Small Business for Big Impact: Reflections from Our First Panel

May 30, 2017

Small Business for Big Impact: Reflections from Our First Panel

 

Link to Video: Small Business for Big Impact

 

While we’re a little late, we are just getting time to properly reflect on our first panel, Small Business for Big Impact, that we co-hosted at Babson College in March. Our idea was to get a diverse group of organizations together to talk about how we can create wellness communities between and throughout every socioeconomic class. Our panelists included:

Kathleen Tullie (director of corporate social responsibility at Reebok and founder of BOKS)

Kathleen’s major accomplishments include partnering with the Partnership for Healthier America, Alliance for a Healthier Generation, American Council on Exercise, the Aspen Institute and Let’s Move Active Schools where she was honored by First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative in 2013 and 2014. She was presented the Community Leadership Award in 2013 by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. A member of the Institute of Medicine Roundtable on Obesity Solutions, she serves on the Physical Activity Innovation Collaborative, sits on the steering committee for Let’s Move Active Schools and was recently confirmed as the Vice Chair of Physical Activity at World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry.

John and Josh Feinman (two of the leaders of Inner City Weightlifting)

 Also founded by fellow Babson alums, they reduce “youth violence by connecting proven-risk young people with new networks and opportunities, including meaningful career tracks in and beyond personal training. We use the gym to replace segregation and isolation with economic mobility and social inclusion, disrupting the system that leads to urban street violence.” Please learn more about their mission at innercityweightifting.com .

Caleb Dean and Zach Milligan-Pate of Cambridge Naturals (chief of staff and supplement lead, respectively)

Cambridge Naturals has been an institution in the Cambridge community for over four decades. They are a certified B-corporation and founding members of Cambridge Local First, an organization supporting local, independent business. We can’t thank them enough for their steadfast support for our vision. We have been able to learn so much from all levels of their organization.

Here are some of our biggest takeaways from the event:

Power of Collaboration

“Wellness is the willigness to no longer avoid one another. Let’s try harder to connect” –Jon Feinman, Inner-City Weightlifting

In life, and the business world more specifically, collaboration is the key to growth. While we always knew this, events such as this panel help to encapsulate this, providing immensely powerful learning through interaction. As we reflect on the panel, we are able to see the ways in which the learning’s from the panel have helped us in a tangible way. Furthermore, a culture of collaboration can help drive business over time. To see just how powerful collaboration can be, and to see us learning from each other in real time, we encourage readers to check out the recording of the panel. While we know that it is a bit long, we hope it will be worth your time.

Organization is Key

Seeing as this was our first foray into event planning, we knew we were going to make mistakes, we just had to make sure to minimize them (advice for Fyre Festival). We were fortunate that Rebecca Obounnou, a member of the Schlesinger Team, was there to share some of her knowledge and expertise with us. The biggest takeaway from our work with her was how important it is to be organized and consistent with everything relating to the event. One of the biggest lessons we learned was the value of collecting data prior to the event. When the event date comes, everything is hectic, so you are really defined by the work beforehand. One of the most important tools that we used was Eventbrite. By using this platform, we were able to track attendees beforehand. While it seems so simple it helps in many tangible ways: we were able to have pre-made nametags easing check-in, we could provide the right amount of food, seating was optimal for attendees, and it is easier to receive feedback after the event. Another time organization was key was when it came to marketing and promoting the event. Having a cohesive message seems integral- one instance was a discussion with Rebecca in which we discussed the messaging for the event. I had various marketing materials and in some I used the term “wellness” and in others I used “holistic health”. While they were synonyms to me, Rebecca explained that this would dilute the message and potentially confuse potential guests. Focusing our mission and terminology surely helped the panelists in preparation for the event, and ensured that all guests were properly informed.

Value of your Network

When we started planning the panel, we weren’t sure how it was going to go or even who our fellow panelists would be. We had a vision but not much else. Luckily, the first people we went to were our former professors at Babson. They were able to connect us to the Lewis Institute and the Schlesinger Fund for Global Healthcare Entrepreneurship. They were kind enough to partner with us on this event, and without their support we would never have been able to put this event together. This serves as a perfect example of how we have been able to benefit from being active members of the community even after we’ve graduated.

Looking to the Future

While we are certainly proud of our first event, and think that is was an unequivocal success, we made sure to learn what we can do better in the future.

Location and Time is Important

While it was a pleasure to host our first event at our alma mater, we learned that for our target market (many of whom live in downtown boston), getting to the event was a challenge. We also chose a weeknight time after business hours, but we think that in the future, hosting the event as close to the guests as possible and at a time that is most likely to work with their schedule is essential

Harping on Organization

Our organization wasn’t a huge disaster, which in and of itself is a success. But we still missed out on some stuff. Marketing on social media proved to be a challenge. We listed the event on Facebook, and encouraged people to sign up on Eventbrite, but this proved harder than we thought. This meant that some of the attendees went untracked. Next time, we will have to make sure to utilize social media better, but also do more to ensure that attendees get tickets. We also could’ve done more with utilizing feedback. Prior to the event, we didn’t have an actionable plan for how we would use the feedback. We are using the feedback we received in anticipation for our next event, but including stakeholders and attendees more closely in the process is essential if we are to continue to grow this vision and hold more successful events in the future!

Explore

As this was our first panel, we obviously brought in the individuals we were closely affiliated with. While this was awesome, we can’t wait to bring in even more diversity of perspectives in the future. While it was great to talk with business leaders who have natural synergies, we think that there is also amazing potential to bring together unexpected collaborators. By varying the individuals and exploring the business landscape as a whole, we can continue the process of uniting the local community and growing together.

Link to Video: Small Business for Big Impact


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