2016 was terrible. We’re celebrating anyway.
I became an entrepreneur on December 9, 2011. I had little more than a severance check from my last employer and a strong feeling that content marketing could be much, much better. So I started a content marketing agency. For the first year, I did almost all of the work on my own — writing articles, blog posts and ebooks for my brand-new clients, managing all of the billing and accounting, and sourcing freelancers to help manage the growing workload.
Five years later, Rep Cap (short for “Reputation Capital”) has grown into a thriving agency. Our team of six employees and wide network of contractors deliver expert content marketing advice and support to a client roster that ranges from solopreneurs to the Fortune 500. From the beginning, I set up the agency as a distributed, remote workforce so that I could pull in the best talent from around the country and world. We are spread across the country, but every December we all gather in my hometown, Baton Rouge, to celebrate the year’s accomplishments, talk about what’s next in content marketing and eat a lot of cake. (Seriously — our accountant suggested it might be time to add a line item in the budget for cake.)
But 2016 has been tough. It’s been an especially trying year for Baton Rouge. This summer we were still trying to figure out how to band together and respond after the death of Alton Sterling and the police shootings that happened in the wake of his death. Then the community was hit by major, unprecedented flooding. My home was spared, but in one parish outside Baton Rouge, 90 percent of homes were flooded, including that of our intern, Morgan. In the immediate aftermath our local team members spent weeks volunteering in emergency shelters, entertaining kids whose schools were indefinitely closed and racing to gut houses of friends, family and neighbors before mold set in.
There was no “business as usual” here. Everyone was focused on survival, community and sheltering each other. I was incredibly grateful for Rep Cap’s decentralized staffing model, which helped insulate us from the worst of the economic disruption that struck many of my fellow entrepreneurs in South Louisiana. The tight-knit team I love to brag on came together to free up our local crew to put all of our energy into serving our community.
Life in Baton Rouge is not back to normal. People are still struggling. Many aren’t yet back in their homes. As we reach the close of the year, business owners are looking at balance sheets that aren’t anywhere close to their projections for the year. The nonprofits that usually fill so many needs in the community are facing depleted bank accounts and fatigued donors.
Like I said, it’s been a trying year. So at first I thought this might not be a year to throw a big party. Maybe this was the year to scale it back a little. I wondered if people would even be in the mood for bubbles and cake. I almost didn’t have the party. But you know what? We need some good news. We need a celebration, and we need to celebrate our survival as a team, a company and a community.
It’s been five years. The company is still here, and we’re finding ways to thrive despite the external setbacks. We still work with an amazing team of writers, editors and marketers around the world. We still have the privilege of doing interesting, creative, fulfilling work with people we respect. And Baton Rouge is still here too.
So we booked a beautiful spot, called up our go-to bakery, Gambino’s, and our favorite local chefs at Goûter, and bought up all the sparkling wine that TJ’s would box up for us on the spot. We kicked up things a notch with an amazing band.
And I’m so glad I did.
If 2016 has you feeling down, or your bottom line looking a little gloomy, take heart. Let’s move on to 2017 with renewed energy, bigger goals, and an eye on celebrating every little win.
This article first appeared in the January 2017 issue of STRIVE magazine.