Meg White is the former managing editor of REALTOR® Magazine.
Broad Ripple is a very walkable, bike-friendly area. Our current mayor has been a huge advocate and has added many bike lanes into the city. We also connect up with the Monon Trail, which is a biking and walking path made from a former railroad track that leads from downtown Indianapolis all the way up to the northern suburbs. I love it. On nice days, I’ll take the trail and ride my bike up to the office, so it’s part of my commute at times.
A couple years ago, we held a bike ride called Saddle Up to raise money to get bike corrals installed in Broad Ripple. This restaurateur in the community had entered Broad Ripple into this competition where a bike corral company was asking communities to explain why they were worthy of getting these bike corrals. So we won one free corral, and they gave us the option of buying a few more at a discount. So, we held this ride in order to raise the money to buy four total corrals.
I had already joined the board of Green Broad Ripple, a not-for-profit where the idea is to get people to think more about recycling, gardens, and other green activities. We also try to encourage the building of homes and businesses that are more green. They were organizing the event, and I helped plan the ride and get donations from local businesses.
My wife, I would say! She was involved in the community with the Indiana Recycling Coalition and that spurred my interest. I wanted to get involved in my immediate area where my office is located. I started with the board of Green Broad Ripple, and then over time I became more involved with the Broad Ripple Village Association, which is the main group that helps with business development. I became a business member with them, and I just started the Broad Ripple Young Professionals Network with a few other younger businesspeople. We’re having our first event in a couple weeks.
I also help with a not-for-profit called Joy’s House. They basically take care of older people who have dementia and who live with their kids [who are] their caretakers. The kids will drop off their parents in the morning — and Joy’s House has programs and activities — and then the family member will take them back to their homes at the end of the day.
I committed this year to give a portion of every sale to their organization. I was volunteering more hands-on before, and my wife is still volunteering her time on site, but I decided to do something a little different this year. It’s great to make this kind of commitment, because it helps Joy’s House, but it also helps with marketing. They put me in one of their newsletters as a donor spotlight, and that lets people know that by working with me, they’re also contributing to an organization that they care about.
Being involved in all these things is also just part of the fun. I enjoy working with all these people. It’s kind of a break from work.
It’s a slow growth. People want to know that you’re interested in the community development first, but then the business will grow with that recognition. I mean people now know what I do. People will recognize me for that.
Well, for example, there was a woman a few years ago that had a small garden she was interested in using. My wife and I helped her grow tomatoes in her garden, and then we sold them to local restaurants to help raise funds for the committee. Now, we didn’t hardly make anything from it, maybe $100. But it was a fun way to get the word out. I think it helped more people in the community recognize our group as well. And it also brought people to me who were just interested in gardening.
Absolutely. I started by becoming a spectator. I would listen when they had speakers and presenters. I was the only REALTOR® at these things, so I definitely got to know the other businesses in different industries that have a lot of the same challenges I do. Being involved with all these other professionals, people are always asking me, “How’s the market doing in Broad Ripple?” And I’m becoming a pretty good resource for the organization.
This spring, I was at a Broad Ripple Village Association gathering with members and residents of the community. We were just getting together to socialize, having appetizers and drinks at one of the local bars. Now, it’s kind of an older crowd. A few of the younger people and myself were talking about how we need to spur the younger generation to get involved in the community. We got together and created the Broad Ripple Young Professionals Network. We have our first event coming up on April 10. We just started our Facebook page, and we already have 100 likes. So I’m really excited about this. We’re looking forward to the possibilities of this and compiling a whole laundry list of things we’d like to do, like kayaking and yoga in the park. There’s even this DJ school where you can go in and learn how to DJ. One of our members is going to the next couple's night at the DJ school to check it out. You just enjoy the camaraderie. So there’s going to be a lot of different industry connections that are going to be made that benefit my business, and hopefully the businesses of everyone involved.
The Broad Ripple Historic Home Tour is an annual event; it’s in September this year. It will be the 10-year anniversary of the event, and it’s my first year actually on the committee. My office is located in the middle of this community, so the last couple of years, we offered up our office for restrooms to be used by the people taking the tour. This year, I'm trying to push a little more activity around the office, like ticket sales, food trucks, and other refreshments to facilitate the tour and to get people into our office. I mean, we’re not selling anything, but people are going to know it’s a real estate office.
We’re also hosting a Friday night preview party this year, so that’s going to be hopefully another added moneymaker for the committee. We’ll have donated food and drinks, maybe some live music. One of the homes will open nearby for a preview.
We’re an older neighborhood; most of the homes are around 1920s to 1950s construction. It’s a self-guided tour with a map and information that has attracted around 800 or 900 people in the past. People on the committee help write up the history of the homes in little booklets, so it’s really fun to read and learn about them on the tour.
I would definitely say that it’s worth getting involved. At first, it can be hard to know where to start. I was kind of at a loss. You don’t quite know how to get involved. But really, it’s a matter of reaching out to someone who’s already involved and asking, “How can I help?” Those people love to bring new people in. If you find something that’s interesting to you, be it a home tour or charity or whatever, you find someone who’s working there and ask. They might come back to you with a “Well, how do you want to help?” So it can be challenging, but when you start brainstorming with these people and going to the meetings regularly, it absolutely helps not only the community itself, but you do get people who recognize you and your business.