Denton, TX – Here I am!

Hi…my name is Jonathan Gregory and I am a serial eco-entrepreneur, community organizer, and sustainability champion. And I iDentonfy!

It is with much excitement that I arrived in Denton this summer with my newlywed, Lindsay Pope, as she enters her first year of doctoral studies in choral conducting at UNT. We both grew up outside Boston, and we are thrilled for the opportunity of new experiences in a supportive community! As most of us can probably agree, traveling across country to live in a new place is always better done when you’ve got someone to share it with – and I feel blessed to have that someone be my best friend!

13439226_10100254075282995_666489301238874830_nHiking in the New England mountains helps us connect with each other and the world around us!

What’s my story you ask?

So if you’re still reading at this point than you are probably wondering, who is this guy and why should I care? Well I hate to burst your bubble, but I am not a rock star or the relative of someone famous – I am just a down-to-earth do-gooder with a humble upbringing and a passion for developing sustainable, collaborative communities. My story is still in the making, but here’s a taste of what I’ve been up to for the last decade…

I graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2007 with a business administration degree with a concentration in entrepreneurship. After graduation, I spearheaded the development of an environmentally responsible home goods store that broke through the barriers of conscious consumerism. Due to the scientific findings on the negative health effects of BPA, one of our early bestsellers was the stainless steel water bottle. This knowledge had just been released to the public and came with a reaction of shock and fear. We immediately found ourselves in an educational role, providing transparency to our customers in a world of corporate retailing known for its fine print disclosures. In response to demand for answers, we created a 26-point “eco-icon” platform that helped consumers determine the social and environmental value of the products they purchased.

392274_295295240494886_2133334900_nOur wine cork collection program was a huge success…turning used corks into recycled flooring!

My experiences managing and developing this business introduced me to the big, wide world of sustainability and how our choices as consumers make incremental changes in the way products are designed, sourced, marketed, utilized, and disposed. Areas of interest like the social wellbeing of the manufacturers employees, the environmental and health impacts of using one ingredient over another, and choosing local and US-made products were just a few important issues that I became privy to as a young entrepreneur.

Community development, the “secret ingredient”!

As an active member of the Main Street Concord, NH community, I simultaneously found myself serving in civic, non-profit, and volunteer positions that focused on the energy and environmental issues. I coordinated educational programs like the Green Living Film and Panel Discussion Series and managed the development of Green Business Trade Associations, and my responsibility as an educator and collaborator was recognized by many walks of life (just think Gabriel Killian, but in another town…). I would often get comments like, “You should run for Mayor someday!” This reminded me that my efforts were truly making a positive impact on people’s lives. 

Consulting, Collaborating, Catalyzing…

Jump forward a few years; I was having a lot of fun working with various local business and non-profit operators in consulting capacities. Life as an independent consultant was very rewarding work because I got to focus on the projects and the people that I most enjoyed assisting. As a pragmatic thinker however, when I saw an opportunity to get in at the ground level of a solar energy installation company, I couldn’t resist. Two things you should know about me is that getting involved in start-ups is like a kid walking into a candy shop – I simply can’t retain my excitement – and the other thing is that I just love making tangible differences in the community and local economy. The solar industry is a shinning example of how we can leverage sustainability business practices for meaningful job creation and greater economic equity. It’s a win-win-win situation for the people, the planet, and the economy.

10553641_801741623190260_606302165381158840_oPublic education on renewable energy and energy efficiency is a passion and duty that I hold dearly.

Four years later, the solar industry is growing at the fastest pace ever, and I was a member of the management team for the second largest company in New England (and 17th in the Country). Our collaborative efforts in the region were singlehandedly combating the largest threats of green house gas pollution, a direct factor of climate change, giving tangible value to the work we performing. The energy market is both interestingly complex and astoundingly important because it touches every person in our society in very direct ways. Working in the solar industry enlightened me to interconnectedness of energy, the environment and the economy, and from it I cultivated a greater appreciation for “being the change you wish to see”.

Enter iDentonfy!

For those of us that believe in a higher truth, a divine presence, or simply put…fate, I can attest to the nature of these things happening the very moment that I set foot in Denton’s beautiful downtown square. Patronizing the popular Barley & Board with my family on our first night out, I was graced with a handwritten note from our server, outlining all the best food joints in town (apparently we came off as foodies, and that we are!). On the bottom of the note however was one outlier – instructions to search for a new development called iDentonfy. Without any prior discussion of who I was or what I wanted to do in the community, this person had been guided to share their project with me.

13497867_1127983707266178_2965823625028490512_oThough it may often feel like an uphill battle, I’ve always been a fan of the journey not the destination!

Short story, short, I reached out to Gabriel Killian the next day and scheduled a meeting to make introductions. Now, for all those times that I have been told, “Jonathan, I wish we could just duplicate you and everything would be great,” well old friends…I’ve found him! Sadly for my peeps back in New Hampshire, this guy lives in Texas and so do I. To my delight, I was provided the comforting knowledge that we were not alone in this town – that there were others that cared about creating deep-rooted communities, founded on the three pillars of social, environmental, and economic prosperity.

If you can associate with a sense of caring for the success and happiness of the people around you, then I welcome you to iDentonfy. Though I may be the new kid on the block, I am pretty sure that I’ve found the “secret ingredient” to what makes this community so special – a mission-driven organization that is looking to build community engagement through its diversity and sustainability.

So what should you expect from me next?

My desire to be actively engaged in the community is a real thing and one that I take very seriously. In just a few short weeks I have met with city counselors and administrators, made personal connections with several local business owners, offered volunteer time at small farms, joined the local cycling group, attended various downtown events, and have been to a dozen coffee shops (by the way, how many are there in town?). Getting in the face of action is the only way I know how to do it, and I’d like to think that I am off to a good start!

861098_10151376420292426_268645407_oPanel discussions, open to the public, are a great way to raise awareness and encourage connection.

So what should you expect? Expect to see me strolling the streets, introducing myself, asking random questions about what’s what and who’s who, and genuinely doing my best to learn your story! The wonderful team at iDentonfy has blessed me with the opportunity to do so in a constructive manner by being a guest blogger. My focus in the immediate future will be on the interconnectedness of our business community. I’ll look forward to discovering the intricacies of our shared economy and documenting the importance of this identity. Together, we will iDentonfy!

Collaborative Business Communities. Resiliency is just a doorstep away!

In this segment, let’s narrow in on #5 of iDentonfy’s 10 Immutable Laws – Encouraging Collaboration. Specifically, I’d like to focus on the business side of the equation because that’s where I personally find things really interesting. We can probably all agree that in order to maintain a business, one must purchase products or services from other businesses (otherwise known as Business-to-Business, or B2B). While this vital part of our economy is often overlooked or even taken for granted, it should go without saying that we always have a choice in the matter. This choice, it turns out, can actually have a significant impact on the overall prosperity and resiliency of our community!

One of the things I love most about the iDentonfy platform is its clear vision that “building economy is more than building business; it’s building community”. That’s a lot of things being built, but the point is that we are ultimately stronger together. There are so many ways to approach this goal, and it’s worth exploring all of them, but for the time I want to bring to light three truths that result from the choices our business leaders make when participating in a collaborative community.

  1. When you support other local businesses, more jobs and better paying jobs become available to your fellow community members.
  2. When you support other local businesses, you directly reduce your environmental footprint by conserving energy and resources.
  3. When you support other local businesses, more dollars get re-circulated in the local economy than does that same support for national stores.

Another way to look at this is – People, Planet, Profit – the theory that business owners should be aiming for the Triple Bottom Line whenever possible. I sometimes like to refer to it more plainly as a classic Win-Win-Win situation for everyone involved. The difference of this from a “win-win” being that Mother Nature also gets in on the action! For all you individuals out there, keep in mind that these same truths apply to your own consumer choices – it’s all relative!

Encouraging collaboration is best realized when the people on either side of the table perceive a value to gained from the relationship. Take for example the affiliation between a local farmer and an independent restaurant manager. The traditional form of collaboration here is that the farmer would supply the restaurant with a bunch of salad greens. Working through the three suggested benefits created by this transaction, let’s explore the direct and indirect effect to the community:

  • The Farmer
    • Earning a contract with a restaurant can be one of the most promising deals because they gain the security of selling larger quantities of their product to a consistent source. It allows them to plan their growing season with some extra assurances and potentially hire more staff to help fulfill the orders on a timely basis.
  • The Restaurant
    • Offering locally produced greens on your menu raises the quality of your meals because its often more fresh and less chemically intensive than national delivery services. Not only will better food options increase loyalty from your existing customers, but it can also attract new foodies that get word of your delicious eats.
  • The Environment
    • Emissions created by transportation are the #1 contributor to our increasingly polluted air quality. Anytime that we can reduce the distance that a product has to travel we are reducing that burden. Purchasing local produce also reduces the amount of packaging materials because it doesn’t need to be as protected or preserved as the produce that travels across the country in large containers.
  • The Community
    • Some statisticians estimate that up to 65% of each dollar earned by these individuals would then get reinvested in the same community (compared to 35% for chain establishments). These dollars boosts the local economy and help to distribute the value among more of your neighbors.

There are probably many more direct and indirect benefits that this relationship has on the community, but these few examples should serve as a taste (no pun intended) of the great things that result from building a collaborative business community. Extra security, more jobs, better product quality, increased sales, improved air quality, reduced waste, local reinvestment…these are substantial topics when we talk about them in terms of our society. When we start to connect the dots and see how simple actions like this example can positively impact our community, it’s hard to think of doing it any way else, right?

Denton, and its business community, is fortunate in some respects because we happen to be a part of the DFW metropolitan economy. According to some data centers that have compared our collective economic activity to those of other States and Countries, North Texas would rank in the Top 10 nationally and Top 25 globally. This is no small feat – Denton is a major contributor to one of the largest economies in the world!

With so much wealth being potentially distributed in our community, the single most significant thing our business leaders can do to improve our shared prosperity is choosing to support other local businesses for the products and services they need to operate. Now it’s true that satisfying this goal 100% of the time is very challenging to accomplish. After all, we probably don’t locally produce every single commodity required to maintain a business, nor do we produce enough of an item to supply everyone. These realities of supply and demand, particularly on a local scale, cannot be neglected when you try to tackle this conversation.

I understand that we cannot presently fulfill 100% of our needs by strictly supporting other local businesses, so the real question is “what CAN we do?”. It is this question that I will explore over the next few weeks with the assistance of our growing iDentonfy business members. We will acknowledge the collaborations that are already happening in Denton and then discuss potential areas of opportunity where we can strengthen this form resiliency. My hope is that while celebrating our existing achievements, we may also be inspired to do more – to Encourage Collaboration!