It was Thanksgiving 2020 and Natalie Webster was feeling blue.
Like many of us, she was spending the holiday alone for the first time because half her family had Covid and she wasn’t quite sure what to do with herself. As she saw it, her choices were:
- Eat copious amounts of comfort food
- Have a good, long cry
- Find things to be grateful for
Webster, an optimist by nature, opted for C and the wheels began to turn in her brain.
“I had this idea of wanting to share more about the community and the area,” said Webster, a Realtor with Excelsior Realty. “I was born and raised in Hawaii but I’ve lived here for almost 30 years now. I raised my three kids here and now I have grandchildren living here, too. This area is really special to me and I love it.”
As Webster started brainstorming, her thoughts turned to the early days of the pandemic when nurses were working around the clock to care for Covid patients.
“I thought how cool it would be to use the resources and connections I have to put together some kind of surprise for local nurses,” Webster said. “So I contacted some businesses in the Lake Minnetonka area and told them I wanted to surprise a local nurse with a spa day or something like that and share a video about it on social media.”
In less than 10 days, Webster had turned her idea into a reality and over the course of the next several weeks, she was able to surprise several local nurses with gifts delivered by Santa himself. Well, the pandemic Zoom version of Santa anyway! Inspired by the way the community came together to give back to its healthcare workers, Webster knew she wanted to continue to highlight why Lake Minnetonka was such an amazing place to live.
And just like that, Tonka Talk was born. Now, the popular video podcast reaches nearly 100,000 people and each episode dives into the places and people that make Lake Minnetonka a popular destination for visitors – and a place that locals love to call home.
“Before we started, there wasn’t that ‘one-stop shop’ for local community news in our area,” said Webster, who used to have a weekend show on myTalk 107.1 and eventually moved into podcasting. “I thought that creating a video podcast would be a great way to fill the gap that existed. Plus, it allows me to combine my passions and skills. I love real estate land development, I love sharing people’s stories and I enjoy discussing what’s going on in the community and Tonka Talk became a marrying of these things.”
Webster posts two to three Tonka Talk episodes each week. Some of them are dedicated to upcoming events in Lake Minnetonka while others feature interviews with local residents who are sharing how they’re creating community and connection in the area.
It’s a topic that is very close to Webster’s heart.
“The willingness of people here to work together to create a community is similar to what I experienced growing up in Hawaii,” she said. “That’s why I think Tonka Talk has become so popular and why it’s still going strong. So many of us are seeking community and connection, especially after being so disconnected and isolated during the pandemic.”
If you’re looking for ways to develop a deeper connection to your community, checking out Tonka Talk’s Facebook page is a great place to start. Want to do even more? Here are three of Webster’s suggestions:
- Volunteer: Whether you’re new to the area or have been a resident for a long time, there’s no better way to build connections than by getting out and volunteering. Webster recommends finding out what is actually needed in your community and then doing what you can to help. And through Tonka Talk, she’s been able to publicize events that different nonprofits are hosting and share what their needs are. As a result, she’s been able to create connections that benefit both those who are looking to give back as well as the groups that are in need of assistance. “We’ve become a hub of community involvement,” Webster said of Tonka Talk. “It’s wonderful to see people coming together to help one another.”
- Network: By joining the local Chamber or one of the area’s many networking groups, you can get to know other members of the community and create connections that can be beneficial in a variety of ways. Not only can you gain referral sources that can help you grow your business, you can also tap into the wisdom of other business owners – and you can share your knowledge with them. It’s a win-win!
- Connect with your community online: If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the pandemic, it’s that there are plenty of ways to build community and connection without leaving home. A good place to start is by sharing information about local nonprofits on your social media pages and letting your followers know what these groups might need. While online posts can sometimes go south in terms of people being negative, Webster encourages the importance of being the voice of reason. “Share things that are positive,” she said. “There are so many great things happening in our community. That’s what we want to focus on and if we can each show up every day coming from a place of wanting to create strong community connections, miraculous things can happen.”
Want to have your event or nonprofit featured on Tonka Talk? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your information.
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