This moment in Advokate history

This moment in Advokate history

Earlier this week the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce sent an e-blast with an announcement about a workshop with Mannix Marketing. I signed up right away, thinking it would be awesome to learn more about the topics mentioned from an expert in her field. Immediately afterward, doubt crept into my mind… Should I have signed up?

I write this thinking that maybe a lot of people, like me, also have these two sides to them — the suave and confident side and the awkward-flinchy-tail-between-the-legs side.

So when I started out Advokate, the flinchy side of me was kind of terrified of Mannix Marketing and Trampoline Design. They’re big, established names in town; they definitely know what they’re doing; I respect and admire them… and honestly I also fear them a little. I wouldn’t want to get on their bad side, knowing that business owners can be mama bears about their babies. Not that we’re even doing the exact same things, really. I didn’t even know if my tiny biz was even on their radar or felt like any kind of threat. I just want my little piece of pie. And, really, I’m sure they have better things to do than to go around squashing smaller businesses. As large as they may be in these parts, they’re small businesses themselves too, not with Godzilla tails to thrash around knocking things over like big business does.

Jason at Liberty Graphics has told me before about how he is friends/allies with most of the other independent printers in the area; that he wouldn’t try to beat an apples-to-apples quote from a “competitor” — that they aren’t competing at all and actually do a lot of subcontracting back and forth, and help each other out. I thought that was the sweetest concept. It’s like the fairy tale happily-ever-after of business, though BUSINESS always sounds like this big scary competitive thing where everyone is out to eat each other’s lunch. BUSINEEEEESS! Shark water! Angry bears claw-swiping! Dog fights! Yikes!

As I’ve toodled along, though, Advokate has likewise done business with other designers, subcontracting here and there on occasion. That business-fairy-tale-living-in-harmony idea has really stuck with me and I like it. And as I’ve spent more time in biz, and in particular after this morning’s experience, I’ve realized that leaders like Mannix and Trampoline are more big sister than schoolyard bully. Which is a relief.

Advokate is for people who like the Kate flava. If you like Tramp’s or Mannix’s style, you go to them. We operate differently in different price ranges that are a reflection of our overhead and level of expertise and besides that, our favorite clients aren’t the same people. We’re not hunger-crazed dogs snarling and biting each other over the same dish. We have our own food and our own territories and we’re happy coexisting.

So anyway. Today at the seminar, I slipped in cutting it close to showtime to grab a seat in the back. Sara Mannix sat next to me before her introduction and I really wanted to say hi, but didn’t want to distract her while she was being introduced. She had us all give a quick self-intro and I’ll admit, I was kind of freaked to stand up and say who I was and what I did, and so I tried to emphasize that I was for the little guy, and that I do things other than websites, which is true. I wanted her to know that even though I’m the new kid on the block, I’m not out to eat anyone’s lunch. I like my lunch!

She gave her presentation. It was awesome. She’s well-spoken and super knowledgeable. When someone in the group asked her how much a website costs, she told them what a Mannix website costs — and then immediately said that if that’s not in your budget, there’s Kate who does more affordable websites for those who are just starting out and instantly I grew big shimmering dragon wings and a golden crown appeared on my head and I flew about radiating sunbeams and giving out business cards left and right. Well, not really about the wings, but it felt like that. And I’m not kidding about the business cards. One person called me within the hour to set up an appointment. Wow! I was floored! What a full-circle moment. A definite point in Advokate history.

But the balance of the universe couldn’t let that elation go unchecked. As the presentation wound down and people started to mill around and shake hands afterward, I looked down in horror to realize that my brand-new teal shirt had GIANT – and I mean GIANT, like halfway down my side, super dark, can’t cover it up just making T-Rex arms – freakish pit sweat marks. It was like a nightmare where you look down in class and you’ve peed yourself or forgot your pants. THIS ISN’T SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS TO ME! I’m not normally that sweaty!!! I don’t know if the room was hot or my nerves were going nuts or I have some kind of shirt allergy or my all-natural aluminum-free deodorant always lets me free sweat and I just hadn’t noticed before because this was the first time wearing this particular shirt, but… man. It was CRAAAZY, you guys.

I considered darting out the back door but instead I sucked it up and, holding my notebook awkwardly in a blocking-the-pits kind of way went hands-shaking and to thank Sara for saying such nice things about me and my business and she was gracious and awesome and said even MORE nice things. Like: Hey, grow as big as you want, we’re good. You’re not a sneakypants liar and I like your style. (Though she said it more eloquently than that.) I walked out to my car on cloud nine, feeling really good about the business. This was better than Advokate’s birthday!

Things I learned today:

1. Like John O’Brien said – be you, be honest, and you’re okay. Being in business doesn’t mean you have to be a snot and act like everyone’s out to get you. It’s okay to be your true self. People are generally nice.

2. Wear an undershirt and jacket if you might have to shake hands with people. And if you don’t make a big deal about your freakish bodily issues, nobody else will either. Until you blog about it.

Kate Austin-Avon

Kate E. Austin is known for her creative advocacy. She is a regular speaker on branding and social media with educational institutions and Chambers of Commerce. She owns and operates Advokate, LLC. Currently she serves on the boards of the Glens Falls Business Improvement District, is on the World Awareness Children’s Museum’s Advisory Council, and is involved in the Jackson Heights PTA. Originally from Killington, Vermont, she studied art at Hartwick College and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Art from Empire State College. She is a mother of three.