This letter was excerpted in the July 2012 cover story, “It Takes a Village.” Here is the full version.
Recently, I was visiting Mexico with family and realized all I could talk about was Gainesville and its people. Gainesville is a getaway in itself. It’s a city of thought leaders on the edge of innovation, entrepreneurship, service and community. Gainesville represents the future of our nation.
But where does all of this innovation and enchantment come from? Typically, someone (like me) who has recently made a new city their home might not be able to answer this question, but not so with Gainesville. An outsider might have said the university, which is true. But there’s so much more.
Many businesses have what I refer to as “the edge.” Almost every business has something that makes them different from the traditional model. For instance, a cleaning company (traditional) that only hires students with a 3.5 GPA or higher (the edge) like Student Maid; or a real estate firm (traditional) that donates 10 percent of their revenues to local non-profits (the edge) like Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group. This edge challenged me as an aspiring business owner to be more than a print and design firm (traditional) but to plant trees, to give back and to preserve the environment (our edge) and has continued to challenge me to bring this edge to the market in every new venture in which our company gets involved.
The camaraderie within the start-up community in Gainesville has also impressed me. I didn’t realize the extent of this until my experiences with Rob Castelucci of Roomsync. Rob went out of his way to help us network within the community—from the Chamber of Commerce to Alachua County of Emerging Leaders, to Business Networking International and to other organizations and individuals who wanted to help us succeed.
After meeting Rob, my wife and I met with another start-up, Fracture, because we had heard such great things about them. Co-founder Abhi Lokesh dropped everything to spend time getting to know us and spent countless hours introducing us to the power of social media marketing. Experiences like this have inspired me and continue to challenge me to help other start-ups and provide the most valuable resource we can afford: our time.
Gainesville is truly a community—a community of non-profits and service, of start-ups and family. It’s a culture. It will challenge, inspire and never cease to amaze.
Chad Paris is the owner and co-founder of Parisleaf, an eco-friendly design firm in Gainesville. Parisleaf has planted more than 8,000 trees to cut back on the business’ carbon footprint—and has a goal of planting a billion trees. In 2011, the Chamber of Commerce awarded Parisleaf with Business of the Year for its commitment to the environment. Parisleaf plants a tree for every Facebook “Like” as a way to promote Parisleaf’s tree-planting mission.