May is Small Business Month! We can’t wait to share stories from local businesses around our region, and highlight the impact these leaders having on our community. Join us at Open for Business all month long for stories, inspiration, and connections!
Ask many businesses around town what a few of the major issues they face are, and you’ll develop a pretty short list of themes: housing, public safety, and homelessness, among others. The struggle local businesses face with these issues is captured in local surveys, interviews, conversations, and even public forums. While much has been done locally to address these problems, much work remains and it is a daunting task to find solutions.
We recently sat down with one local business, One Security, to talk with co-founder Shawn Carter, about the unique ways their private company could help address a piece of a larger community issue. With so many moving pieces, Shawn and co-founders, Spencer Peck and Megan Laughlin, decided to work on one area many others cannot: how to effectively provide security for local businesses which is responsive to their needs while filling a gap which local law enforcement do not have the resources to fill.
Shawn credits his life experiences to the success he, and the others, have experienced since founding the organization. As a youth pastor, bank teller and branch manager, and eventually as a Sheriff’s Deputy, Shawn found himself with a unique set of skills and understanding that he wanted to put to good use outside the bounds of policy and bureaucracy.
After finding a like-minded colleague in Spencer Peck at Titanium Legal, the two decided to open One Security, full time, applying Spencer’s business acumen with Shawn’s background in law enforcement to support local businesses struggling with vandalism and crime.
“We had a desire to bring a business to success that had purpose, passion and impact”, Shawn shared. “When you have a desire to see what you do meet a need in the community, it helps your business in the long run.”
As many local companies will do early on in their founding, the two partners reached out to the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce to understand what resources existed locally in which they could become involved. Our team quickly got to work connecting the duo with resources like the Chamber’s Business Leaders Task Force, and in turn, a connection with local area service providers like Everyone Village and businesses that need support as well.
From walking the railroad tracks and conversations with travelers, to one on one meetings with area businesses, the team quickly learned how difficult running a business was becoming in West Eugene and the chasm of services provided to those on the streets. “We’re not the cops”, he says, “and we’re not trying to end homelessness, crime, vandalism. But we can be the stop gap between businesses going to work every day, local public services, and being in the gap of the lived reality of living and working in Eugene.”
The team discovered that addressing this chasm looks a lot like what we know of “community policing” – or a philosophy that supports the use of systemic partnerships and problem-solving techniques to proactively address public safety issues like fear of crime, vandalism, or social disorder. A commonplace practice in many communities, it is a practice which local law enforcement often struggle to find time to do given other constraints.
Seeing the local need for security services focused on meeting this chasm, Shawn’s team honed in on ways to meet the community where it is at, and hopefully move the needle in a meaningful way. “Community is relationships”, says Shawn. “I had the greatest success as a street cop when I authentically engaged folks in my community. You have to be humble, transparent, and have empathy”.
Their philosophy is simple – hire individuals who are curious and enthusiastic about understanding practices in trauma-informed care, de-escalation, and conflict resolution, and allow each security officer’s unique personality to inform the execution of that training. Of this approach, Shawn says “It’s not cookie cutter, high and tight, cop-looking individuals. Everyone is their own person. They don’t have batons, handcuffs, tasers, or pepper spray. We start [an engagement by saying] “we’re not the cops – ok?” Shawn and the team hope that this method of engagement not only directly supports the local businesses that have contracted their security services, but also helps to deter crime from happening in the first place and provide support to local law enforcement resources like the police and CAHOOTS, allowing more time for these systems to accomplish what only they can do.
Currently operating in West Eugene, One Security looks forward to expanding its flavor of community problem-solving to every region of Eugene, meeting the unique needs of each geographic area.
When asked of the impact he wishes One Security to have in the community, Shawn shares:
“We’re looking for action. Take action. Don’t be afraid to fail. You’re not going to solve everything, but you show up and you work. You work, and you work, and you work. Don’t try to achieve success that will take years, and expect it to happen in months. We have worked hard and know the value of carrying our weight and working hard to do what we can do. Pick the mission you can work on and bring it to fruition. If we could get back to that on a community level, the impact would be exponential. Pick the thing you know you can impact, and work hard at it. It takes a whole community to make change.”
Let’s hear it for these Movers and Shakers! Shawn, Spencer, Megan, and team are doing unique work to compassionately address a serious problem plaguing local businesses, while working to enhance the capacity of our partners in law enforcement. Their experiences serve as a great reminder that we all have a role we can play in making our community a better place for all to live, work, play.