Leaving your job in a corporate setting can be a huge leap, especially when you’re leaving to be your own boss. Becoming an entrepreneur and following your dreams is one of the craziest, scariest, most respected thing you can ever do. And you’re not alone! The entrepreneurial world is all about community over competition, and we’re thrilled to have Ailee Petrovic sharing her experiences with us today.
“Her prosperity does not make me inferior, and I choose to cheer her on, because community rises above competition.” – Natalie Franke, Co-Founder of the Rising Tide Society
This quote speaks to the concept of promoting community over competition, which is a trend sweeping across the creative industry right now, as individuals shift their perspective from viewing others in their field as being competition and instead someone from whom they can learn and share ideas.
Around this time last year, I left a demanding consulting job in order to pursue my dream of being a photographer (ironically even more demanding of a career!). My passion for photography had been growing steadily over the previous three years of writing my blog – Snapshots & My Thoughts, which was a creative outlet for me in an Oil & Gas world that often left me uninspired. One of the biggest blessings during my five years in corporate America was the strong network of hard-working and inspiring people whom I had worked with on various projects, some I now consider my closest friends.
After turning in my laptop and badge, I walked out of the office building and had a scary realization hit me – I was now working for a company of one – myself. While I was very excited about the new endeavor, I began to fear the lack of community that I had felt at my previous job. I strongly believe it is so important to be surrounded by individuals who are working towards a similar goal so that you can share ideas, encourage one another, offer suggestions and receive constructive feedback.
Around the same time that I quit, I was serendipitously invited to join a small group of five talented creative business owners in Houston who were on a quest to create an organization of like-minded men and women who would support each other by helping to bring business by organizing collaborations and giving clients recommendations, as well as create a knowledge library for creative business owners – something that (to our knowledge) did not exist already.
After meeting various times for brainstorming and planning sessions, one of the leaders, Meredith (who owns Cake & Confetti, an event design and brand styling boutique based in Houston), caught wind of a similar movement that was traveling quickly around the states (and even internationally!) called the Rising Tide Society. As we did more research, we felt compelled to join in on the movement given the close alignment to our original vision, and with Meredith as our Houston city leader, we held the first meeting in August.
The Rising Tide Society is a group of creative entrepreneurs and small business CEOs, who are made up of a variety of trades, ranging from artists to bloggers, and photographers to florists. The vision of this empowering group is to encourage one another instead of drawing comparisons – to create a community amongst others in your industry instead of pitting yourself against them in competition. As described on the website, it is a “movement about being seen, heard, joined by others – encouraging others, accepting yourself, joining together to make a difference in our lives and in our industry.”
In cities as far away as Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, members of this organization meet up with others in their city on the first Tuesday of every month as part of #tuesdaystogether. This hashtag unites creatives all around the world as they gather to discuss similar topics, and I love scrolling through photos to see what other groups are doing near and far. In a world where so much of our interactions are done over the internet, it is so refreshing to meet with others face to face.
The name of the group is derived from a JFK quote, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” When you are at one the meetings or reading through the comments posted to the Facebook groups, you truly feel this overwhelming sense that everyone is cheering each other on – and I love being a part of that. During every meetup, we discuss relevant topics, such as taxes for small businesses, how to draft contracts, and how to make your online presence accurately reflect your business, using tools like Instagram. The leader or guest speaker typically drives the conversation, using supplied materials, but most of the comments come from the attendees.
The way I manage my photography business has improved dramatically given the suggestions I’ve heard during these discussions. But in my opinion, the relationships being formed at these meetings is the most important aspect. From this group, I have met other photographers and creatives with whom I’ve collaborated on styled shoots, who have given me camera and editing suggestions, and also sent given my client referrals. The friendships I’ve gained through the Rising Tide Society make being a small business owner less intimidating and lonely, and I am so glad to have a place where I can meet up with others in my industry to ‘talk shop’ without worrying about being vulnerable. Everyone in attendance is there for the same goal: to provide moral and business support to others in the same boat as themselves.
The Rising Tide Society is far from being the only creative community building organization. Another similar movement is CreativeMornings, which is a breakfast lecture series for the creative community which started in 2008. The local meetups promote an open space to connect with like-minded people while celebrate a city’s creative talent. Every month, a speaker discusses a relevant topic. Recently, Ashley Burdette of the popular DIY blog, Sugar & Cloth, spoke about work – it’s definitely worthwhile watching and also browsing the website for other topics that might be relevant.
If you are interested in getting involved as well, I urge you to do just that! You can look to see if there is a Rising Tide Society group near you or a CreativeMornings gathering group. I also recommend that you follow other like-minded creative in your industry and city on social media (typically by checking hashtags like #houstonbloggers or #houstoncreatives – just replace Houston with your city!). I’d encourage you to reach out to people in your field whom you admire and ask them to mentor you or even to collaborate! Follow, like, and comment on others’ work, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you see in return.
Instead of hiding behind our various screens, silently tearing others or ourselves down, let’s join together and build each other up, because community truly does rise above competition.
Photo of the recent Rising Tide Society Leaders Retreat taken by Austyn Elizabeth Photography