So the story this month was that Mystery Brewing's Erik Myers, along with the vast majority of his staff, was going to be at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver during the October ExitEvent Startup Social, which was Monday the 14th back at Neu Concepts in downtown Durham.
No worries. We worked it out so that I would pick up three cases of growlers from the Public House on Sunday night, fight the temptation to empty a couple of them with the wife during Sunday Night Football, and I would pour for the Social. I had done this before, at the Social in Charlotte in March, and it was the most fun I'd ever had at a Social.
With that scene set, as usual, events were such that I'm able to pull a nugget of entrepreneurial learning from yet another Startup Social.
In this case, I didn't plan for success.
As I've stated before, no matter how much buzz there is around one of these Socials, and no matter how many people RSVP or tweet that they're coming and they're pumped, I always expect no one to show up. And by "expect" I mean "fear."
This is why I didn't get into event planning. It would kill me. Rolling out fresh robot-written content to millions of users is much less nerve-wracking.
So like every Social before it, even though we had over 200 at the previous Social, and even though we had close to 100 RSVP for this one, I knew, I just knew, that five people would show up. And I had relegated myself to that fate.
No problem, I thought, I'll get to know a few people a little bit better, and I'll hang out and pour and shoot the shit like I used to on slow nights when I tended bar in college.
Not only did about 80 people show up, but they all showed up at once. Like, a few trickled in at 5:45 or so, but the doors came off at 6:00. This never happens.
As it was, I was a pouring madman. We had three different versions of seasonal Mystery Brewing, which I could repeat for you now (although I won't) because I had to repeat them about 300 times that night.
As usual, I was also having about half a dozen different conversations, when one awesome entrepreneur told me how much he loved the Social (it was his second time out), and could he do anything to help.
I knew he meant it in terms of - Do I need more writers for the content (yes) or help with logistics for the Social (yes) or help verifying entrepreneurs (yes) or whatever -- I do ExitEvent in a spare three hours I seem to be able to find each week. But without hesitation, I spit out:
"What you can do is get behind the bar."
It took him a few minutes to get his bearings and memorize the menu, but once he got it, he ran with it. He was awesome at it and he had an amazing time doing it.
Worked for me. Worked for him. And everyone got their beer quicker.
And so I turn this into a bigger picture.
I can't tell you how many times I get asked: "What can I do to help the local entrepreneurs and startups?" So much so that I wrote this and this to begin to provide some kind of universally local answer.
But the best answer to that question is a little more complex than those articles can be, because there is no universal answer. It all comes down to the individual startup. If you really want to help a startup, or an entrepreneur, find one you believe in, figure out what they're doing, and roll your sleeves up and pitch in.
It could he helping them find low-cost talent, or helping them research their market, or making a connection to a potential customer. Basically it's volunteering to do whatever it is that they're having trouble getting done themselves.
Every startup, especially the ones who have more success than they were prepared for, will need something different. If you've got the time and, most importantly, the talent, to help fill that void, well then, get behind the bar and start pouring.