Lowcountry Local First’s annual Good Business Summit conference is returning to downtown Charleston on Feb. 6 with a slate of national and local business leaders who will share knowledge about growing a business sustainably.
Lauren Gellatly, director of operations for Lowcountry Local First, said this year’s summit, the organization’s seventh, will have more tactical sessions than previous conferences because of feedback the nonprofit received from local businesses.
“Hopefully an attendee who is a small or medium-sized business owner is going to walk away and feel like, ‘I have something that I learned today from this national or local CEO, and I’m going to implement that in my business in the next six months,’ ” Gellatly said.
She said she also hopes that attendees walk away from the conference at Charleston Music Hall feeling that no matter their industry or the size of their business, they can take steps toward “business as a force for good” — the idea that running a business can improve the community, environment and people’s lives.
“The people-planet-profit model is something that we emphasize ... anyone can work toward,” Gellatly said. “You don’t have to be a social enterprise. It doesn’t have to be built into your mission. It doesn’t mean that you need to donate 10% of your profits to charity. There are so many different ways you can approach business as a force for good.”
For example, she said, a business owner might adopt progressive policies on parental leave for workers, create a composting system or offer incentives for people to take public transportation to work.
Gellatly said the keynote speaker, Patagonia’s director of philosophy Vincent Stanley, was chosen with the people-planet-profit model in mind. Stanley is co-author of The Responsible Company, a book about lessons that he and Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia, have learned about sustainable business practices.
“Patagonia is really sort of the gold standard, I would say, in the world for business as a force for good,” Gellatly said.
The Good Business Summit previously had been held in the late summer, but Gellatly said hosting an event during hurricane season became problematic.
“With our almost annual hurricane scares now, we made a decision that it made the most sense to change it to a different time of year,” she said. “And we’re actually really excited about doing it at this time of year, because we feel like people have sort of a renewed sense of willingness to work on their business rather than just in their business at this time of year.”
Gellatly said business owners often get bogged down in day-to-day operations, especially as the year progresses, but at the beginning of the year, people seem to be more open to self-reflection.
“We find that people are more willing to take some time, take a full day away from their businesses — which is not easy for any of these local businesses to do — to really look outside of themselves, learn from others, think about what they could be doing to change, to grow, to improve,” Gellatly said.