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Venues all over the United States play host to unseen events. These events drive commerce amongst the independent businesses that drive our economy. Yet, they take place with little fanfare, little acknowledgement even. They are powerful in their relationships, transcending the business, the industry and the individuals. They foster relationships that carry across generations, across cities, states and years. This unseen fabric ebbs and flows and etches itself into the world, one trade show at a time.

But here I am at 11am and there is only one person here to see me speak. “Well maybe they can’t find it,” I think to myself. After all, I am way upstairs, two escalators and a left turn down a long hallway, then a right turn and I am in the last door on the left.

“Tough to find ya,” a pet store owner confirms for me.

I pick up my phone and dial Kyle, an account manager with NMR who’s joined us for the show.

“Kyle can you stand up at the top of the escalator and direct people to my seminar,” I ask.

“Yeah, but can you come show me how to get there first? I couldn’t find it,” he responds.

And so it goes, when you work in an industry comprised of a network of small independent businesses and people. It’s a reminder that things are all self-made. Success is sometimes a circumstance of timing, and failures are sometimes a circumstance of place. Like whether or not the roads change, or a Petco opens up in your town.

This is the good fight though, the fight for the independent business owner. The fight carried on by big people working for small companies who believe in their customers. I personally don’t want to live in a big box, brand-washed world.

“Hi everyone and welcome to my seminar this morning,” I say to 10 people in attendance. “I am pleased to be invited here by Phillips Pet Food and Supplies to talk about digitally marketing your pet store in your local area. Today we’ll cover websites, search engine optimization and social media.”

I am proud to be here. It means a lot to me that Phillips invites me to speak at these things. Sometimes I have almost fifty people at my seminars. Sometimes I’ve had 10. I think the largest seminar I ever gave was at a True Value show in Houston.

Foxwoods Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut, fits the bill for an event like this. It’s filled with gamblers and club go-ers from small towns around the northeast. The place also seems to appeal to patrons who drive up from NYC on escape. It sits in the middle of a forest. From up high in the tower hotel room it’s only tree tops as far as you can see. It’s fitting for an event like this. Joe Public wanders through, spending, consuming and existing. The mom and pop shop owners fit in and amongst the crowd at night, while separate and diligent during the day, attending meetings with vendors and sales reps. It all happens as part of the ecosystem. One that is separate and the same.

“You’re very good at this kind of stuff,” a pet store owner from tells me.

“Thank you!'” I say. That was worth it. I have to drive back from Mashantucket tonight. The drive to upstate New York will take about 5 hours. But I helped a store, and that is quite satisfying. I can’t wait to drive through that forest I saw from my room. It’s beautiful in the spring. Especially with the Lumineers new album playing.

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