Startup Diaries: Volunteerism and the Small Business Owner

[Startup Diaries is a new original series of articles from Yahoo! Small Business Advisor that chronicles the day-to-day and week-to-week struggles of a variety of startup and new small businesses.]

Art Cardenas owns The Fit Pit, a fully equipped professional boxing gym in Austin, Texas. The gym, which opened in January 2011, is still growing and now has plans for expansion. 

Today I am recuperating from a very busy weekend. Being the owner of a professional boxing gym requires that I accompany the athletes that I train to competitions, both amateur and professional. This past weekend took us to San Antonio, Texas for the 2012 South Texas Senior Amateur Boxing Championships. It was a successful weekend with two of the gym's best boxers advancing to the finals. One of the two boxers emerged victorious as the 2012 Novice Flyweight Champion. Both boxers fought their hearts out and that is all that any trainer can ask.

Coaches who train professional fighters get paid for their time and expertise. Coaches who train amateur boxers, on the other hand, usually volunteer their time. Such was the case this past weekend during the South Texas Championships. As I sit in my office, trying to catch up on e-mails and phone messages, I call to mind how time consuming, yet important, volunteerism is for a small business.

Why is it important for me, as a small business owner, to volunteer?

Volunteerism (the sharing of my time, talent, and treasure) demonstrates to my community that I legitimately care. Customers always want to be in an establishment that demonstrates care and concern. Likewise, participating in volunteer functions provides an avenue for me to network and market the gym a bit more. It is not uncommon for me to wear a shirt, while doing volunteer work, which has the gym logo proudly displayed on the front.

Have there been any downfalls associated with volunteering?

Volunteering has, at times, taken me away from my business location -- and in cases such as this weekend, for more than just a couple of hours.

Lessons learned: Volunteering has provided my business with more exposure because it sometimes requires that I leave the confines of the gym. I am out in public and I have the opportunity to network with people other than my clients.

Volunteering has been time consuming at times, but has caused me to utilize good time management. Despite this, I will continue to volunteer my time as much as possible because it is gratifying and has allowed my business to grow.

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