If the curriculum had not pushed Avian to truly reflect on all that had prepared her for this role, Closets and Kids, LLC might not be where it is today. For Megan and myself, Avian’s realization validated all the work we had put in preparing for personal brand and going through the workshops, which was an incredible feeling.

It is true that we don’t talk about anything business related in those first six weeks, and that is completely intentional. We know that before anything else, none of our partnerships and therefore the businesses can be successful if a trusting relationship isn’t the absolute bottom foundation that we build on. And while it is also true that business launch has been slower than initially expected, witnessing the way our entrepreneurs approach their responsibilities as business owners on a daily basis are the short term wins that validate the long term planning and strategy we put into the personal brand curriculum ten months ago. For Megan and myself, perhaps nothing is more exciting in our daily work than seeing how far our entrepreneurs have come from the first day they walked into our program to today as business owners. These types of short-term “victories” confirm why focusing on the long-term, bigger picture is so necessary in all of our daily actions.