Brandon is an entrepreneur in Grand Forks, North Dakota, who is planning to open a co-working space downtown called The 701.
City: Grand Forks, North Dakota
Who is your community? This may be a group of friends, organization of affinity or a geographic location.
Entrepreneurs within the Greater Grand Forks Community (Rural and Urban).
Give us a behind-the-scenes look at your average day.
I work for the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation but spend many evenings weekends supporting many community efforts, including Evolve ND. Evolve ND is a nonprofit I have led into realization with the mission of support a culture of entrepreneurship in the Greater Grand Forks Community. My day job allows me to support businesses who create and expand jobs in the area while my evenings are spent fostering the newest of business ideas into fruition.
What challenge in your life or work are you most interested in overcoming?
At the center of Evolve’s mission to support a culture of entrepreneurship is a coworking space, The 701. I’ve been hard at work on this project for nearly 3 years and I am happy to report that we are expecting to open The 701 this year! During this entire process of partner building, we have been cultivating a culture of entrepreneurship beyond the walls of the coworking space. It is no easy feat, but I am determined to support a full ecosystem of entrepreneurship so no matter where a leader comes from, they can see the path forward with support along the way. Building this culture is a challenge and it demands bold goals and deliberate action steps. Exposure of what we are doing is going to be the major challenge once we launch the space and have the ability to scale up our efforts to support this culture of entrepreneurship.
If you could do any job, what would you do and why?
I’ve always said I would love to put a desk on a street corner with a sign that reads, “Help Desk.” I genuinely enjoy helping folks achieve their goals. I apply this service to business (both nonprofit and for profit) because I believe that supporting a person in meaningful work is the best way build community. If each of us does what we love, the world improves.
What is the most beneficial aspect of living in the OTA region when it comes to your career?
The people. In Grand Forks, one can get a meeting with anyone. Folks are extremely open to hearing your cause and efforts; many times, they jump in to support it. I believe we have a collaborative community and given the chance to follow a leader, they do. Simply put, the greatest capital of my community is its people.
At what intersection do you live your life?
I live at the intersection of empathy and service.
Where do you think good ideas come from?
Multiple perspectives. I believe that when 2 or more people come together they are greater than the sum of their parts. When they meet with a willingness to engage and dialogue and collaborate, great things come 🙂
What’s one current trend you think will change the world?
I think the way people do work has been changing dramatically since the advent of the internet. Primary sector is a term that has been in flux due to this. In the past, this term was nearly synonymous with manufacturing. Today, it is possible for creatives and professionals to export their product to other communities while building that wealth within smaller and more rural communities. For example, a lawyer may have clients many miles away, but they still hire local people.
What’s the best way to put inspiration into action?
Firstly, tell everyone you meet about it. Make no assumptions as to who will jump in to lead or have something to offer. From there, stay focused on the inspiration and idea. If your aim is true, you will avoid any proprietary feelings over the idea. The idea belongs to all. With this, invite others to contribute. Next, delegate and let people run with it. They will become impassioned just as you have. Finally, take one deliberate step at a time with specific goals as to next steps and timelines for each.
What’s the greatest risk you’ve taken?
Perhaps too many to say, but lately I’ve put my reputation on the line for working toward a coworking space. I’ve met a variety of reactions from enthusiasm and support to apathy or even interference. I believe in this project so have remained undeterred but there are still many unknowns. I just know, at the heart of it, it will be such an asset for this community.
What’s your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?
There was a time I became quite uninspired. It got me into a funk for a long time. It was a mistake not to believe in myself. I learned that this, although quite natural, was quite selfish. For that reason, I don’t allow that negativity to overcome me. I allow it in, but then get myself to reflect on those feelings and why they are occurring. This is a much more constructive way to address the feelings.
Who do you hope to leave a legacy for?
Legacy is not a word that interests me personally. If wish to influence the culture of Grand Forks so that future generations are not afraid to try and fail, and to invest in those willing to lead.
Who is the most connected person in your life, and what personal characteristics make him or her so well-connected?
A colleague and close friend of mine. He has an empathy and genuine interest in other people about him. He never looks around the room seeking the next conversation. And, when he says he will get something done, he does. So his follow through holds his reputation.
Who is the most creative person in your life, and why?
Another friend of mine who has trouble taking no for an answer and always seeks a solution. She believes that there must and is a way to overcome the challenge.
Who is the most community-focused person in your life, and how do they impact their communities?
Friend again, but a true public servant. In nearly every decision he makes (even for his own private business), he thinks through the impact on the community. He understands that his business would not be possible with its patrons, and for that, he feels he owes it to the community he loves.
How are you focused on community?
Regardless of the successes or failures I meet, I am committed to my community. It is the community I have chosen to grow a family within. As mentioned before, I am working very hard and risking a great deal for a project that I personally will not see direct benefit from. The 701 coworking space will make it possible for people to pursue their dreams without having to quit their jobs or max out their credit cards. By lowering the risk and repercussion of “failure” throughout the community, this project will lead by example and support to bring others’ dreams to life.
That is just one example. I also serve my local Young Professionals chapter as a board member, a local resettlement and integration nonprofit for new Americans as a board member, and have brought leadership to a small town (420 people) nearby where I grew up through past school board membership and leading the creation of an annual community celebration that I still lead. I live this stuff and wouldn’t change that on a rainy day.