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We had intended to lay out our 'n2n-n2B-n2C' eHub business model for Sohodojo in this issue of Rants and Raves. It was a natural follow-up to last issue where we looked at the nanocorp and Sohodojo in the context of Malone and Laubacher's E-Lance network economy. But this topic will wait until next issue.
Sohodojo's home is Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. Two years ago, Hurricane Fran rolled right over us with devastating consequences. When Floyd -- a monstrous storm that made Fran look like a thundershower -- set its sights on us, we got seriously nervous. Fortunately, we then got VERY lucky. Floyd stayed to the East of us.
The North Carolina coast is a disaster area. A vast army of relief helpers have mobilized to assist our States-side neighbors. Presidential disaster designations assure that U.S. victims of Floyd will be helped. As serious and devastating as this tragedy is, as the flood waters recede, help is poised to move in.
But a much less visible group of hurricane victims need our help. This special 'post-Floyd' issue of Rants and Raves focuses on the small business community in and around Hope Town on Elbow Cay, Abaco, Bahamas.
As most of the U.S. East Coast prepared for the worst from Hurricane Floyd, we watched in horror as the eye of this massive storm passed right through the Abaco Islands of the Bahamas. For ten hours, they were battered. Wind gusts were clocked at over 200 mph, and Elbow Cay, the island in the Abacos that we know best, was cut in two from the battering winds, crushing surf and 10 foot storm surge.
As folks crawled out of their emptied freshwater cistern shelters, the devastation hit hard. No power, no phones, no water, and little food to go around. Many roofs, docks, and houses destroyed -- some were gone, washed out to sea. As for boats -- commercial, fishing, and pleasure -- some were badly damaged, some slammed up into mangroves and now sit among the trees, some are sunk to the bottom where docks used to be.
A place where you learn to take nothing for granted
The Abacos stretch 130 miles over some of the most incredible sailing water in the world. Miles of coral beaches and scores of uninhabited cays and quaint harbors with friendly people make this location a paradise to savor.
Tourism is the big industry. From November to June the Abacos are busy with folks who come here to sail, fish and vacation. But this isn't Nassau, and it isn't Freeport. When you come to the Abacos, you entertain yourself. There are no casinos, professional performers, fancy department stores, big hotels, lifeguards on the beach, or babysitting services.
A page on an Abacos website titled "Abaco is not for sissies" absolutely says it all. Life in the Abacos is generally small town beach life and good, but unsophisticated food and local amenities.
The Abacos are historically different from other areas in The Bahamas.
Settled in the 17th and 18th centuries by immigrants from Great Britain and Loyalists fleeing the U. S. after the American Revolution, these hardy souls brought more with them than just strong constitutions. Architecture, religion, values and perspectives from small town life in England, Scotland and New World settlements shaped the Abacos then and continue to do so now.
Even today harbors are ringed with many of the small, brightly painted, clapboard houses built by the early settlers. You can still find handmade boats and homemade furniture, and home-baked breads and "just made" pies. Yet despite the colorful history and the incredible natural beauty, it's not an easy place to have a business.
Water is scarce here, so is the fertile soil required for edible vegetation. Not much is produced directly in the area, mostly everything has to be made, caught or transported in. It is a paradise of islands with a fragile existence. Throughout Abaco history, life has never been easy. And there often has not been enough work to go around.
A community of business diversity
If you've ever lived in a small, rural community, you know the economic model that keeps many a family afloat. Combinations of business and services are painted on signs hanging out by the road: "Bill Johnson and Sons, VCR repair, Income Tax preparation, Passport photos, and Well drilling."
Rural businesses can't bet the baby on doing only This OR That. Survival often depends on the diversity of offerings and one's tenacity in the face of grand disappointment. Yet, even in the best of times, remote businesses hang by a thread of hope, and belief that hard work eventually pays off.
People in the Abacos are church-going, hard-working people. Many local families date back to the 1780s. They are self-reliant, tenacious, and widely known as self-starters. Many businesses are family owned and operated, and most families have diversified offerings -- combinations of fishing, transport, retail, rental, restaurant and charters.
A local minister we know has lived all his life in Hope Town. He operates his own well-stocked grocery store. He bakes fresh bread and key lime pies daily for his own well-known bakery and he co-writes historical booklets for tourists with a professor from Illinois. He does all this while conducting regular weekly service in his other role as lay minister to the St. James Methodist Church -- a budding nanocorper right there in Hope Town!
In the Abacos, in Hope Town, a business life like his is not unusual. It's what people do to make a living where, despite the natural beauty, it is often tough to get by.
When Hurricane Floyd hit this remote location, every single family, every single business was devastatingly affected. Having all those eggs in a diversity of baskets was suddenly no guarantee that the family or the family businesses could recover and survive.
However, in an island economy where tourism drives the revenue, only fast recovery can keep these small businesses from going under. All the elements that draw vacationers to the Abacos are still there, but the entire infrastructure that supports this small business economy must be rebuilt, immediately.
If Elbow Cay were in the U.S. massive aid would be well on the way. But in a tiny, independent spread-out, island country there isn't much to go around. And nearly every island and cay in the Bahamas was hit hard by this monstrous storm.
Hope Town's small business community needs our help.
Sohodojo is committed to raising money for the Hope Town and Elbow Cay Hurricane Floyd relief effort. Rather than stand on the corner with cup in hand, we've put together a special supplement to our Rants and Raves newsletter -- a Care-zine...if you 'try it and like it', we ask that you make a donation to Hope Town and Elbow Cay Small Business Relief.
As a regular subscriber to Rants and Raves, we'll send you a copy of our Care-zine as a supplement to this issue. In it, we share some of our 'secret sauce' -- the hard won tips and insights that we use to help our business avoid computer disasters. We tell you our 'trade secrets' of how we set-up and maintain our Windows-based computers at the dojo. Sohodojo's 'secret sauce' is a recipe for a lean, mean Windows machine.
If the information in our Secret Sauce Guide is useful to you please repay us with a donation to the Hope Town Hurricane Floyd Relief effort. (Note: The relief effort is now over. Thank you for your support.)
At this 'Hope Town B2B Relief' home page, you can learn more about the relief effort and you can make a secure on-line credit card donation to help small businesses rebuild in Hope Town. You will also find the address to mail a check if you prefer the old-fashioned way of giving.
Finally, please feel free to pass the Care-zine along to others. We only request that you pass it along in its entirety to help spread the word about how we all can help a wonderful bunch of people in a beautiful and fragile piece of paradise, Hope Town, Elbow Cay.
Floyd's history. It's all over now but the recovery. Won't you help? Thank you.
What with preparations before and recouping and regrouping in its aftermath, Floyd has put a kink into our daily activities at Sohodojo. For now, there are no well-formed disturbances on the storm tracks and we're getting back into the swing of things. Our next issue should be back on track. In the meantime, here's something interesting we noticed...
Someone out there is listening and thinking...