Photography by Kate Thompson
Last spring, on the 10th anniversary of founding The Scout Guide, we took a moment to reflect on what we’ve learned from working with small businesses over the past decade. Since then, during what has been a challenging year (to say the least), we’ve continued to look to small business owners for inspiration while staying committed to our mission of supporting local artists, artisans, and entrepreneurs.
Recently, with the arrival of a new year, and then spring, and then a few signs of hope, we’ve been thinking about what the next 10 years might hold. And while the future is still far from certain, we know without a doubt that we want The Scout Guide to grow. We want to see guides produced for areas all over the country, highlighting the incredible small businesses that make them so special. We want to welcome new franchise owners who are excited about supporting small businesses—and becoming small business owners themselves—into The Scout Guide fold, and help them celebrate their towns and share their discoveries with readers.
That growing The Scout Guide would mean expanding into new cities through guides helmed by editors/owners would likely never have occurred to us 10 years ago. When we first started TSG, we were two women—entrepreneurs, wives, mothers of three—who simply wanted to create a beautiful print guide featuring the small businesses we loved in our hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, as a way to support them. We published our first volume of The Scout Guide Charlottesville in the spring of 2010, and had fun doing it. Pitching the idea to small business owners, having creative meetings, executing the photo shoots, launching the guide, sharing the stories about the businesses online, and bringing the business owners together in a local network was exciting and fulfilling. We learned a lot, and we quickly committed to producing more volumes.
Initially, growth meant more guides and more small businesses in the TSG Charlottesville network, both of which are still important to us to this day. But as our Charlottesville guides made their ways into the hands of locals and visitors, we started receiving phone calls from women in other cities who had seen The Scout Guide Charlottesville during a trip and wanted to publish guides featuring the local businesses in their communities. Quickly, we figured out how to produce guides in other cities by working with local editors and expanding our team in Charlottesville to support them. At the same time, we started talking to experts in fields who could help us create and refine a business model to successfully accommodate this expansion.
Becoming a franchise in 2013 was the beginning of an exciting new chapter for The Scout Guide. It enabled the brand to grow geographically and creatively while maintaining consistency; it encouraged us to hone in on our strengths as a company (and address some weaknesses); but most rewarding for us, it brought an incredible group of franchisees—currently 100% women—together with a shared mission and vision, and we now have more than 60 small business owners within our franchise who motivate and inspire us every day. We get to know their cities and the exceptional small businesses in each one through our editors/owners. We develop new ways to connect local businesses with their communities and engage readers based on their ideas and feedback. We watch them cheer each other on, connect their clients with one another, and build businesses of their own.
So, during this season of new beginnings, we’re looking to grow. We want to find franchise owners who can bring The Scout Guide to 10 new cities this year, and another 10 after that, until every town has a guide filled celebrating the local business owners who make it unique. We want The Scout Guide to be known across the country as the go-to resource for discovering local businesses, and we’re looking for potential editors/owners nationwide who believe in the importance of supporting the local businesses in their communities and are interested in starting a business themselves. Because if the last 11 years have taught us anything, it’s that you never know where your journey as a small business owner will take you.
If you’re looking for a fresh start this spring and think The Scout Guide might be the beginning of a new career path, we hope you’ll get in touch.