We didn’t win the award.

And why I’m not sad about it.

Last fall, the Greenville Chamber of Commerce awarded TealHaus as the “Small Business of the Month.” We were honored to be recognized and accept the award on WSPA’s Your Carolina with the legendary Jack Roper (Kate and I still laugh at how awkwardly she held that plaque).

A month or so ago, the Chamber reached back out to invite us to apply for “Small Business of the Year.” To do so, we were to visit their office and make a presentation, and we would be judged on three criteria: business growth, business attributes, and our contribution to community service.

Kate was immediately nervous. Me? My ever-optimistic self said, “Kate, we’ve got this in the bag.” I said this not because I’m arrogant about our business but because I knew that with these categories, it seemed like we could crush it.

Business growth? In three years, we’ve accumulated 85 clients and have grown 200% simply through word-of-mouth. That seemed pretty good, right?

Business attributes? We don’t lead with numbers; instead, we choose our clients based upon their ability to match our values of empathy, humility, and curiosity. The revenue always comes when the values match. What’s more, we’re doing the agency thing differently (many agencies have gotten a bad rap over the years, and for good reason). We stay in constant contact with our clients, working with them not only on their marketing efforts, but also on their operations and strategic planning. In addition, we have no egos in this game. We stay honest and transparent, no matter what.

And community service? “Kate, come on!” I said. In a year, we’ve donated $141,600 (a lot for our small business!) to an accumulated six different nonprofits in our community. In addition, we currently have seven different clients who are nonprofit entities. And our eight team members individually volunteer their time to 16 different charities.

“We’ve got this,” I said with a laugh.

Except … we didn’t. The Chamber gave the award to a different business (who was, of course, incredibly deserving).

Was I disappointed? A bit. But did it really matter to me? No.

Kate and I both subscribe to Seth Godin’s daily emails. Right after our presentation with the Chamber, this one hit my inbox:

“Shifting your Perspective on Rejection”

“I didn’t get it”

There are two ways to process this:

The selection committee saw me, understood me, and then decided to reject me.


The selection committee didn’t get what I had to offer. I wasn’t rejected, my application was.

Later, when speaking with Kate, I shrugged. “We did the best we could. Obviously whoever won was awesome. Congrats to them!”

And onward. It wasn’t a personal blow to us. It was simply that our application was not what they were looking for. And just because our application was rejected doesn’t mean we’re not worthy. 

I began TealHaus out of a need to empower and help others, and that hasn’t changed in three years. Now, eight of us lead with our hearts, meeting clients with compassion and curiosity. We’re not out to grow the biggest agency or make the most money, and if that’s how we’re measured, then we’ll never win. Instead, those of us who now call TealHaus home treat it as such—a home. And our clients are guests in our house. It may not be the biggest house or have the fanciest cars out front, but it sure is comfortable, and all who enter our doors are family. Together, we all grow.

Share This Article

You Might Also Like

The Starfish Syndrome

It was the first morning of my sabbatical, and I started it the way I always start my mornings in Folly: barefoot on the beach with my dog, Oliver. That dog in the ocean is the true picture of pure joy, jumping over waves and zooming out to run a large circle around me in the sand. Just when I start to doubt he’s coming back, he stops, turns around, and then runs with all of his might toward me as if planning to barrel me over. At the last minute, as I feel myself bracing for all 80 pounds of him crashing into me, he darts to the right or left of my legs, as if saying, “Gotcha!”

The Birth of a Brilliant Brand Identity

As a marketer, I wanted to share the story of the Morton Salt emblem because I did not know its origin and found it to be incredibly clever. Have you ever wondered why the Morton Salt girl is walking through the rain and what that has to do with salt?

This is a story of extremely intelligent advertising and a cautionary tale about the importance of keeping all your ideas on the table even if you aren’t sure whether it is “good” or not.

Laptops on the Pool Deck

I had no idea it was this hard to learn how to swim.

My memories of this stage of life are fuzzy. I have one specific memory of jumping into the “deep end” and my swim teacher being so proud of me when I touched the bottom and came back up. That’s it. From there I was more or less a fish and still approach swimming with a childlike joy I didn’t expect in my late 30s.