The following is the eighth in the series "Live Your Brand" in which branding expert Melanie Spring takes us along on her three-week road trip across the country to meet innovative entrepreneurs whose experiences offer lessons learned to businesses big and small.
Somewhere between getting his design degree and working non stop, Denver resident Jonathon Stalls found an aching hole inside of himself. He knew there was more to life than an unfulfilled job that put food on the table and filled a house with stuff, but couldn't figure out what he needed to do. So he took a walk. A very long walk.
The walk Stalls began alone in Delaware ended eight months later in San Francisco when he and his rescue dog, Kanoa, walked into the Pacific Ocean together. Upon returning to Denver, he found he couldn't stop walking, as he enjoyed the benefits mentally, spiritually and physically. He started Walk2Connect, a social enterprise connecting people with their communities through walking. Stalls now takes groups and individuals on what he calls "Life at 3MPH," single and multi-day walking trips, to help them find wellness socially, personally and communally.
At times people launch a startup for all the reasons - more of a focus on being wealthy and less so on finding something they love. While it may lead to riches, it could leave you feeling unfilled. Don't make that mistake. Before you go head-first into a business venture, make sure you consider these three factors:
1. Do the thing you can't stop thinking about. When Stalls returned to "normal" life after his journey ended, he realized the emotional, physical and spiritual well-being he found started slipping away. To get back in the swing of things, he tried his hand at a non-profit job and ended up in an apartment. While he had stability, his life started to feel just like it had before he left on his journey - unfulfilled. It was time to get the contentment back.
Stalls' contentment was walking. He couldn't stop thinking about his journey and how he could share it with others. He knew paying the bills was the only thing stopping him from walking daily, so he started a social enterprise and kept walking. This time, he didn't walk alone. It turned out that the one thing on his mind was the one thing that could keep him content.
2. Make business personal. As Stalls was walking cross country, he gave into the unknown and fully trusting complete strangers to help him.
"In a small town along the way, I spotted a large yard that would work well to pitch my tent, says Stalls. After chatting with residents, he was offered dinner and a place to sleep in their home. "I found hope."
Stalls' inspired stories allow others to be a part of his journey. He connects with his walkers in a way few business owners can. "Prove that there's a beating heart behind the brand," shares Stalls. By inviting people into the wiring of your business you can give the term "word of mouth" a whole new meaning.
3. Create a long-lasting connection. For Walk2Connect, it creates walking trips to connect people with their neighborhood. The company makes sure people meet and engage with the business owners and others who live nearby, while simultaneously getting to know local food, plants and animals. The idea behind this mission is simple: When you know the guy who runs the hardware store, you're more likely to give him more of your hard-earned money than go to the big box stores.
Not only do they focus on building up business for local shops, Walk2Connect also helps towns build walking maps, hang wayfaring signs alongside street signs and assist pedestrians by painting walking paths to encourage exploration in their community.
Related: How to Find Work You Truly Love
Stalls and Walk2Connect bring people together through walking and it all started because of an ache in his heart to find contentment.
Stalls journey to found Walk2Connect began after traveling 3,030 miles across the country, but it really came down to the hole inside him. Not everyone needs to walk that far to find out how to fix the ache, but sometimes you have to do something really big and take the leap.
"Most people look for happiness their whole lives," says Stalls. "What they really want is contentment. But you can't search for contentment, you just have to be content."
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