One of the joyful things about having this blog is that when I come across someone doing something interesting I can ask them if they want to be interviewed. That way I get a chance to learn more about them, and share that with you. Regular readers here know that I am passionate about small town life, creativity and business. Reading Becky McCray’s Blog told me that she too was passionate about these things. I found she married those things nicely and I was interested in what she had to say. Here she generously answers ten lovely questions about small town life and business.
Who is Becky McCray and what makes you happy?
I’m a small town girl with big projects. My husband and I own a liquor store and a cattle ranch, and I write Small Biz Survival to support small town businesses. Together with Sheila Scarborough in Tourism Currents, I provide training for tourism professionals to learn social media marketing. What makes me happy is traveling the world, helping other small business people, and coming home to my small town.
Would you tell me what you know about the power of being small?
Small is powerful. Past a certain point around 150 people in a group, personal connections are lost. Big companies like W.L. Gore and Associates get that, and limit their work groups to 150 or less. Being small is almost an unfair advantage, because today customers are more interested in supporting small businesses and small craftspeople.
Do you think there is a trend away from rural life or is it strengthening?
I think there is a trend back to rural life. USDA research is showing more Baby Boomers wanting to retire in small towns than any previous generation. As our society has shifted back to valuing small and local, rural life has renewed relevance. In contrast, people are more generations removed from farming, so they need to learn some of the survival skills that some of us take for granted. At the same time, we have young people who want more walk-able neighborhoods, so our small downtowns are growing in importance, too.
Who have you learned a lot from as you have grown your business?
I learned a lot from my parents who were both entrepreneurs. I learn from my customers all the time. I’ve also learned from a whole range of people on different topics.
How do you think creativity and small town life are linked ?
Living in a small town means living with more limited resources, with a more limited market. Things like that make you more creative! I also think small towns tend to accept people for their creativity. Lots of small towns have thriving arts projects, even if we don’t have a national museum of art or a Broadway theater.
What are your favorite books?
I’m always fascinated by the book I’m on. I just finished a biography of John Adams that was an amazing view of colonial life. What an eye-opener! Now I’m reading Tim Sanders’ latest, Today We Are Rich. It’s about his small town upbringing and the values he learned. Life long, I’ve probably re-read my Tolkein Lord of the Rings set more times than any other books I own. I also have a treasured copy of Poe’s complete works, handed down from my great-grandmother. An eclectic mix!
What inspires you to keep at it?
The DM I got today telling me how my story gave hope to a small town business owner in Wisconsin, because a friend shared it. That and I love doing it.
What about twitter and facebook and small town life…do they really jive?
Of course I think so! Small town people are all about community and talking to each other. Facebook is so much like the back fence conversation, or the small town newspaper column of who is visiting and who had guests. Besides, there is no better way to broaden our horizons from small towns than to get to know people from all over.
Tell me about the place where you live?
My hometown is Alva, Oklahoma, population about 5000 in Western Oklahoma. We’re balancing out a declining population with having engaged people who put on all sorts of cool projects, especially around the arts. Come by and see our murals, or join us for our summer photography workshop. I actually live 10 miles outside of town in a tiny place called Hopeton, with about 30 people. It’s cowboy country, oil and gas country, and wheat country. We have more geographic diversity just in our county than most states have!
Tell me what do you want to create for your community?
I want to create a body of work in small business that helps more people succeed and prosper. I want to create prosperity for more members of my online community, so they can help their offline community prosper. And it’s not really for my community, but I want to create a bunch of beautiful photos to leave behind.
Becky McCray of Alva owns a cattle ranch, liquor store, and consulting firm with a small town business blog. Nov. 12, 2008, at her ranch in Alva, Okla.