Katie Hansen, Co-founder and Chief Experience Officer at Mekanic – premier branding agency and Alexandria Chamber of Commerce‘s Small Business of the Year – recently joined CFNC’s Communications Committee. We sat down with her and picked her brain about her work with Alexandria businesses and learning more about Mekanic’s collaboration with Smart Beginnings.
CFNC: As a business, what sets the community of Alexandria apart from other communities?
Katie: We have experienced a local business community that is sincerely welcoming, altruistic, and unpretentious. Professionals and leaders in Alexandria make helpful introductions and readily share knowledge so businesses can grow, excel, and be self-sufficient in the ways they want to be. It’s a rewarding feeling to be part of a network of people that don’t put on airs and truly have a giving mentality. It’s infectious, and this family-oriented culture seems to attract other like-minded organizations who want to establish themselves or move to our city.
CFNC: What was the best part of being Alexandria Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year Recipient?
Katie: In a city that thrives on its countless small businesses, receiving this award was extremely meaningful! One of our founding principles in starting Mekanic was to serve the “underserved” with brand solutions, and a large chunk of this underserved population is small and emerging businesses. At Mekanic, we live through the challenges that our small business clients and comrades do, and there is a bond that we share. We are proud to be “small,” especially when our output is monumental!
CFNC: What inspired you during your work with Smart Beginnings?
Katie: One word comes to mind first: opportunity. We are supposed to live in the “land of opportunity,” but that is not always the reality. Opportunity doesn’t just happen. It takes the dedication of organizations (and jurisdictions) to ensure families are supported, uplifted, and given equal opportunities to thrive. As a native of this area, I attended public schools where students and teachers spoke over 80 native languages. Many of my friends and classmates were refugees whose families needed a fresh start. I cannot imagine my life without these people. I cannot imagine Alexandria without its international population. Smart Beginnings commits itself to give every family opportunity, regardless of their background, with no exceptions. Many of these families are understandably hard to reach, so the work requires creative strategies and unwavering responsibility shared by everyone involved. That, above all, is inspiring to me.
CFNC: Why is community involvement and giving back important to you?
Katie: I believe that individuals are raised by more than the people in their households; their community raises them. A community-centric mindset requires that you honor the gifts that your community gives you in the form of opportunities, and that you take an active role in creating similar experiences and possibilities for your neighbors. There are so many ways to volunteer that can meet you where you are and perhaps, where you want to be. Giving back isn’t supposed to be about pressure, obligation, or checking a box. It should feel natural and manageable for whatever season you are in your life.