I want to invite you to imagine with me for a moment. Imagine you’re driving along Interstate 80 on your way to somewhere in Iowa. When you look out your car windows, of course, you will see a lot of farm fields and pasture land as expected on a drive through the Iowa landscape. On this drive through Iowa you’ll probably see a lot of cows; and usually, they’re earthy colored brown, black, tan or white, perfectly normal cows. But then you notice something glaringly different out in the distance — something completely unusual. Something so unique and spectacular. You see a bright purple cow!
What do you do when you see a bright purple cow? You’ll probably pull over and pull out your phone to capture photo evidence of this bizarre creature because no one back home will believe you when you tell them what you saw. You’ll probably take these photos and post them on your Facebook or Instagram feed. When you go home you tell all your family members about the unique purple cow. At the office the next day, you’ll probably tell all your coworkers at the water cooler about the amazing sight you saw.
You’re also not the only one who saw this purple cow either; word spreads about this cow and people start flocking to the pasture along I-80 to take pictures of this rare beast. This cow goes internet viral, it goes on Ellen, the farmer who owns the cow makes a lot of money, and the cow becomes exceedingly famous and enters the history books all because it’s extraordinary and remarkable.
The premise of this story comes out of a marketing and advertising book called “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable” by Seth Godin. The author of this book encourages businesses to focus their efforts on making and offering a remarkable product or service and letting positive “word of mouth” reviews fuel your advertising. I most recently worked at an amazing small company in Kansas City, where the owners took the message of this book and applied it to all the systems and services they offered. They constantly drilled into their team members the importance of exemplary customer service and client relations and the services we offered needed to be extraordinary. Our internal code word of “Purple Cow” meant we’re going above and beyond to make our clients and customers happy. They worked really hard to refine all their services, hired outstanding people, created a fun company culture, mastered social media, created beautiful branding materials and strove to be the best in their industry.
The company’s hard work really paid off. By the time I left the company last year, they had doubled in employee size, had won numerous awards, had glowing reviews and had become one of the leading companies in its industry. Happy and devoted clients and customers would positively spread the word about us to their friends and family.
You’re probably wondering what all this has to do with a small city in the middle of Iowa. I believe Colfax has the potential to be a “Purple Cow” community. A community so remarkable and extraordinary that when people visit us or stop by while traveling on I-80, afterward they’ll go and tell their friends and family about the beautiful town they visited and the positive experiences they had there.
We’ve all traveled to these wonderful “Purple Cow” type communities or neighborhoods and have come back to tell our family and friends to go visit as well. A good example of a community in our area that I think does an excellent job with “Purple Cow” remarkability is Pella. The City of Pella has spent countless dollars and hours promoting its Dutch heritage. The historic buildings are meticulously maintained or have been given a traditional Dutch architectural facelift. They offer a wide variety of shopping, restaurants, have famous bakeries and other attractions. Every year they plant more than 350,000 tulip bulbs in public places that put on a brilliant show each spring. It pays off in having more than 150,000 visitors come for their annual Tulip Time Festival plus countless other visitors throughout the year. They’ve become a community that people frequently love to visit and then tell others about it.
While Colfax is not Pella, we have a lot of great assets to our community we can utilize to become more of a “Purple Cow” community. We have a wonderfully unique history, a rehabilitated downtown, a brand new recreation park, great shops and restaurants, a progressive city government and a Main Street Iowa program. At Colfax Main Street, our job is to make sure our downtown becomes a vibrant and exciting place for residents and visitors through our historic preservation efforts, events, beautification projects and promotion of the community. Obviously becoming a “Purple Cow” community is a huge work in progress which takes time and every citizen’s involvement. We’re continually brainstorming ways that we can make Colfax stand out amongst the rest of the herd and we want to invite every Colfax resident to be a part of the process. What are ways you as a community member can help Colfax become remarkable and extraordinary?
• Every citizen is an ambassador for Colfax. We want to encourage everyone to be a friendly and positive face when visiting other communities and when our community has visitors. Smile, be kind and be courteous to strangers. You may be someone’s only connection to our community.
• Celebrating positive aspects about our town. What do you love and enjoy about Colfax? Word of mouth recommendations can have a huge impact about a perception of a community. Talk about what you love about Colfax on social media or tell someone about it.
• Show local business your support. Make commitments to support our local businesses regularly. Consider buying one necessity (like toilet paper or toothpaste) locally, shopping for gifts at one of five retail stores regularly, visiting one of our three restaurants monthly and using our local service businesses when needed. All that money spent in Colfax usually stays in Colfax. Don’t forget to tell others about your favorite businesses.
• Keep Colfax clean and beautiful. If you see litter in Colfax, help us by cleaning picking it up. We’ve been encouraging citizens to take plastic bags with them when they walk to help pick up litter when they see it! Also, we want to encourage residents to garden this summer. Who doesn’t love flowers?
• Give towards a local beautification or improvement project. At Colfax Main Street we’re always brainstorming ways to make downtown Colfax more beautiful. We’re about to plant new perennial flower beds on North Walnut Street and have plans for some future public art projects. Quarry Springs Park is also working on some fun projects to improve the park. If you’d like to give financially to any project, please contact us.
• Get involved and volunteer. We’d love to see every citizen regularly volunteer locally for something that they’re passionate about. That could be for a religious organization, the school, the library, Colfax Little League, The Auxiliary Park Board or for Colfax Main Street. We have tons of volunteer opportunities for you to participate in at Colfax Main Street.
• Be an “Outside of the Box” problem solver. We love outside of box thinking and pro-active problem-solving. If there is a problem that you see within the community, we’d love to hear about creative solutions and ideas. You may just have an idea and solution that makes Colfax extraordinary.
Making a city like Colfax remarkable and extraordinary is a community effort. If you’d like to be involved in Colfax Main Street’s community transformation efforts contact us at ColfaxMainStreet.com or email us at ColfaxMainStreet@gmail.com.
Do you have an idea that you think would help make Colfax more awesome? We’d love to hear from you. Let’s work together to make Colfax that unique “Purple Cow” community that stands out amongst the rest in Iowa.