We all want to have a business that connects with our community because we depend on our local community of neighbors, friends and repeat tourists to join our business family.
Think of how you interact and entertain personally — you cook the foods that you or your guests enjoy, you share personal stories and experiences, and you openly share yourself and your life, not someone else’s. You’re not trying to be ‘other’ neighbors or the ‘other’ friends – you’re connecting because of you and your story.
And that’s very similar to how businesses are viewed, and how we as a business connects in our community.
Let’s consider the challenges of companies like Peet’s Coffee, who in 1966 opened its first store in Berkley — well, it can never be or replace Aptos Roasting Company. Two different companies with two different families of customers.
Sure, Peet’s is a known brand, but the experience and community connection is just, well, different — it’s not better or worse, but just a brand being true to itself.
Similarly, though New Leaf Community Markets began in 1985, they were acquired in 2013 by Portland based New Seasons Markets (which is owned by Endeavor Capital, Inc.). Even with the new location here in Aptos, consider the challenges of being authentic to one’s authenticity when the ownership’s history and operation is nearly 700 miles away.
For those of you around in 1985, you’ll likely remember ‘New Coke’. After 100 years of history and authenticity, The Coca-Cola Company decided to secretly and suddenly reformulate, to taste sweeter, in order to not be beaten by rival Pepsi in blind taste tests. (Actually, RC Cola consistently out-performed both Coke and Pepsi in blind taste tests).
So, for a short history lesson for those who weren’t around back then — consumers revolted. Cries of “what have you done to ‘my Coke’” or “I want the Coke I grew up with back” were heard loudly and clearly by the company’s mastermind marketers at the time. Consequently, ‘Coca-Cola Classic’ was born — or reborn — or re-animated, or just brought back to the market, along with (new) Coke remaining. The Coca-Cola Company managed to alienate and undo 100 years of brand-building and customer loyalty in one brilliant move.
So for every business that began locally here in Aptos or nearby, it’s time to embrace your roots, your heritage, and especially your story. No one else has your story — no other company can be you, if you are delivering on your essence and your true brand of whom you are, and why you’re here. Your neighbors and family of customers will still come to your ‘house’ and eat your food, laugh along with you and share the experience of togetherness, for another sale, another smile, and another memorable connection with authenticity.
Ron Kustek is a Business instructor at Cabrillo College.