Welcomemat Services franchisee Leon Brownlee explains how charitable initiatives help entrepreneurs stand out.
Leon Brownlee’s intersection of work and volunteering has greatly benefited the local Chesterfield and South Richmond, Virginia communities. A full-time franchise owner at Welcomemat Services, Brownlee works with local businesses in town to target new movers in the area. Brownlee’s goal is to ultimately establish a connection between the newcomers and the locally owned businesses rather than have the new residents turn to a bigger name they might be more familiar with. Brownlee passionately believes in the value of local businesses being able to connect with new families and individuals by providing them with exceptional first-time customer service.
1851 spoke with Brownlee to learn more about his ongoing efforts to support his community through his business.
1851 Franchise: How important is it to give back to your local community as it relates to growing your business?
Brownlee: I believe that it is a business owner's responsibility to be a steward for the community. If a business expects the community to provide for them by being customers or clients, then the owner should give back without any expectation in return.
1851 Franchise: What local or charitable outreach efforts have you made in order to connect with your local community?
Brownlee: I am one of the directors of a program called RVAccess, which is a buddy-based soccer program for special needs kids. I have been helping run this program now for about 10 years. We service anywhere between 75 to 100 kids every spring and fall. The real reward comes when the youth volunteers (buddies) make a connection with an athlete and a friendship forms.
When I launched Welcomemat Services of Richmond, I joined my local Chamber of Commerce, I also got involved with a committee called CHAMPS. CHAMPS' purpose is to take job readiness and soft skills like 30-second elevator pitches and interview skills with local high school students in economically challenged areas. I have also recently taken over as President of the Clover Hill High School Athletic Boosters.
1851 Franchise: What are your top ideas or tips to market your local business?
Brownlee: Every market is different. Some markets are better for networking, some are built for traditional cold calls. But I would say no matter where you are, be seen as an entrepreneur that wants to contribute more than just money into the community. Give time and be seen as a community leader.
1851 Franchise: How effective are charitable efforts in growing your business?
Brownlee: I got involved because I love my community and I want to give back. One positive result is that I have met business owners and marketing directors that are willing to give me time for an appointment because I can approach them to not only tell them about my business, but also about how they can also help the community. I can definitively tell you that my involvement and visibility has helped my business because it shows that I am different in my approach. I am out to help the community, not just make a buck.
1851 Franchise: What advice would you give to other franchisees who are just starting their businesses to best set themselves up for success on the local level?
Brownlee: Know your market and get involved in a charity or community service that you feel passionate about. Your true joy for the charity will show and you will be a true beacon in your community.