It’s a relatively classic story at this point, with a twist ending. Small business shifts in a way that should be great. Pandemic threatens their continued existence.
In August 2018, Grow Disrupt was introduced to the world.
In 2014 Stephanie Scheller started a psychology-based sales training practice and spent four years building it into a well-recognized local brand. Then she realized that wasn’t the path she wanted to follow for the rest of her life. The skills that had been developed designing and producing sales training events transformed into designing and producing educational events to support small business growth. Instead of Stephanie as the primary speaker at the events, she interviewed and hired speakers from across the globe.
“I spent 2018 and 2019 establishing a new brand,” Stephanie shared. “I was constantly reminding my network that my team and I now produced educational events for entrepreneurs. In January 2020 | felt like we’d finally planted the flag. People got it. I started getting introduced at networking events as “The lady who puts on those really amazing events for business owners!”
In March 2020, Stephanie and her team were left looking at each other, wondering what the future of the relatively newly established business would look like.
Sneak peak at the ending:
Grow Disrupt’s 2020 revenue was up 49% over 2019. They grew again by another 13% in 2021. And they never stopped hosting events or lost money on a single ticketed event!
In a world where many event companies were shutting down entirely, Grow Disrupt thrived for a couple of key reasons!
“We shifted, but we stayed true to what had made us successful”
As 2019 wrapped up, Grow Disrupt was preparing to host a larger, 500+ person conference in the fall of 2020. “We had spent all this money on getting the brand designed for the event and I’d just spent months touring venues and interviewing speakers!” Stephanie laughed. Fortunately, she had only signed one contract when everything began shutting down.
As the leader of the company, she waited to entirely veto the event as long as possible. When she finally made the decision, it was accompanied by the commitment to add an easier-to-control, intimate event with a luxury experience in addition to micro events. Grow Disrupt even dipped their toe into the virtual event world.
“We didn’t stay there long,” Scheller chuckled. “We realized what makes our events so successful is that we craft a whole experience from start to finish. There is a lot of nuance from how the venue is set-up, to how the chairs and tables are laid out.” Grow Disrupt is incredibly intentional about what is put in their swag bags and even the food that is served. They’ve gone so far as to create a custom room scent that they pipe into the room to help their guests stay focused and energized. It’s a level of detail that doesn’t lend itself to virtual events.
Ultimately, where many of their competition were going entirely virtual or cancelling, Stephanie believes that Grow Disrupt thrived because they made the decision to hold firm to their core values.
That mean putting their guests first. Always.
And that meant that they kept hosting in-person events. Carefully.
Continuing to Host In-Person Events
“We realized that our guests desperately needed these events, even amid the pandemic. It was scary and overwhelming to go to a live event, but so was everything at that point. Small business owners were getting hammered from all sides. They needed the space we created for them more than ever.” Grow Disrupt focused on finding a way to continue crafting spaces that empowered and educated their guests, while also making sure they felt safe.
They rented much larger facilities than were necessary to ensure there was plenty of room for the guests to spread out. Every event had (and still has) immaculately landscaped outdoor space available for guests to take advantage of during the breaks. Stephanie interviewed an extensive list of experts to compile a rigorous health and safety manual. All staff, guests and vendors are required to sign off, agreeing to comply with the instructions.
Most importantly, Stephanie and her team worked hard to communicate every step of the way with their guests and network. “We wanted them to feel confident about walking into the room with us.” The Grow Disrupt team realized that these small business owners couldn’t afford to get sick and be out of their business for two to four weeks recovering.
They hosted nearly two dozen events over two years without viral spread even once. At the end of the day, Stephanie attributes their success to one major component, “There was an element in all this that was about understanding people, making sure that we were taking care of them, and holding true to what made us successful in the past. But the most important piece was making sure that they knew we were taking care of them.”
It seems they’ve done a spectacular job!
About the Interviewee:
Stephanie Scheller is The Impact Authority. She has spent decades studying applied psychology in small business success. In 2014 she built her business from scratch to walk away from her full-time job in less than five months and has now worked with thousands of companies to maximize their impact.
From the stage, Stephanie uses the violin to tap into the human subconscious and break down the why behind sales, marketing and people management to simplify implementation and accelerate growth. She is a TEDx speaker, a two-time best-selling author, an award-winning entrepreneur and the founder of Grow Disrupt, a company that designs and produces educational and application focused events to reinvigorate and inspire small business owners.