I’ve spent most of my adult life either being a local business or working to support local business. I hear the whispers. You’re a person, not a business. You can own a business, work for a business but you can’t be a business any more than a corporation can be a person. True—in a physical sense. For me, local business embodies and creates the connective tissue in our communities. Our local businesses and those fortunate enough to shepherd one are the gathering places, the providers of what we need, the places where we celebrate life’s triumphs and soothe our wounds from our defeats. They are so much more than a business. They are us.

As many of you know, I left the Austin Independent Business Alliance after almost 20 years. I had the absolute honor to work with hundreds of local businesses and it was a thrill to do so. But it was time to move on. I heard the word retirement from a few of you, mostly those that don’t know me well. I took a couple of months off and charted a new course.

Indulge me a short side trip on courses. Early in my career, when I first became a publisher (of the Austin Business Journal), I thought my job as captain was to keep the ship on course. Which I did and did well. Three years into my tenure, our owner came for my annual review. After the review, a dinner and a slight argument about the budget, he asked me what changed that year. I searched for market conditions, revenue, a new manager, an explanation for a question I didn’t fully understand. He stopped me and said no, what changed in you. It took me several months to answer him. I had grown into the job and realized that my job as captain wasn’t to keep the ship on course. It was to set the course. It may sound simple but it is a profound difference in perspective, mission and focus.

I have once again set a new course that I am over-the-moon excited about. With two partners, I have co-founded the Local Business Institute (LBI or Libby as we call her), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the creation and support of thriving, sustainable local business communities. We’re doing this through education, research and community-building programs. Beyond the traditional norms, we advance programs unique in perspective through innovative thinking and exceptional excellence. My partners are two amazing people I’ve known for years—Julie Niehoff and Vicky Valdez. These names are familiar to many as we have, collectively, more than 90 years experience with local business.

We will be launching a series of events, both live here in Austin and online everywhere. I hope you will join us at one or more. As with everyone surviving the plague, I long to see your smiling faces once again. If you want to make sure you don’t miss an announcement, shoot me an email and I’ll make sure you’re on the list. My new email is rebecca@localbussinessinstitute.org. In the meantime, read more about us on LocalBusinessInstitute.org.

I am thrilled with this new course and the adventures it will bring. I’m still totally focused on local, just from a national perch. I hope our paths align soon.

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