SheBoss with Dawn Pumpelly
Megan: You guys I’m so excited about today’s SheBoss, I am here with Dawn Pumpelly with the Scout Guide. I think everybody knows who Dawn is and if you’ve seen one of the most beautiful publications that is distributed out in our community, then you know a little bit about her, so welcome.
Dawn: Thank you
Megan: Cheers, love Dawn, we’re huge fans of the Scout Guide.
Dawn: Thank you.
Megan: And we’re excited because-
Megan: What? Oh
Dawn: A little bit of liquid courage.
Megan: It’s really tasty. It’s actually better than I thought.
Dawn: It is. It’s very good. It’s like a dessert.
Megan: It is. At the end of the day, you’ve got a little bit of a travel trip coming up so this is a nice way to kind of get you-
Dawn: Sipping mimosas at the airport
Megan: Exactly, so thank you so much for spending time with us today.
Dawn: My pleasure
Megan: We’re so excited that you’re here and we’ve been friends with Dawn, we love Dawn. We’re big Friends of the Scout Guide, have been for a long time. I mean, the publication is so beautiful and we’re going to get to that. But I think we just want to hear a little bit about you. So many people have a chance to get to know you, but they align me with the Scout Guide, which is great, but there’s a whole other side of you that maybe some people don’t get a chance to see and I’ve been impressed to hear about your background, history and all of that. So, share with us a little bit about your background, what got you here, and we’ll go from there.
Dawn: Well, as it relates to my background in Huntsville, my parents, my dad and my stepmom in the early 80s. So, I’m sort of not a native but a native by association.
Megan: Pretty close
Dawn: Now, I did not grow up here. I actually grew up in Pennsylvania with my mom, my dad, my stepmom came here to start a business. When I was 13, I came to Huntsville and I proclaimed that it the most boring place on earth and I vowed I would never live here. And look, fast forward two years to my 29th year and I mean here I am sort of championing our city and spreading the word about what a spectacular place Huntsville is and filled with such amazing people. But that’s how things that’s how things got started.
Megan: So, your parents moved here in the early 80s, what was the business that they had?
Dawn: They were the senior living business so that was a very new thing back then. I mean, there were pretty much nursing homes and nothing else but they came here. They said they had, the PR language, the marketing language that you would love was that they were the fastest growing healthcare marketing firm in the country, which pretty much meant that they were the only healthcare marketing firm. But they did that they came here, they loved it. And then they actually decided to stay. It was going to be just a location, a spot that they were going to have a contract and then move on eventually, but they loved it. They decided to stay. My brother was born and raised here. So, I have a brother who is 13 years younger than I am. He was born and raised here and he lives here now and he runs a local business and I have two sweet nephews, one of which is not even a month old. So yes, that’s really fun.
Megan: So, the senior living facility, tell me a little bit more about that, is it still around?
Dawn: Well, yes. When my husband and I moved here in 2003, we moved here to be a part of the family business. I ran the sales and marketing side. He ran the operations and we had 10 assisted living facilities within about three hours of Huntsville. So, one in Huntsville, nearby Decatur, Florence, Hartselle.
Megan: So, your parents started that with one and they definitely branched out.
Dawn: Yes, and they developed a concept that was really very unique if they would build- they called them cottages, Country cottage and Columbia cottage. They were small. They were very home like
Megan: So, you still get that comfortable feel that you’re not in a sterile exam
Dawn: Exactly so, it was a really nice and a beautiful experience and opportunity for us to do that together. And then we don’t own them anymore. We actually sold the company about five years ago.
Megan: That’s pretty awesome. So, you grew up watching your parents hustle.
Dawn: Oh, absolutely.
Megan: You have that in your blood from a very young age. That explains a lot.
Dawn: Well, yes. I mean, hard workers. Thank you.
Megan: But I mean, it’s hard work.
Dawn: Yes, and my brother came and worked in the business and we worked together for a while and my mom was a really hard worker too. So that’s what we did. And then when I decided to leave the family business, I thought, and Megan, I’m sure you felt a little bit of this yourself. I mean, I thought maybe I’m missing something. As a mom, I have one son. I had never stayed home with him. I always felt guilty about that. I mean, I went back to work two and a half months after he was born and was always travelling and doing things and thought I needed to be a stay-at-home mom. So, that’s why I stepped out of the family business. And three months later, I figured out that I was a much better working mom than a stay-at-home mom. And that’s an okay thing.
Megan: Absolutely, it’s okay. You know what I think that is women naturally, we give ourselves a lot of guilt and guess what? Being at home and staying at home is not the best for everybody. I would lose my mind and I would be a worse off parent to my child if I was home all the time, because that’s just not how I roll.
Dawn: Me too.
Megan: And we have to be okay with that.
Dawn: But there’s a lot of pressure either way, and either way you feel like, ‘Well, I have all this schooling but I’m not using it because I’m staying at home’ or ‘I’m working and I’m not giving my family what it needs.’ And so, I sort of found that by working, I could bring more to my family. And to your point about hustling, like, I think that that’s not a bad lesson for my son to see.
Megan: Oh my gosh, yeah, he’d learned so much from that. So, I mean, so we have we have that in common where you know, with Flourish. I mean, the girls know, Madison, but I mean, at 11 years old, it was her idea for me to start this business. I don’t know if you know that.
Dawn: No, that’s amazing.
Megan: Yes, she’s like, “Mom, just go do this thing.” I got laid off my job and she’s like, “go do this thing”. And I was like, “what”
Dawn: You are kidding.
Megan: She did it with me, she helped me but she saw the good, the bad, the ugly. She saw the tears. She’s saw the late nights. And you know, you work harder than you’ve ever worked in your entire life. So, you are sacrificing some things but I think in the long run your kids see that and they recognize that and they’re very smart. Unfortunately, a lot of parents are set to believe that they have to be all these things and they really don’t. I mean, it depends on the relationship that you have with your son and your family, and what makes the most sense for you.
Dawn: But I will also say, it was really not until I found the Scout Guide and I got it going that I sort of found this balance between work and life and home that was so much more harmonious because I was so happy in my work. You and I were both in a meeting today where somebody talked about this is their personal life and this as their professional life.
Megan: Yes, I love that, I was like, “on point, hot mess”.
Dawn: For me, that’s not the thing. It’s all one for me. You know, I mean, what you see at work is pretty much what you see at home and it’s 50% a hot mess all the time but that’s okay, because I think people like connecting with you in a genuine way or at least that’s what I tell myself.
Megan: I think it’s the same thing as looking at photos or looking at things where people are not living their true life.
Megan: You can see that; you can see the authenticity or the lack thereof and I think that there’s a lot to be said for that. So, did you say that your husband and you started when you guys came down like you all were working together?
Dawn: We did and then when I stepped out of the family business, he did as well. So, he actually is in another field and I’m going to tell you a secret that actually nobody knows and then it’ll be on here so, we’ll see.
Megan: Yes, yes.
Dawn: I think that he probably at some point will join the Scout Guide, Huntsville as part of the team.
Megan: In what capacity are you thinking?
Dawn: Well, that’s what we’re figuring out. But at my last launch, I got to say a few words and it was number five and it was a really big party and I was making comments who knows what it even was that I said because I forget 30 seconds after it flies out of my mouth. He kept coming over and high fiving me during the speech and I was like, “What?”, and I when I looked back later at the pictures, I thought, “Oh my gosh, he loves it just like I do. Why shouldn’t we be finding a way to sort of do this together?”
Megan: That is beautiful.
Dawn: We are working on it.
Megan: I love that so much. That is so sweet.
Dawn: Your husband works with you.
Megan: Yes, he does. He’s on his full-time gig but he’s definitely my better half and he brings so much value to me as an individual, of course, professionally, personally, all of that. That just helps to expand my perspective on things. And then in addition, he’s great to look at so I get to hang out more often and I really appreciate it.
Dawn: Mine’s not too bad either.
Megan: Yes right, cheers to that. So, what’s the secret for doing that because not everybody can do that? They can spend that much time with their spouse or partner so that’s going to be hard. So, what works for you guys?
Dawn: You know, we’ve been married for twenty– one, we have different talents. He’s better with the passage of time than I am. So, I think we’ve been married 21 years but he’ll correct me on that-
Megan: Love how you just said that, “better with the passage of time”.
Dawn: Something could have happened last month or last year to me, but I really think we’re best friends. I really do. I mean, we have such a good time together and our son too, it’s just the three of us. That’s not true. I mean, I have my mom and we have a great family network but it’s the three of us against the world. We call each other team pumps, like our text chain is called Team pumps. Megan: I love that and I don’t want to tell you what my text chain is called with my daughter.
Dawn: Please tell me.
Megan: It’s with my daughter and my husband and we all have very interesting senses of humor and so she named it she named it The Express [unintelligible 00:10:58]. I don’t know your inspiration. It’s just more of a joke of like, you know what I mean.
Dawn: And your son is not even on there?
Megan: No, I’ve got a 14 year old stepson and then a nine year old son. Neither of them are on there. This is just with my oldest daughter. But you know, the acronym on my phone for her is also PITA, that’s her name, which is, a pain in the ass because she’s a 17 year old girl.
Dawn: That’s hilarious.
Megan: You guys are best friends, which I love.
Dawn: We are and I’m sure that I probably have a stronger personality than he does. I think he’s more willing to sort of,
Megan: Kind of go with the flow
Dawn: Yes or back down on something or he’s a little bit more sort of willing to sort of take a step back and maybe regroup and come back at me later.
Megan: Which is probably very smart.
Megan: He knows what’s good for him.
Dawn: So you have a little bit of a background in publishing right prior to coming to the Scout Guide?
Dawn: Oh, gosh, that’s so funny. Are you bringing up The Yellow Pages?
Megan: I’m just bringing up that I know you have a background in publishing.
Megan: Does anybody know what The Yellow Pages is in this room?
Dawn: Right? Nobody, they Googled it. So The Yellow Pages is this book, the phone company used to print and it would put- the white pages would have everybody’s home address and phone number and the yellow pages would have businesses.
Megan: We used to use it to stand on each step in the cabinet.
Dawn: Yes sit on and that was the, if you didn’t have a high chair you put your kid on it.
Megan: Surprisingly comfortable
Dawn: But that seems totally unsexy compared to the Scout Guide but it was a really neat opportunity for me because, one I worked for Bell South, which at that point in the late 90s, early 2000s, they put a lot of money into training and professional development. I mean when I went to go work for them, I went on a 12 week training programme before they ever had me do anything.
Megan: I mean, were you selling?
Dawn: Oh yes, I was selling. They trained us to sell. And they broke down their sales process into nine steps. Each week was a different step. Then they would do this with you, they would have you role play, and then they would show it to you and break it down for you. I mean, it was excellent training. And then even beyond that, they did a lot of professional development, your personality testing, that sort of stuff to help you advance.
Megan: They were ahead of the curve as it relates to that.
Dawn: Yes, absolutely. So, that was a really neat experience, because I think it really did teach me how to sell but at the same time, I did learn that I was passionate about learning about people’s businesses. So, I mean, I know that sounds sort of crazy, but I still remember one guy meeting across the kitchen table which they would never ask you to go into people’s homes anymore, but I used to go to people’s homes and sit across the table from him and he was starting a sprinkler business. And he told me about what his dreams are and what he hoped to accomplish and what his budget was and what everything cost and I sort of recommended an ad in the phone book. And the next year at Christmas, he sent me a card and he said, “I tripled what my goals were and it’s 100% thanks to that ad in the phone book…
Megan: How awesome is that?
Dawn: … and I thank you for that.” That meant so much to me.
Megan: Yes, it’s amazing.
Dawn: We sort of joke that that’s something that’s so traditional and old school.
Megan: But guess what? That worked, traditional and old school works, believe it or not. I mean, and you see what happens in the world of digital marketing, so many variables, you can’t control, and the algorithm’s always changing. Sometimes traditional is just the way to go. And I bet you learned so much back then that kind of has fed into a lot of the things that you put into the Scout Guide.
Dawn: I think so. I think the Scout Guide is definitely a much more sort of stylized view of the best of local businesses and we have very much that sort of sensibility of we want to introduce our audience to the faces behind these local businesses. And that, I think creates a lot of meaning.
Megan: Yes, it does
Dawn: That the old pages didn’t have right Megan: But you’re bringing it all to life in a very different way but the concept is very similar.
Megan: It is
Dawn: Yes, funny. So next gen, Yellow Pages 2.0. Oh my gosh, the Scout Guide founders would die if they-
Megan: You should totally pitch that idea. That’d be really funny, just don’t make it yellow because these colours-
Dawn: They are so pretty.
Megan: I know so the Scout Guide is one that before I ever had a chance to meet you and I saw the first Scout Guide I’ll never forget, I had a gentleman a client of ours, Rock Creek sports was long time ago. They’re doing their own thing, but they found moved digital in the Scout Guide.
Dawn: Oh, cool.
Megan: And this was like 2019. So, long story short, that partnership didn’t work out. But he showed me the Scout Guide for the first time and he, as a consumer was just so impressed and blown away by the art that was put into something like this and how it really helped to tell the stories in such a visual way which- but that’s a very difficult thing to do. You don’t open the Scout Guide and see paragraphs upon paragraphs of the value proposition of the clients that are in there. Instead, you see beautiful photography that paints that picture and allows somebody to kind of take away from it, whatever it means to them, which I think is very difficult to do in a way that successful but you guys have done that.
Dawn: Thank you
Megan: I know we’re going to embark on this, which I’m really nervous about and excited about too.
Dawn: I’m excited about it.
Megan: The creative process for you all, talk to us a little bit about that. Because how do you find the inner, the fire within the client and to be able to showcase that visually? We’re a marketing company and that’s very challenging for us to do so, it talk to me about it.
Dawn: It is hard. Well and you are very good at it. Let me just say that. I mean, it’s been fun. It was nice of you to say that about the Scout Guide all those years ago because I’ve been following you and your growth.
Megan: So, the reason it looks like this is because you’ve been taking all of our workshops and following us.
Dawn: Of course, you actually even provided a workshop to the Scout Guide a couple years ago.
Megan: It was amazing.
Dawn: So, I mean, we’ve definitely been leading parallel lives during this time and I just admire everything that you built with Flourish and I’m excited to share the story.
Megan: So are we.
Dawn: Yes, but it is challenging. Okay, so the creative process you asked me about that. I think first it starts with the photography and Scout Guide, as an entity, we’re in 70 plus cities and really Scout Guide has a very clear vision for how all of our city brands should look.
Megan: There is a legit brand for the Scout Guide. So that directs some of that.
Dawn: So, one of our founders, Christie, she was a photographer, she started doing photography and the very first Scout Guide with her partner Suzy and she still to this day, when you identify a new photographer, she still interviews the photographer. It’s part of the process. It’s very well defined, natural light photography, and this should be the look and feel and even little things that most people don’t notice. We try not to have light artificial lighting on in the spreads. We try to make everything look consistent and cohesive. For instance, we took a photo last year in front of a house that on the upstairs, the blinds were different heights, and we didn’t catch it until later. They caught it at Scout Guide because that was a sort of a photography oversight thing which was nice, but just to get into it here locally. When I started this Scout Guide, the first thing I wanted to do was find a photographer that I felt would help bring to life my vision of Huntsville and I interviewed a couple of people and then I met Ashley Bon with White Rabbit Studios and she is, I think an artist.
Megan: Oh, she’s absolutely an artist. She is primarily a film photographer; what she does with film and the way she brings light to life in that photography, I think it’s really beautiful and she’s found a way to sort of translate that into the digital photography we do here. So, I think it’s very unusual for a Scout Guide to have been around five years like mine to have had one photographer for five years.
Megan: She’s been around since beginning?
Dawn: Yes, and she’s been with me since the beginning.
Megan: No wonder
Dawn: She just has as much commitment to it as I do. She loves it like I do. When I first met her and interviewed her, she wanted it so badly because she loves Huntsville and she wanted to help Huntsville come to life in this way. She had seen Scout Guides before ours, and when she saw Scout Guide Huntsville pop up on Instagram, she messaged me right away. She was like, “What are you doing? I need to be a part of it.”
Megan: How can I be involved?
Dawn: Yes, and here we are five years later. And it really is a nice marriage between the Scout Guide and White Rabbit studios.
Megan: So how do you capture the essence of the clients? And I don’t want to use us as an example but when you sit down with- who is inclined that you can give me an example, local business.
Dawn: Just grab one oh, well let’s do… oh gosh, there’s just…I love them all. Okay, this is a fun one. Marian Windham.
Megan: You and I talk about her and she’s in WEDC, she is just as fabulous as she is in this picture at all times. I cannot believe you just opened it on this because you remember I mentioned this to you.
Dawn: I think you kind of have it folded?
Megan: No, no, no. I mentioned her that she was one of the ones who I saw on the very first- she’s been in Scout Guide for a long time.
Dawn: Yes, this is her third year.
Megan: Yes, okay. So, I remember seeing her in years past and I was most impressed with hers because she’s a travel agent. A lot of people don’t use travel agents anymore but the way that she positions the brand, like she’s not a travel agent.
Dawn: Like she’s helping you achieve your dreams in this fabulous way.
Megan: And on top of that, she’s absolutely adorable.
Dawn: She’s adorable. So, this is a perfect example of our vision coming together with her inspiration. I mean, and the neat thing about Marian is she is a dancer and an actress too before she was a travel agent.
Megan: That makes so much sense.
Dawn: So, she has a good sense of how she wants to be represented and then we help her sort of accomplish her goals. So that’s a really neat one from that perspective, because, you know all of this outfitting here is hard. I mean, we found the plane though. Super excited, this plane is from an airport in Scottsboro that our assistant editor knows a super sweet gentleman that let us climb all over it and capture this image. But yes, I think one year we did her with these fabulous vintage suitcases out by the depot and the train and just wait to see next year. The concept is really cool.
Megan: I’m sure it will be. I mean, it’s beautiful. Her story has come to life in the Scout Guide
Dawn: So, what we do, I keep getting off, sorry. You asked me the creative process. So, I think that’s evolved over the years. I’m going to answer that question as it relates to the next guide that we’re working on putting together right now, volume six. When I was on my way to the volume five launch party, which was all I could dream it would be, it was on the stage at the Orion and it was blinking and I mean it was just exactly what I wanted to do to celebrate five years.
Megan: There’s so much FOMO going around with people who wanted to be there so bad, myself included. It definitely influenced us to just wait.
Dawn: It’s good marketing.
Megan: It’s great. The thing that I think a lot of people don’t realize is that Scout Guide is a onetime annual publication. It comes out once but the investment and the return that you receive as a brand is year-round. I don’t think a lot of people realize that and so you’re part of a of a club that gives you access in ways that you wouldn’t necessarily have as a small business owner and you guys do a phenomenal job.
Dawn: And a lot of times people will say to me, yes, the actually the network tends to be the most valuable part of it. I mean, there are a lot of parts of the Scout Guide. There’s being in the print guide. There’s being a part of the network. There’s being on our social media, all of those things and different aspects of it are more important to different businesses and that’s great. That’s why we can sort of build these other things. Some other things that David and I are thinking about adding too in the future.
Megan: Here to hear it first, don’t know what it is
Dawn: You did hear it first.
Megan: I’m excited.
Dawn: But I think that the sort of that whole thing that this is a thing that you get to be part of for a year is a great, positive piece of it. Where were we going?
Megan: Just the creative side of it and what you are doing differently moving forward.
Dawn: All right, so, I was driving to the launch party, and I was thinking to myself, how are we going to top this next year? I can’t imagine
Megan: Because this was sort of the Orion
Dawn: The thing of my dreams and on my way in my car driving up 565 right outside your windows here, I had a brainstorm. So, the whole concept for the next guide actually started with what the launch will be. And then from the launch, we defined a creative vision for the guide itself. I don’t know if you’ve seen this yet.
Megan: I saw the storyboard.
Dawn: Okay, so there’s this mood boards with colours and concepts that are I mean, that are drawing. I can’t really talk about that.
Megan: But it’s very cool, we all looked at it.
Dawn: Okay good. So, what we do is we sit down with a photographer, our creative director Isah, we have a creative assistant, Amanda. They are sitting down, coming up with concepts for each business, sort of in a vacuum, and then they sit down with you and they consult with you and they say, “Okay, here are our ideas. What are your ideas? Let’s try to bring it together. Sort of like Marianne yeah, let’s bring it together so that you’re within the guide concepts so that you flow so that this look book is something that people want to keep on their coffee tables.
Megan: And then they do
Dawn: And look at multiple times, but at the same time tells the story of your business, which is where you started with this is, how do we convey who you are? And I think a lot of it is that introducing people to truly who you are, as a business owner, because Huntsville is a big, small town and people are invested in us in a way that’s pretty extraordinary.
Megan: It’s unique.
Megan: I know you’ve been here for quite some time, but if you had to describe Huntsville in one word, what would you use?
Dawn: It would not include the word rocket.
Megan: Cheers to that, totally agree
Dawn: Not to not appreciate our history, but-
Megan: We get it. We’ve heard it. We see it every day. What else are we known for?
Dawn: I think there’s oh, one word?
Megan: I know it is really hard. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot. I want to say hospitality, but I don’t mean it like, restaurant hospitality way. I mean, in a-
Megan: Sort of southern welcoming kind of warm
Dawn: Not even, well southern, yes, but it’s sort of like an incubating, like a supportive way. Let me tell you something that somebody said to me before I started this and you probably know him. It’s Dennis Madsen who works for the city.
Megan: I know him very well.
Dawn: Well, okay. I adore him, a lot of people do.
Megan: Yes, he’s a great guy.
Dawn: When I was trying to figure out whether or not Huntsville could support this Scout Guide, because there was a real question six years ago, whether or not we had enough to feature in the Scout Guide, he said to me, “Dawn, my take on Huntsville is that if you have a good idea, and you’re willing to work for it, people will get behind you.” That’s not one word. I don’t know how many. It’s 100% my experience.
Megan: I can see that.
Dawn: And I think about that all the time, and that was a pretty impactful thing that he said to me to sort of take the leap because there wasn’t a spreadsheet that said it was going to work.
Megan: Well, that’s true. I mean, you’re taking a big risk by trying something new out in the market that hasn’t had something like that before.
Dawn: It is a franchise so I had to invest in the franchise.
Megan: But it’s also an upscale franchise. I mean, it’s a franchise that really caters to a particular demographic and a particular business of how they want their brand to be represented as well, which is unique, its niche. It’s not like every other publication that’s out there. So, you also need to ensure you have the audience in the market who’s able to receive that and you know this is a perfect community. I mean, there’s no doubt about right?
Dawn: Definitely and I think, for me, it checked all the boxes. I saw where Huntsville was and where we’re going and it was what I had dreamed when I was 13 it would be and so I just wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to find a way, I mean, I knew I didn’t want to work for anybody else again. But I wanted to find a way to be a part of that excitement and support it and but then I also still wanted to be mom I also still want to be pickup be able to pick up my son after school sometimes and I wanted to be my own boss and travel when I wanted to and so owning this franchise did that for me. And it also sort of gave me the roadmap to create something that I thought Huntsville deserved, that would be beautiful. And then I’ve also been really excited because I think it’s almost open more of an entrepreneurial spirit in me. It’s enabled me to sort of even colour outside the lines of the Scout Guide in some ways and make it my own, even just beyond it being a franchise.
Megan: Sort of like the playbook that they provide to you.
Megan: And kind of do your own thing.
Dawn: I can add some things like I have a partnership with Tennessee Valley living and I do segments called Scouted Every Two Weeks.
Megan: And Peyton, she’s great so adorable, love her.
Dawn: She’s adorable.
Megan: She’s going to be on SheBoss soon.
Dawn: Oh, I can’t wait to listen.
Megan: Like I don’t even need to be here. You just do your thing because she’s so great. And I’m like, “I’m just going to sit here and drink my wine.” She’s adorable. We’re big fans of Peyton.
Dawn: But that’s something that is not part of the Scout Guide franchise, but I just have so much fun doing it and that’s a great team. They have a guy Patrick who works with them and I just think the world of such a smart, intuitive person.
Megan: And I think that and not to favour one or the other but I think that Tennessee Valley living and Peyton, they get it. They want to play that role in the community. They want to spotlight and showcase some of the businesses and tell those stories that you don’t typically get to see from a brick and mortar or whatnot. What would you say going down this path being five years in what’s been the biggest struggle for you?
Dawn: Struggle? I mean, the COVID year I mean when COVID hit in March, we were just getting ready to start photo shoots. And so just even trying to figure out, do you shoot with masks? Do you shoot at all? Can you keep going at all? Can you get close to people? And that’s just the logistics of that. And then really, when it first started, I always felt like it was a small business going to survive at all? And what will our lives be like? And that was really hard because one of the most positive things about the Scout Guide is that I have 69, 70 other editors across the country that I say, ‘How’s it going over there?’ ‘What do you doing?’ But at that time, I think we sort of as a collective took a negative spiral, we were all really hit and struggled and I think sometimes, you can all raise each other up, or you can alter each other down and that was a hard emotional time. But it was also pretty cool to see everybody come out of that too. And actually, I think that this brand has done even better and I think small business and the sentiment about supporting small business-
Megan: Has shifted even with COVID, I completely agree. Again, I mean, I lived in Atlanta and I lived in Orlando and I lived in Clearwater and granted I’ve been here majority of my adult life but I think that and I know you agree with this, Huntsville is very unique. It’s very different and it’s not like a lot of other cities. And I think when people come here and they experience that, it’s just different and I agree with you and people here want to support small business, which is why you have so many initiatives going around to support small business, whether it’s All Things Madison or it’s the Chambers who bend over backwards to help. I don’t know what we would have done without them during COVID.
Dawn: Oh, I know
Megan: We were year three and after I drank myself into a bottle of wine cried my eyes out thinking we’re going to lose everything, then you just do it what you got to do but, man, it was hard.
Dawn: I think we took like a little pity party for a little while and then just sort of said, well, I think women business owners well, a lot of the businesses featured in the Scout Guide are women business owners, and I find that incredibly inspiring. And I think women business owners, because in a lot of cases, we multitask. We do all these different things. We are everything to everyone. I think in some ways, that’s where a lot of the innovation is coming now out of women small business.
Megan: I have to agree.
Dawn: Because we had to be innovative to be where we are. I don’t think it’s enough anymore just to be a woman owned small business and that’s okay because we rise to the occasion of that.
Megan: I love that.
Dawn: I actually want to tell you one other thing. that this is another brainstorm I’ve been thinking about as it relates to small business and women. When I started the Scout Guide five years ago, you tell me what you think about this. I’ve really been mulling this over. When I started the Scout Guide like six years ago now I felt like we wave, I wanted to be part of what was happening in Huntsville. It was an exciting time, we are getting the first, the first rooftop bar, we had all the first stuff and we were all really excited about that. What I’m seeing now, is sort of this next generation of that these small businesses bubbling up that are a little bit more unique. I will tell you that what I’m saying is most of them are women owned and sometimes mom owned. I’m seeing a lot of moms with little kids who are doing pretty incredible stuff and they’re bringing goods and services here to Huntsville that I think you can have access to another cities beyond this first wave of cool stuff becomes this whole service industry of home organizers that are doing thing like [unintelligible 00:35:15] doing this really cool organizing not just organizing but postpartum organizing so that when you come home from the hospital you got what you need. I talked to a woman today who has a Doula agency, Rocket City Doulas. Kaleidoscope Child Therapy, they do play therapy with children. I think of these are really unique and wonderful things that you now can have access to at Huntsville that if you lived somewhere else, you probably had already. So, there’s almost a second wave of innovation that I am feeling and I’m excited because I think I’m seeing some of that coming into the next Scout Guide too, this whole sort of unique spin that small business owners are putting together which is very- what do you think about that? Are you seeing that at all?
Megan: To be honest with you, I am. Again, this community has just exploded and we’ve been here for we’ve been here for 17 years and I was- I don’t know if you felt this way but I had never stepped foot in the state of Alabama before I moved here and so of course like a lot of people do, they have a preconceived notion of what they think Alabama is so ‘everybody wear their shoes all the time and have all their teeth’ the typical stereotype, which was so inaccurate. I was embarrassed to even think that we have more rednecks in Florida than we have ever, you know what I’m saying where I’m from which is a beautiful place but it blew my mind about the innovation and the intelligence and the approach to problem solving that I think is just different.
I don’t know what it is but I think this community is so receptive to supporting individuals. And with that comes confidence in women to be able to feel as though they can do just as much if not more. I think there used to be a stereo type where if you have little kids, there is no going to work and there is no side hustle are you kidding me? Now, that’s encouraged. I mean you look at your younger generations are making money left and right doing all sorts of different things and being very out of the box and I said I think here it’s just so widely accepted. Dawn and I were at the WEDC luncheon today Women’s Economic Development Council and you have a room of 75 women who will do nothing but go like this and open every single door and I think that camaraderie, that sisterhood, that bonding that happens there just allows a safe space for just innovation to unfold. And you can say is this a stupid idea? And no, it’s not a stupid idea, do it, what are you waiting for? And I think that’s unique because the support system that’s here is there’s no judgment, do you know what I mean? It’s like you’re just going to do this thing. I mean when we started Flourish, I legitimately was googling how to start a business because I had no idea and I made so many mistakes but I had no idea but what I quickly found was Lee Christian and [unintelligible 00:38:30] and Curtis and all of these women over The Catalyst and Joanne Randolph who were like you don’t know anything come on in for free by the way we will take you under our wing and ensure you are equipped with everything that you need and I could safely do that in a vulnerable way which I wouldn’t be able to do that in Atlanta. I can tell you that right now it would’ve been very difficult for me to do that in Atlanta.
Megan: Very difficult
Dawn: I have a woman that’s going to be the next Scout Guide and she’s an interior designer and owns a little interior store in Stovehouse, Anna Petrenko. She came from Atlanta and she said the same thing to me. She said, “I would be working in some else’s firm, I would never be able to do this and now she’s got a little baby and a pack and play and a closet.
Megan: Everybody who sees that’s like, “heck yeah” in Atlanta, they’ll be like, “Really? where is your nanny?” It’s a different environment.
Dawn: I lived in Atlanta before I moved here.
Megan: Okay so you know, and great love Atlanta don’t get me wrong but would I have the same level of confidence of me being able to achieve what we’ve been able to achieve, it’s not just for us but women and business as across-the-board, it would be so much harder.
Dawn: Well and the risks are inherently less here because the cost of living is so much less. It is a much better incubator for some businesses because you can give it a shot.
Megan: And if you fail, you’re not going to be losing a significant amount.
Dawn: I’m glad you’re seeing that too, it’s pretty exciting hit me yesterday on about my 14th phone call with this most impressive young woman who’s juggling all these things and it’s pretty neat.
Megan: So does that shape any direction as it relates to content or editorial concepts for the scout guide?
Dawn: For Scout Guide, a lot of our markets only do Instagram in terms of social media and they might have a website and they do Instagram. And Scout Guide lends itself to Instagram because we have beautiful photos but what we have found here in Huntsville is that Facebook is actually still a pretty powerful tool in our community. It’s still pretty- and I see everybody behind the camera nodding their heads.
Dawn: In some ways, it is. It is a lot of things that you have to put out there but we are finding that we can almost do like mini blogs on Facebook that are getting really great traction introducing people to the swimming- so right now we’re running a series about New Year’s resolutions and we’ve asked our businesses to tell us their personal and professional resolutions and those have been really popular, so mini blogs but just on social media. We did a feature in October that I think was our most successful series to date and that was on women and small businesses.
Megan: I remember
Dawn: So, I think we’re going to roll that back out again in May, small business month and open up to some fellas. There are some pretty cool men owned businesses.
Megan: We have several of them as our clients in there and absolutely amazing, no they’re amazing.
Dawn: We wouldn’t have gone this far anyway.
Megan: Probably not, well I am so excited for you and I’m so excited to see you and hear about the success of the Scout Guide. Correct me if I’m wrong on this, is the Huntsville guide one of the fastest growing guides or the largest guide?
Dawn: When we printed this one, volume five, it was the largest guide across the Scout Guide network. And I will tell you also, our number one was the largest first guide that they printed across the Scout Guide network. So, Huntsville has quite the legacy as it relates to Scout Guide and I think it totally goes back to what you’re talking about. Our community interest and support is pretty extraordinary. Having said that, I feel like being a big part of the Scout Guide, wearing my editor hat is really making sure that that we’re highlighting, even though I hate this word, curating the right mix of businesses for our audience and by right meaning the best in lots of different business categories. So, I feel like this size is where it needs to be.
Megan: You don’t want to get too much bigger.
Dawn: I don’t want to get too much bigger. It’s just there are some business logistics that would make it pretty challenging but at the same time I think this is good and we are just going to really focus on just elevating the creative and really doing our best for our businesses and all the different channels that we use.
Megan: And I greatly appreciate the fact that it’s not over saturated with industry versus others so you have a really good mix of business types. So, you’re not looking at the Scout Guide and getting any overwhelmed with financial services or legal services or anything like that, it’s a really good mix. I think that represents different demographics of businesses that we have here.
Dawn: Yes, that’s the editor piece of it too.
Megan: That’s what I’m saying, not a lot of people think about that sometimes but that’s really important because you don’t want it to be so skewed one way or the other.
Dawn: Well, I think if we had 25 fantastic boutiques, you could have 25 fantastic boutiques because that’s what everybody wants to see or interiors but then you sort of pepper in professional services, financial services other things as well medical.
Megan: Yes definitely, awesome. So, the Scout Guide is not open to everybody. It’s a little bit of a selective list and in order to be part of the Scout Guide, you need to get involved fairly quickly so I know we’re getting up against that deadline for businesses who are interested to be involved in the next issue so talk to us a little bit about that.
Dawn: So, yes, we are scouting for volume six. I think I looked this morning the book is about 70% committed given the size that we say we’re going to keep it at so yes if you’re ever interested in being featured on the Scout Guide, absolutely. You can go on our website, which is tsghuntsville.com and there’s a little advertise with us place you can go on and submit your information. I have some spots in certain categories, certain categories are full but I think if someone’s interested in being considered they should go ahead and submit their info and I will follow up after I get back from the Dominican Republic.
Megan: Yes, definitely
Dawn: In four days which I would already be long back by the time anybody sees me. Work hard, play hard so, yes I would love that and a lot of cases, if I have somebody that’s interested in a particular category and I don’t have it available, in the next guide, I create a waitlist for them. I already had a waitlist for volume seven that I add people to and I try to stay in touch and stay connected.
Megan: That’s great. I know we’re a little bit biased but from a marketing perspective this is a phenomenal investment for a small business because it is a great way for them to tell their story, be connected to others who may not have the opportunity to engage with through the Scout Guide network. And again, it may be a one-time publication but the return is a year-round. Can you do this on your own through Instagram? Instagram, you could but you don’t have the following and the engagement and the strategic plan that Scout Guide Huntsville will put into that and that’s a big difference because your engagement is phenomenal.
Dawn: We try
Megan: It is, a lot of people don’t realize how important engagement is. It’s not how many followers or how many likes you have on social media but how many people truly engage with your content and you guys create beautifully crafted engaging content. The return on that is much greater than just being included in Instagram, you know what I’m saying and I think that’s really important.
Dawn: Agreed, I haven’t mentioned her yet but we have Sabrina who is our assistant editor and she oversees all of the digital parts of the Scout Guide and I think she does a phenomenal job she and she’s pulling the photography, she’s pulling the messaging, she does a great job. Once a month, we sit down and you probably do this more frequently but we sit down and look at all of our stats last month, we try to figure out how to craft different messaging, what’s really working with our following to create engagement yeah.
And then I am going through right now, I do an annual audit with an agency who is outside the areas, they actually also are in the Scout Guide franchise but they own a marketing company as well. They know how to get in the backend of everything we do.
Megan: And they can do some comparison too to say, ‘here’s for the benchmark’ which is great.
Dawn: So, they do what we call branding once a year and sort of help us set goals for the following year. We measure ourselves along that as well.
Megan: Oh, that’s great. That’s awesome and so far you’re kicking butts.
Dawn: Well thanks, that all came out from not really knowing what I was doing just asking people for advice.
Megan: There is a really great thing because it’s like if you’ve got an idea just do it. Just ask questions and ask what you think might be not that you have this but a stupid question, you know where you might just feel ashamed to be doing that and again, I think that’s one of the things that is so well received in this community which is so pretty.
Dawn: People are willing to help.
Megan: And they put that out there and they’re open about it and they also make you feel comfortable and being able to do that which is extremely important.
Dawn: Which kudos to you, you do that and Flourish does that at a level that is really pretty extraordinary you guys are out there, I mean yes, you have clients and they pay you to do work but you also provide a lot of pro bono support and help and I think that pays huge dividends but I know you do it all the goodness of your heart.
Megan: Honestly, because we really like to do it. I think that’s a silver lining that is unfolded that came unsolicited and I didn’t realize that was going to happen but we didn’t set out to start a business really. It just sort of happened and the team that you can’t see behind the camera but the team is the reason why we are able to do, what we are able to do because they shared passion and we drive with that. We don’t drive with our bottom line and sometimes it gets us in trouble but most of the time, it doesn’t and it results in very strong relationships that are truly based on trust and authenticity and I think that just it transforms the way that partnership unfolds.
Dawn: So, my mantra is karma is a boomerang, just keep putting good things out there and I think that’s how you approach life as well. Aren’t you glad that we both have Veronica to help us with our strategy.
Megan: We love you Vee you are the best. She is the best. So, she was in Scout Guide. Veronica has insight-
Dawn: Insight strategic solutions
Megan: Thank you, I always want to add a word in there so insight strategic solutions and she’s sort of the CFO in essence for some service base businesses and provide such great visibility.
Dawn: It’s unbelievable she went on my financials and I thought the first time we worked together; she would take forever to understand my business. super complicated and within 10 minutes, she was breaking down my phone and she’s helped me figure out how I could afford to make improvements, what improvements made good financial sense but not just financial sense in the moment but what helps growth and it is great to have somebody like that on your team and it’s really cool for me because she had been friends since before she started this business. So, last Scout Guide I had a couple people that said, “Well let me talk to Veronica and see if I can afford to do the Scout Guide.” And now this year, it’s like, “I know I know you got to talk to Veronica, just get back to me.” She’s got so many great small businesses as clients so she’s helping make those decisions. That’s a SheBoss.
Megan: Oh, heck yes that’s a SheBoss if I could just get her time. Well, I mean she’s phenomenal, she’s transformed her business and I know she’s done that for so many different people and women on business and all the things, she’s awesome.
Dawn: To Veronica
Megan: Cheers and to you, cheers and congratulations, going into the sixth year of the Scout Guide, the most beautiful inside after publication here. I’m so excited to have you.
Dawn: I’m so excited to have you.
Megan: I know we are going to be in, I’m so excited. It’s going to be great. I think about our spread often and what we’re going to do. We’re having a wine down to carefully brainstorm around some ideas, not today.
Dawn: So, this is not a wine down?
Megan: Oh, this is a have cocktails with Dawn down but we’re having a Scout Guide specific wine down. That way we can talk about it and brainstorm some ideas. The team knows this brand a creative idea about how we can be represented and then they run circles around me in many different ways and so they’re very important to contributing in a lot of these decisions.
Dawn: You are their fearless leader and thank you for having me here to do this with you. This was so fun. I mean we should do part two, part three, part four, I just want to keep talking.
Megan: Let’s do it, but for now, Dominican Republic. Cheers, thank you Dawn. Thanks guys.