One Pretty Amazing Week – From South Dakota Governor’s Pheasant Hunt to Arcade Fire Album Release (and a few things in between!)

I’ve had an awesome variety of things go in the past week, so I want to get my thoughts down and share some stories while it is still fresh. 

Over the past year, I’ve been traveling to South Dakota and Nebraska every month or two, working to set up over-the-air broadband systems for underserved and rural areas. Currently, we have two systems in operation, and we are working to get another up in the Black Hills of Western SD. I’ve gotten to know the state of South Dakota pretty well, with most trips there consisting of meetings in cities that are hundreds of miles apart, and market research that is in very rural areas (by definition).

We’ve made several business contacts, and formed some friendships, and about a month ago my business partner and I found ourselves invited to the Governor Daugaard’s Invitational Pheasant Hunt. If we got ourselves there, we’d be treated to two days of meals, target practice, receptions and a pheasant hunt. I grew up deer hunting in South Texas, but had never been pheasant hunting, and had never been hunting with dogs. I was pretty excited, and we accepted the invitation.

tamra_groupFollowing a few days of business meetings in Rapid City and Pierre, our time at the Pheasant Hunt began. There were probably 500-600 people in attendance throughout the event, with a mix of established South Dakotan business people, folks from various government organization, and guest companies, like myself and my business partner. Within a few hours, we had met many members of the Office of Economic Development, talked with several self-made multi-millionaires who hailed from the state, and spent almost 15 minutes describing our business endeavor to Governor Daugaard himself. Wow! Oh, and I had tried using a bow to shoot foam targets at the archery trap. I was close by the end – I’ll get it next time.

Throughout the rest of the day, and in to Saturday, we met folks from all over the state, and were impressed with the hospitality and genuine interest in the work we are doing. And while we had already experienced the ease of starting a business in South Dakota, we learned that SD is the CNBC Top State for Doing Business in 2013. The overall attitude in South Dakota is one of can-do and getting the job done, and the small population and tight community means that if the person you are talking to can’t immediately help, they know someone who can. I don’t know if this overall environment and support can be easily replicated elsewhere – perhaps partly in a small/medium city, but there wouldn’t be the same tight connection with State and Federal officials.

Saturday was the pheasant hunt itself, which was a lot of fun. My group traveled ~100 miles from Pierre to the Webb family property. There were about 15 hunters and 4 dogs. I really enjoyed watching the dogs work to flush out the birds, as well as feed off of one another in excitement. Walking through the fields was way harder than I anticipated – the crop/reeds was sometimes as tall as me, and I had to do ‘high knees’ sometimes to keep moving. I also hadn’t realized how much of a team effort pheasant hunting is. You are walking together in a line to find the birds, with some of the team posted across the field as blockers. When someone got a bird, it felt like a victory for all of us. While our group was far from hitting our bag limits, we had a lot of opportunity for sharing stories and learning about one another.

Following a reception and banquet Saturday night, I headed back home early Sunday morning through Rapid City. As I’m going through the list of people I met, and following up with them to see what can be done to work together, I’m amazed at what a great job the South Dakota Governor’s office did at facilitating these connections, and of showing off their State.

Monday night was a surprise birthday dinner for a long-time friend, which meant four hours of hanging out and telling stories, and eating really good sushi and seafood down in Seal Beach. It really was a treat to spend time with a group of 10 that had many shared memories, and was a reminder to do the “spontaneous” gathering now and then, even if it’s on a school night.

Earlier on Monday, I had entered a contest as part of the Music Experiment to see Arcade Fire perform a secret concert in LA to mark the release of their album Reflektor. I thought I had come up with a pretty witty tweet (I thought I found a way to enter, It’s just a reflektor @arcadefire @mtviggy #musicexperiment ), but when I didn’t hear a response by Tuesday morning, I figured I wasn’t picked. I came back from lunch and holy smokes – there was an EventBrite email saying I had two tickets to a show that started in just over 5 hours! I quickly went to American Apparel to buy some ‘reflektor’ themed clothes for Tim and I, and we got to see a 1.5 hr set by Arcade Fire in front of the Capitol Records building in Hollywood. I think I’m still pinching myself over having been part of that. Oh, and as an aside – I realize I’m part of their social media/marketing experiment, but I’m glad to change the promotion model when it’s a band I like a lot.

And then tonight, the Red Sox won the World Series! While I’ve been to a lot more Dodgers games, and I’m bummed they didn’t win the NLCS, I’ve been a Red Sox fan since my three years living next to friendly Fenway. I love that their victory is full of the many stories that draw us in to sports, and serve as a source of inspiration – from last place to first in one year, those ugly beards, crazy home runs and seemingly improbably victories, and a reason to take to the streets in celebration rather than being in a city-wide lock down five months after the Marathon Attacks.

What to say to summarize all of this?

Personal connections and caring for one another are both a big part of what make business possible. Longtime friendships and memories are a great way to start the week. And I love both concerts and baseball – how awesome to have winnings two nights in a row.

About Tamra Johnson

I’m an entrepreneur and a recent MBA graduate from UCLA Anderson. I have 10 years of experience in IT Management and Systems Engineering. I love learning, helping others, exploring the world around me, running at the beach, going to concerts, and visiting family and friends. I grew up in Helotes, Texas, went to undergrad in Cambridge, MA, and now live in Venice, CA.
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