11/11/14

Get Cheeky in Your Business and See What Happens

By Melanie Spring

There's a lady in your town who knows everyone. Everywhere she goes, she sees someone she knows and has a 10-minute conversation about the person's health, children, husband, whatever. She's one of those women you admire because you wonder how she remembers so much.

My mom is that lady in my hometown. She holds onto key information - names, family members, sickness, death, home purchases, diets, and even dress sizes. She owned a barn filled with consigned clothing for 16 years and now owns a women's consignment boutique - same idea, just cuter. When I went to visit recently, we went to a Friday night fish fry (it's normal for Western New York). She smiled and struck up conversations with three people during the 45 minutes we were there and my dad's reaction: "There she goes again." 

It's easy to do this in a small town. To know everyone. DC is not a small town. DC'ers tend to move in our own circles, know our set of friends, walk past the same people every day without so much as a half smile. Meeting someone who has the small town mentality is hard in this city - we get so wrapped up in the way the city lives and we forget our small town roots.

Courtney Stamm hasn't forgotten...
and she isn't doing it as a marketing tactic.

Courtney has been in DC 15 years, originally from the Midwest. And she brings her hometown, small town feel with her into her business, The Cheeky Puppy. She makes DC feel small.

I went to brunch with her on Sunday and she has NO idea I'm writing this - I just told her I wanted to get photos. She's a go-with-the-flow kind of gal who loves people and dogs so much she stops to say hi and knows them by name. All the dogs... and their owners.

The Cheeky Puppy is an adorable Dupont Circle shop for modern dog-parents. It has pillows with dog faces, maps of DC, healthy dog treats, super cute dog beds, and leashes/collars for the fashion-conscious dog. She started it because of her love for Schroeder, a labradoodle. And she's a fantastic entrepreneur. (Courtney, don't pretend you're not.)

The reason I know this is because we were walking to her store from brunch and she asked a passing dog walker if the two dogs were the dogs that often frequented her store. Sylvia, a German immigrant with a dry sense of humor, stood and shared with us for 30 minutes about the dogs she walks. Courtney couldn't get enough. 

While we were standing in The Cheeky Puppy, Courtney knew the visiting dogs by name but also loved all over the ones she didn't. She's a mainstay in the community because she understands what community is. She understands how community works and how we thrive on knowing one another. 

Courtney is real. She's a real 30-something with an adorable dog who owns a store catering to those of us who believe our dogs are our kids. She has what most store owners lack - love for her customers. 

For the rest of us with human customers - what if we all decided to treat our clients or customers like it's a human-to-human interaction? What if we really knew them? 

What if we knew what happened to their kids and their spouses and dogs? How could that change our interactions with them?

Not all of us can have snuggly puppies as customers, but we can know those who walk through our doors and pay us cash money to take care of them. Why should the dogs get all the love?

Next time you see one of your clients, ask them about their life outside of work. Find a way to connect. To have community. To be real. Get all human on them! Then tell me about it. I wanna know what happens next.

Thanks for the reminder, Courtney. Sometimes I even forget my hometown roots. Time to go wave at my neighbors. Ya know, human stuff.