On October 5, our member, Julie Longyear, CEO of Irie Star in St. Louis, Missouri, was named the “Neighborhood Business of the Year” at the Mayor's Business Luncheon. The award honors the company's progress and commitment to the local North St. Louis City community. Here is Julie, looking fabulous, with her award.
Julie tells me that she is thrilled to be chosen, and happy to be part of her thriving local community. She took a few minutes to tell me a bit about how she won the award and what it means to her.
1. What does winning this award mean to you?
The award is meaningful to me in part because a fan from inside city government nominated me. He had been a fan for a while, and asked me if he could swing by and meet me one day. I was thrilled to meet a young, energetic person who appreciated us enough to think we were worthy of nomination.
Our local urban Hyde Park neighborhood has been struggling for decades. Much needs to be done, especially because businesses are not locating here because of a negative perception due to gang violence, urban decay, and lack of retail customer base. This was not as big a problem for us since we only needed production space. As a community, we still have a lot of work to do to reclaim prosperity and community. It's great to know that the work we are doing is contributing to that effort. It really helps our community bounce back to see young professionals deliberately choosing this area for their work.
It is an honor to represent the new face of North St. Louis, and to continue efforts to revitalize our community.
2. Who presented the award to you?
The award was presented by the Honorable Francis G. Slay, mayor of the City of St. Louis, and Rodney Crim, Executive Director of the Saint Louis Development Corporation.
3. Do you encourage other IBN members to apply (or accept opportunities to be considered) to win awards like this in their areas?
It's a fine idea to submit yourself for consideration, though I didn't do that in this case … it just happened. My feeling is that one should concentrate on doing excellent work, as the work itself is what merits an award in the first place.
Awards are nice, but I am more concerned about impact. The biggest value an award like this has to me is that it helps substantiate work that I am doing and helps others see that we are serious.
If it opens any doors and helps us make progress faster, that is the real win to me. We are far from what I hope we will become, so I'm focused on hiring more people and building momentum.
My feeling is that we are not in business to seek awards. We are in business to do good work. I get a bigger thrill from a glowing email from a happy client than I do from putting up a plaque. I'm in the business of people, not plaques. My real wins are in the progress we make each day. As a part of that progress, an award is a fine thing.
I would say seek the awards that will help you achieve your longer term missions. If winning an award helps you feel more confident, then go for it. It is nice to be honored, and it does help you feel good about what you are doing.
4. At IBN, we empower and encourage people to maximize their potential through handmade entrepreneurship. Why do you think it's important for handmade entrepreneurs to join an organization like IBN?
It is always important to keep learning. Every step of the way, I have had to learn much more. My business has been my school, my therapy, my emotional roller coaster, and often a real struggle. The bigger your business is, the bigger YOU have to become to handle the problems, the ethical dilemmas, the strategic thinking, and the relationships.
The more people you know that are active and busy and doing big things, the more valid feedback you get. There are things you can't learn in school that other entrepreneurs can teach you. Whether you are part of an organization or just keep close personal relationships with other people who are in a similar process, you definitely need that sounding board and support system. Otherwise you really are out there all by yourself. You may be the only owner of your business, but in community, you are not alone in your type of work.
5. What is your best selling product?
Our best seller is our Fresh Mild Rice Facial Cleanser.
Congratulations Julie! Meet Julie at her FaceBook Page.