Home + Work: On becoming locally known

Whitney Popa and Emilie Given

In the threeish years I’ve been actively writing for and about Edmonds and its surrounding areas, I’ve gotten questions about how I’ve become locally known. And, because I understand the world through stories, here’s one that will help you understand the answer to that question.

(Also, hi Lisa! If you’re reading this, your hello at Taste Edmonds is still making my day. This column is at least partially inspired by you, so thank you!)

In seventh grade, I ran for class representative. My main competitor was a male classmate named Ahmir.

I liked Ahmir. He was kind and quiet. He had a grounding energy I admired, even at 12 years old.

I knew I had more friends than he did, not in a petty way, but in a social-politics-are-often-obvious-in-middle-school kind of way. I thought he could use more votes, so I voted for him.

I won the election.

I was thrilled!

I was also sad for Ahmir.

A few weeks later, I told my grandma about the election and voting for my classmate.

She looked at me, clearly puzzled.

“Oh, honey,” she said. “How can you expect anyone else to vote for you if you don’t vote for yourself?”

I tried to explain to her that it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t a lack of confidence thing. It was a genuine kindness. At least, that’s what I thought it was.

She wouldn’t hear of it.

I can like and respect my opponents, she assured me, and still whoop them in the polls.

Ever since my grandma schooled me on adolescent elections, I’ve carried that lesson with me. I vote for myself often and always.

In my adult life and business, that looks like:

Talking about what I do (help local small businesses sparkle online, heyyyy). I do that here, of course, on Instagram more often than I used to think I *should,* and in every room I can.

Getting uncomfortable. It may not seem like it from the seventh-grade election story, but on the spectrum of introversion to extroversion, I am mostly introverted. I recharge with my cats and my weighted blankets and my books for days after a particularly social week, so when Workhorse became a client of mine and I used it as a conversation starter around town, I was deeply uncomfortable. I was also thrilled to have a talking point with other local businesses that didn’t include my kids (all love to ODP and BNP).

Ignoring well-intentioned advice, especially from people whose lives I don’t admire or care to emulate. I can be gracious in hearing it. Choosing to apply how people tell me to live is another conversation—with myself and maybe some trusted inner circle people—entirely.

Exploring my community. When I first started my business (at home with an infant), I believed that hours spent in front of the computer = productivity and worth. I spent a lot of my day refreshing my email. Old habits and conditioning die hard, I suppose. But, once I moved to Edmonds and started walking the blocks with my pregnant belly and a stroller on a mission to find a local client, I got more used to the idea that “work” can take all kinds of forms. And, it can be fun! Often. Now, I enjoy the gift of trying new restaurants (go to Harvest Wonton Noodle and Il Viale / Bar Americano if you haven’t already), lingering over coffee, walking along the water, enjoying mid-day workouts, and spending extra time chatting with store employees not only for the articles I write for Explore Edmonds and Ed!, but because serving and supporting my community makes me happy. And a happy business owner is a fruitful one.

Embracing my lack of filter. Look, if I like your nails, I’m going to tell you. My best friend’s sister is a teacher who told me she uses an acronym called OTMOTM to describe some of her students. It means “On the mind, out the mouth.” If I am standing in the preschool pickup line admiring another mom’s outfit, I tell her. It’s the positive use of the lack of filter I’ve embraced that has been wonderfully beneficial, at minimum because it usually makes the other person smile.

Here’s the short of it: If you have a goal of your community knowing you better, not sharing yourself with it is keeping you small. Not saying something beautiful you’re thinking about a stranger is making both your days a little less rich. Talking yourself out of things that feel mildly uncomfortable isn’t serving you. I’m not saying I’m the Macklemore of Edmonds (yet), but my willingness to open myself up to the community has made my life so much more fun—and it’s brought me closer to all of you, especially when you trot over calling my name.

— By Whitney Popa

Whitney and Emilie

Whitney Popa is a writer and communications consultant in Edmonds and Emilie Given is a virtual assistant agency owner in Lynnwood. They write this column together to share work-from-home ideas. They love where they live and are grateful the virtual world allows them to achieve more work/life harmony. They also co-host a weekly podcast where they share their entrepreneurship journeys while learning about those of others. You can learn more about Emilie here and more about Whitney here.




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