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Pivot and Try

Along with the rest of you, I've been contemplating new ideas, inventing, innovating, pivoting. I think I'm seeing a whole new wave of how people are reacting to this life together on this planet, so I thought I'd run it past you to get your feedback and share ideas. I have to give a disclaimer right up front: I am very aware that this is written from a somewhat myopic viewpoint as I don't know what it's like to have either grown up or lived for several adult years in any other country than my own. That's one of the reasons I wanted to bring these ideas to you. Hopefully, someone out there in the abyss of social media will read this and engage in a thoughtful discussion. I want to hear from you! I'm swimming in ideas while I watch the circus refusing to leave town.

Things are changing very quickly now, which is often the case when masses of people are dealing with a new source of intense pressure. There seems to be a great deal of focus in the media for telling human interest stories about how individuals are coping, so much so that I'm seeing a common thread, an overlapping narrative with an ending yet to be discovered by us all. It is this: Individual people and small family groups seem to be returning to a much more centralized focus of supporting their local communities; and they're putting their money where their mouths are, sometimes literally.

Rather than purchasing a curbside carryout meal from a massive corporate restaurant chain, for example, people are clamoring on social media for support of the local family-owned restaurant. Goods that had been at one time thoughtlessly purchased on Amazon are now being scrutinized to determine where the product was manufactured; not because of hatred for the people in the foreign countries that made the items, rather out of concern for supporting a much more localized economy. At long last, we seem to be getting back to truly valuing the fact that how we spend our dollars can directly and immediately impact the livelihood of each of our communities for the good or bad.

This may seem like an obvious observation until you stop to consider that this is happening in an age when we've never been more connected with people and products from all over the world, a global economy that is so tightly woven that a change from halfway across the planet sends ripples felt by investors worldwide. Answer honestly: before recent events, how many of us grumbled over the fact that the products on our shelves were manufactured half a world away, but were not prepared to spend too terribly much more of our hard earned cash on a comparable product more locally made, assuming we even bothered checking the label? I know the real answer to that question because new Walmart locations are still being built.

With all of our connectivity, outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to foreign lands, and greedy need for instant purchasing gratification at the lowest possible price, I believe all of this slowing down has done us some tremendous good. We seem to have, at long last, awakened to the realization that "cheaper" isn't an all-powerful buying motivator for some of us, and I believe I even see the possibility of some humanity returning to our corporate cultures, especially for small and mid-sized companies still agile enough to source or create local manufacturing facilities for their goods.

I have high hopes for what we could all do together, across the globe, as a beautiful outcome of this "I don't even know what to call it anymore" situation, the grandest being that we would welcome in an era of the end of the homogeneous, factory made items that can be much more beautifully produced by local artisans and smaller businesses closer to our homes. I think it's time we redefined some of our terms, and I don't think based on my limited observations that I am alone in that thought.

As an aside, I have to share a funny from today. It is incredibly ironic that as I have been sitting here this entire Sunday attempting to put my complicated thoughts into coherent written words that my husband was out making our supply run to our local big box retailer, Meijer. He had no idea what I was writing about and happened to pick up the address book pictured below. "It was only two bucks," he said sweetly, "and I thought you might like it since it has a little Indiana motif on it!" If you haven't seen the Ode to Indiana scarf in my new collection, go take a gander as I'm certain that my work on that design is what made him think I'd want this.

I did a little quick internet searching to discover that the company listed as the producer is an Indianapolis based publishing company. As you can see on the back cover, this was printed halfway across the globe in South Korea. Now, I am in no way attempting to disparage this company about which I know literally almost nothing. I'm not completely ignorant about how big business works either. I know that there are many factories in other countries who can produce large inventories cheaper than a business can here in the USA, and there are many reasons for that, some of them even good reasons, or at least understandable ones. I'm sure they have a very good reason for having an address book with an Indiana cover, which is to be sold in Indiana, being manufactured in South Korea. It probably has something to do with "profits", another term I'm hoping we can agree to modify together.

What I hope is that across the globe we come through this season with a deep-seeded need to rethink and retool how we've been handling our supply chains. I believe that can start with each of us as individual citizens of this brave new world doing some real soul searching about our own responsibility in supporting, with our own earnings, locally produced goods. This likely means for a good long while, many years in fact, many of us needing to cut back on the number of non-essential items we're purchasing in favor of making higher priced local purchases. This has not only a positive economic impact on our communities, it is also a much more environmentally friendly choice. You might find it as ironic as I did that the inside title page of my South Korean Indiana address book sports the blurb, "Zero plastic goods without guilt." This makes me chuckle. I'm not sure what to make of all this.

On a more personal note, as most of you reading this already know, my tiny home-based business was potentially significantly negatively impacted due to the cancellation of my one large annual sales event, the Indiana Artisan Marketplace. I believe that it is thanks to this swelling determination to "support local" that I can now report to you that I am coming back to within shouting distance of reaching the same amount of sales as I had at last year's Marketplace! This is a tremendous encouragement to me, an indication that perhaps, as it turns out, this has not meant the end of my little bit of momentum I had scraped together over the last two years. Quite the contrary, this could become a welcomed turn for my humble little effort over here in Muncie, Indiana.

Knowing everyone is staying home and watching their devices, I've been inspired to do Facebook Live sessions as a means of offering a little diversion, maybe a source of a bit of joy, creativity and encouragement during the afternoon for anyone who might care to watch the behind the scenes of all that I'm creating. When I told my husband that I don't intend to maintain this going live routine once we are all beyond the stay home mandate, he said he was disappointed to hear it. He thinks I should keep going, and I wonder if he's right based on some of the feedback I'm getting. It's been an amazing experience to find out that people from literally all over the world have tuned in to watch at least some minutes of my talking into the device.

Having the ability to download and edit the live broadcasts has also pushed me off the dime to finally create a YouTube channel. Since starting the business, I've had the habit of making little time lapse videos of my work to post to Instagram. People seem to like them, so I've developed a modest-sized library of video entertainment I'd always intended on collecting together onto a channel. Now that the amount of video content is increasing for me, it just made sense to take the time to accomplish organizing it all into a YouTube watching experience for you. Now I have someplace to send the people who say to me, "I've always wanted to see how you do that!" I can respond, "Like and subscribe!" and be like the cool kids. Yeah, right. Not quite cool- that ship has sailed for me!

I would not have taken the time or made the effort to do these things had it not been for our present circumstances. And I think I might still have a chance to become one of those small local business owners you hear about who finally got off the ground in spite of all the odds being stacked against it. Most of my website sales are happening locally, within Indiana, while I am broadcasting live and interacting globally. Very interesting, isn't it? Surely I'm not the only one who thinks so.

I hope we don't forget this newfound determination and commitment to our local economies the moment things start to feel somewhat normal again, even if that normal is a bit different going forward. I really do believe that it is stronger individual communities that come together to create a stronger globe as a whole. Buy local whenever you can find a way to do it. I promise you it really does matter and every dollar absolutely makes a difference in someone's life close to you. Be the tide. Raise up the ships around you!

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