When you start a business, you’re taught to believe that any other company in your industry is competition, and should be treated as such. You’re told to build a competitive analysis, study their business strategy, and examine their strengths and weaknesses, all to find your competitive advantage, beat them, and win.
It’s been ‘Business 101’ since the beginning of time.
But does that mean it’s the only way of conducting business? Our successful community of Shopify Partners doesn’t think so. They have developed a community of their own, valuing the power and learning they gain from the community instead of a competitive mindset.
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Community over competition
Time after time, Shopify Partners have embraced a community over competition philosophy.
“The beautiful part of bringing an online community together offline is that your ‘followers' quickly become your IRL friends,” says Jeremy Watt, co-founder of commerce design studio Up Later Than You. “It gives you an opportunity to have those ‘Hey, I know you!’ moments, where you quickly realize that your perceived competition are in fact your companions.”
By embracing their competition as members of their community, Shopify Partners have built an ecosystem that provides endless amounts of knowledge, new perspectives, and support, helping our partners feel motivated and empowered in a competitive industry.
Back in May, our partners once again demonstrated the strength of the partner community. At Unite, our third annual partner and developer conference, partners from around the world gathered together to take advantage of a unique opportunity to meet with their peers.
But they took it further than that, using their time at the conference to build connections, learn from each other, and embrace new opportunities.
But don’t take our word for it. At Unite, we connected with some of our partners, to hear about how they’ve leveraged the Shopify Partner community to learn and grow as entrepreneurs. Read on for three inspiring stories of the connections they made and the things they learned.
Lauren Hardage and Zak Hardage, co-founders of Hardage + Hardage
When Lauren and Zak Hardage of design agency Hardage + Hardage were planning their trip to Unite 2018, their main focus was to take time to connect with other partners at the conference. Specifically, they wanted to talk with other couples who are in business together—or, as they like to call it, other ‘co-preneurs’.
“Zak and I have always been fascinated by the unusual dynamic couples in business together have to forge—or else!” Lauren says. “I find it empowering to share insights into the unique set of soft skills that surround partnered entrepreneurship.”
At Unite, Lauren and Zak were able to connect with Julie Brown and Jeremy Watt of Up Later Than You. Jeremy and Julie are fellow co-preneurs, and were able to share their experiences of working as ‘partners who are partners’ with Lauren and Zak. The two pairs shared skills, insights, and lessons unique to their co-preneurial situations.
“It once again became evident at Unite that it’s less about the keynotes and sessions and more about the conversations on the sidelines, growing existing relationships and fostering new ones,” Jeremy says. “We’ve started to dub the conference ‘The Fellowship of the ‘Cha-ching’.”
Lauren has big plans for the community—she dreams of one day inviting a small group of like-minded entrepreneurs from the Shopify ecosystem to a retreat.
“Imagine a big old knowledge-sharing-fest at a gorgeous vacation-y destination,” she says, once again showing the potential in a community that grows together.
As opposed to seeing each other as competition, Lauren and Zak and Jeremy and Julie have instead decided to form connections that bring both partners infinite value, by sharing knowledge, experiences, and insights with each other.
Charlie Casey, co-founder and CEO of LoyaltyLion
"We owe a lot of our success at LoyaltyLion to our ecosystem.”
So says Charlie Casey, co-founder and CEO of LoyaltyLion, an ecommerce software development company. For years, Charlie has embraced the philosophy of community over competition, and has used Unite to build valuable connections and to access opportunities that have helped him achieve the success he sees today.
The partner ecosystem has helped Charlie identify new ways to propel his business and learnings even further, and the connections he’s built with other app developers have brought his work in unexpected new directions.
Tu Pham, co-founder of Cleverific
After Tu Pham, co-founder of app development agency Cleverific, spoke on a panel at Unite this year, she was reminded of the impact that sharing your knowledge and perspective can have on a community.
“A number of my post-panel conversations were with women,” Tu explains. “Finding more ways to empower them in their businesses really hit home. I definitely think we need continued and diverse community perspectives.”
When it comes to accessing the partner community, you don’t always have to seek out new partnerships or new initiatives to get involved. Sometimes all it takes is sharing your voice and exposing yourself to the different perspectives that others in your community hold.
Gaining validation for your work or learning about other partner’s experiences can help push you to try something new in your business, to explore new areas of work, or even give you the motivation you need when times are tough.
“Being able to motivate and encourage each other in a meaningful way really empowers not just myself, but boosts the viability of community as a whole,” Tu says.
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Building a community
There is so much opportunity to be had in the community around you. Shopify Partners have built partnerships, traded knowledge, and grown alongside each other—and the investments they’ve put into the community continue to pay off in new and unexpected ways.
Take the time to grow your network, learn new perspectives, and adopt new practices, and there’s no telling how far you’ll go. The Shopify Partner community is vibrant and constantly growing—and there’s always room for more.