Live the SnoCo Life’s Second Anniversary

How Far We’ve Come & Where We’re Headed

Just over two and a half years ago, I found myself frustrated. I had dedicated myself to helping local small businesses get off the ground and learn the things they needed to know to be successful. Forty businesses in, I found myself out of energy, facing a lack of financial support from the cities of Snohomish County, and unable to continue on my own.

While all of this meant closing our doors for good, I wasn’t ready to give up just yet. I spent weeks trying to figure out how I could help local small businesses indirectly, in a way that would help increase their chances of success without burning me out. The answer was, help them be found, and with that Shop Local SnoCo was born.

While it was a far cry from what we do and who we are now, it was a start. It was a website that served as a local directory, showing residents where they could go to shop, eat, drink, and meet their service needs. Entries were shared on Facebook, with a bit of info about the business, and that was it. There was nothing more to it than that.

As easy as that may sound, it was far from it. I quickly found myself facing the same problem that I was trying to fix, I couldn’t find local small businesses to add.

April 2016: First SnoCo city exploration in Darrington
They weren’t just too small in the eyes of the cities and county, they were too small in the eyes of Bing and Google. Appearing in search results, and on their maps, required having an online presence, something most shops and restaurants, let alone makers and services, are notoriously not very good at. No one has showed them how, and without my small business development center, that wasn’t my job anymore.

If my little directory that could was going to work, I was going to have to get hands on without actually getting hands on. Problematic, I know. I made the decision to get out from behind my computer screen, get in my car, and go out and find them myself. I did just that, and the impact and inspiration after visiting just one city, it changed everything.

Inadvertently, I had made the decision that, when we went to that first city, my kids and I were going to experience what it had to offer. We weren’t just going to do drive by’s and write down names from the car, we were going to go into the businesses we found. We were going to shop, eat, and drink there, create the experiences others would have if they visited because of my directory. Not only that, we were going to explore its recreation.

As we made our way from place to place that day, as well as on the long drive home, my way of thinking about local small businesses and our cities changed forever. I began to see them, not just as businesses and cities, but as people and communities. I began to see that they weren’t just local options, they both had their own stories, their own unique character, their own experiences to offer those visiting.

It was in that moment that the first spark of what would become Live the SnoCo Life entered my mind. I went home and not only added the businesses that we visited to the directory, but wrote and shared my first blog post about our experience. I hadn’t really expected much from it, but it was a hit on Facebook and the website. That inspired me to get out and do the same thing over and over again, sharing the experiences we had in city after city, including Darrington, Mukilteo, Edmonds, and on and on.

May 2016: Chowing down at Sully’s while exploring Mukilteo
May 2016: Checking out the Arlington Art Walk
June 2016: Beer, Brats & Biz on Stanwood/Camano
June 2016: Breakfast at the Cabbage Patch, Snohomish
July 2016: Kla Ha Ya Days, Snohomish
July 2016: Nutty’s in Arlington, best fries ever
Those experiences created a second spark. Visiting Snohomish County’s smaller cities, and historic downtown areas, enjoying and experiencing them as others would, made me see just how important those areas are to our communities. They are what make them unique, what makes residents and outsiders alike want to come and spend a day or weekend in them. They are what brings us together with friends, family, and each other.

Over the course of a little more than two months my entire perspective and purpose had changed, and a directory just wasn’t going to cut it. With that in mind, I began building blog posts privately in the background, focusing on specific places to shop, eat, drink, and play locally, writing of the stories to be shared and experiences to be had. I bet you are guessing what came next, and you are right.

On July 4th, 2016, Live the SnoCo Life was launched. On that day I urged all of you to declare your independence from national chains, the same old, same old, who care little about you and your communities. In their place, I encouraged you to get out and explore, experience, what the local businesses and communities have to offer. It was such a big change, but it was the right one.

It’s been so long, but I can still remember the posts that were released that day. They included Maple + Moss of Snohomish, Rocket Alley of Arlington, Bluewater Distilling of Everett, and the Wallace Falls Trail in Gold Bar (which kicked my you know what). Throughout our first year, that is how it went, four blog posts, one for each category. Despite that our Facebook account was full of even more options that we tried in the in between.

August 2016: Big 4 Ice Caves, Granite Falls
August 2016: Rafting the Suiattle with Adventure Cascades, Darrington
September 2016: Floating the Stilly with Adventures Cascades, Arlington
September 2016: Checking out Centennial SK8 Festival in Arlington
October 2016: Brewery Crawl meet-up, Skookum in Arlington
October 2016: Pumpkin hunt at Craven Farm, Snohomish
As the end of that first year came to a close, those in between shares had slowly taken over. I was spending my days bouncing from one place to another, trying to share as much as possible, and keep up with the public desire for more. New blog posts had become next to extinct, I was having to work even harder on the side to pay for it all, and, once again, I found myself getting burned out. While some of that was due to my health, most was due to just trying to keep up with it all.

Instead of our first anniversary being a time of celebration, it became a time of doubt for me, and the start of would be a summer long breakdown. I tried to push through it, focusing shares on our upcoming event, but I ultimately just wasn’t feeling it. Enter our two month hiatus last Fall. It was a much needed break, not just personally, but to go back to the drawing board, figure out what had gone wrong, and make a plan for getting things back on track.

When it came down to it, there were multiple issues that needed to be addressed. For one, I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing anymore. While my recent past has been all about helping businesses, my older loves of writing and photography had been rediscovered through our blog shares. The fun was lacking too. With Live the SnoCo Life, I had somehow managed to do the impossible, find work that was not only fun, but brought my kids and I together.

The pace was getting to them too. Every place we went was all about work, and both they and I were missing out on the experiences that prompted the creation of Live the SnoCo Life in the first place. Having to work even harder on the side to pay for everything, wasn’t helping either. It meant that I had even less time for them apart from work, and rushing through experiences to have time for everything. That wasn’t okay for me.

November 2016: Camping on top of White Chuck Mountain, Darrington
November 2016: The car accident on the way home (not the best part of the trip)
January 2017: Fun in the snow, Darrington
January 2017: Sunsets & coffee at Walnut Street Coffee, Edmonds
February 2017: Taking V-Day photos for the Everett Makers Market
February 2017: Eat In meet-up featuring food from Klesicks Farm and Sno Isle Food Co-Op
There was more too it than all of that though. In the same way that visiting local small businesses and cities had changed my perspective and purpose in the beginning, spending more time with and in both, getting the stories behind the people and communities, and having the experiences that went with them had changed them even more. I had slowly been acknowledging a new, lets call it added, direction without even realizing it.

Somewhere along the way, shopping, eating, drinking, and playing local had come to be more than just supporting those we were sharing, it had become about us too, about the choices we were making and the ways they were making our lives and the communities around us better. Local choices had become a way of life, not just a job.

Once again I find myself pointing out the irony of the name I chose two years ago – Live the SnoCo Life. Maybe there was some part of me that knew the role choices, for me and others, would come to play even then.

What do I mean by choices? When my family and I need something or want to go somewhere, we always stop to think … is there a local option available? We think local first and our reward is high quality, more natural, and healthier products and food. When my pancreatitis took a very serious turn for the worse, instead of giving up and accepting a potential death sentence, I chose to turn to locally grown and produced food. It is a choice that has literally saved my life.

When it comes to spending time with my family, slowing down, and really connecting with each other, choosing local options are just better. It means getting out and doing fun things like zip lining, rafting, kayaking, and hiking, enjoying nature in Snohomish County. It also means sitting down at actual restaurants and eating food together, instead of hitting up a drive through.

March 2017: Touring Original Pilot Coffee House/Roasters in Monroe
March 2017: Getting to watch Northwest Biscotti bake
April 2017: Zip lining with Canopy Tours NW, Camano
April 2017: Whale watching meet-up with Island Adventures, Everett
May 2017: 2nd annual re-run trip in Darrington, reliving the magic
May 2017: Zip lining with Canopy Tours  NW, Camano (yep, again)
That’s just a few of the many ways local choices can make your life better and our communities better. Switching gears to a magazine not only allows us to highlight those choices, but it lets me get back to writing and taking photos with an actual camera. It also sets a limit on how many stories and places I need to visit every month, so my workload is steady and leaves more free time.

More than that though, We can now go out and enjoy local options without having to take a photo and share it. It can just be fun again, and private, just for us, when I want it to be.

Eight issues in now, and I don’t regret the switch to a magazine format one bit. It has been a blast, and there is just something about holding the magazine in my hand and flipping through it that can’t be beat. There have been some ups and downs along the way, I’m still struggling with scheduling and getting issues done on time, but we are getting there. There have also been more recent struggles with worrying that the work I’m doing isn’t really making a difference, that it is not helping local businesses or influencing you to make local choices enough.

All of you have more than shown me that, while it may not be a huge impact yet, we are headed in the right direction. And, if I am being honest about it, I don’t think I could stop doing this even if I wanted to. Live the SnoCo Life, the experiences I get, and the people I meet, through it are a part of me now. So is sharing all of it with all of you. I can’t possibly go everywhere I go, and do everything I do, without telling someone, anyone, all about it. It’s just too good to keep to myself.

 

June 2017: Touring Klesicks Farm in Stanwood with Farmer Tristian
June 2017: YogaMosa in Everett with Paula of Vivid Experience
July 2017: Darrington/Mtn Loop Hwy adventure meet-up, sharing our fave places with others
July 2017: Riding the rapids of the Sauk with Adventure Cascades in Darrington
August 2017: Hanging out with Best of SnoCo nominees
August 2017: Conquering Monte Cristo, our longest hike ever, with Paula of Vivid Experience
That doesn’t mean there isn’t still work to be done and improvements to be made though. The third year of Live the SnoCo Life will be more than filled with both. For starters, now that the magazine is established and I’ve got a good flow going, I will be working harder to emphasize the importance of local choices and experiences more. That will most definitely include incorporating experiences beyond the magazine into what we do.

The biggest change on the horizon is the final phase of Live the SnoCo Life, something that has been in the plans from day one, a storefront, and the ability to once again provide direct support to local makers and businesses in a way that is meaningful and has an impact. The when and where of it are all still a bit up in the air. There are a lot of decisions that still need to be made.

The storefront will be first and foremost the press room for the magazine, giving us space to do interviews, take photos, film videos, and more. Not to mention hire some contributors. We will be further utilizing the space to host a year round Saturday Market, host classes that allow you to experience local options and DIY projects first hand, and to both host classes and provide services to local businesses and makers in the area of public relations and photography.

I’ve got a few more cards up my sleeve, including the local businesses and makers we are partnering with to make it all possible, but I’ll be keeping them to myself for a bit longer. Whatever they are, whatever we will be doing, I’m looking forward to the next chapter. It will be an exciting one for sure!

November 2017 (we took a break in Sept/Oct): Learning to paint with Kiplee Art, Everett
November 2017: All dolled up for the launch of our magazine!!!!
December 2017: Cutting down our own tree at Lochsloy Acres in Lake Stevens
December 2017: Watching Tina of Reclaimed Heart follow in her mom’s footsteps as Mrs. Claus
January 2018: Escape Scene meet-up with our subscribers Coco Jewels, Naked Butters & Bars, and Vivid Experience
January 2018: The SnoCo Kid having fun at Funko in Everett
March 2018: On the spot interview with the Good Talk Josh Podcast at an event
March 2018: Learning to paint furniture with Dahlia’s Vintage Mkt on Camano
April 2018: Finally putting together our own backyard garden after a year, thanks to some local shops, nurseries, and resources
April 2018: Participated in our first art showcase thanks to North Sound Artist Collective
May 2018: Attending Cascade Hiker Podcast’s live show at Whitewall Brewing in Marysville
May 2018: Kayaking the Stilly with some help from Adventure Cascades in Arlington
June 2018: Hitting some trails with the Cascade Hiker Podcast and his daughters
June 2018: Helping the awesome managers and vendors at the Marysville Farmers Market kick off their 2018 season
Let us know what you think! Share your comments and experiences below and don’t forget to spread the love on social media at the bottom of the page.

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