A Great Time to Connect With Students...
If you have higher education institutions in your area, the fall semester often features events where local groups can set up tables to meet students and distribute information -- a great opportunity to reach many newcomers and help guide them to your local independents. (It's also an opportunity to publicize internships in your organization.)
It's natural for many people to go to a chain or buy online when you don't know the local options, so make it easy for students to learn about and to find your indie businesses. Scavenger hunts can entice students to explore your member businesses, as can games requiring collecting visit stamps from a certain number of participating businesses (each business provides a prize of a certain value). Urge participating businesses to create an in-store display of items college students may want and be sure they have your directory, window decal, and any other materials promoting your group. And while many businesses offer some discount to students with an ID, such promotions make a much bigger impact when jointly coordinated and publicized.
Recognize messaging to students will differ from much of your group's general education (did you worry about how you influenced local economic development in your teens?). We're happy to send you a sample op-ed appealing to incoming students that you may adapt to your community.
Talk to your local schools and colleges about partnership opportunities as well. A sympathetic official can be a huge asset in your outreach to students. Many local groups are able to bring an AMIBA speaker to their community and offer a free training by getting a local college to sponsor a public speaking event (contact us for help).
Universities and colleges also represent enormous purchasing power. Seek out procurement officers to learn about their needs and explain how doing more business locally can make them community heroes (and make your group a hero among local business owners). Be aware that major purchases by public institutions may be dictated by state government, but this also creates an opportunity to build state-wide alliances and clout.
Lastly, build relationships with professors in relevant departments. They can be a big help in identifying prospective interns or even creating class projects directly benefiting your group.
Misrepresenting Small Business
The new issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, (formerly Business Week) scrutinizes stands taken by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business that conflict with the interests of most independent businesses. The commentary by Stacy Mitchell seeks to explain their actions and points out some of the groups that better represent many independents.
While the commentary's space limitations allowed for few examples, we're happy to provide more thorough background to anyone interested. AMIBA and the U.S. Chamber filed opposing arguments last year in a U.S. Supreme Court battle over whether large corporations would be permitted to greatly increase their power over elected officials and candidates.
Please note local and state chambers of commerce are not responsible for the U.S. Chamber's agenda. Indeed, among their 125 board members exactly one local chamber and one state chamber are represented. We hope more local chambers will be inspired to speak out against the U.S. Chamber's anti-small business stands and pretending to speak for local chambers. AMIBA is eager to hear your thoughts on issues you deem most important. If you have opinions on the Businessweek article, please share it with others and join the discussion on the LinkedIn group for indie business advocates.
Finding Independent Lodging Made Easier
If you ever find it challenging to find independent hotels when traveling or lament missing out on the perks of a frequent visitor program, Stash Rewards, a new network of independent hotels that pool a points/reward system and online directory, may help. The network, profiled here, includes only hotels rated three stars or higher, so we're still seeking a way to find independent budget lodging without sifting through countless chains -- let us know if you have tips to share (hat tip to the New Rules Project).
Court Upholds Award for Antitrust Violations
Our friends at independent media outlets were encouraged when the California Court of Appeals upheld a judgment on Aug 11 in favor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. The Guardian alleged the New Times Media chain, a subsidiary of the Village Voice Media, sold ads below cost in an attempt to eliminate competition from the independent paper.
Asheville Grown (North Carolina) is the latest IBA to produce t-shirts (and tank tops) to spread their message. Asheville Grown wholesales the shirts for just $2 over cost, but the local printing company handles the shirts through the whole process and, with more than 1000 sold, creates significant revenue for the group. Member businesses can place their own logo and message on the backs of the shirts (picture is one of a few design options offered) for $3.
Stay Local! (New Orleans) recently published the 10th of their signature neighborhood maps and guides, this time covering the city's oldest and most famous neighborhood, the French Quarter. While Stay Local! gained local influence in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as a conduit for connecting local businesses with citizens and government, they're extending their role following the BP disaster by helping connect local independent businesses with available resources to assist them in dealing with the disaster’s repercussions.
As the school year begins, check out the Corvallis (OR) Independent Business Alliance's scrip program for an example of strengthening the position of indie business while raising money for extracurricular activities at local schools. Schools purchase gift cards from participating CIBA businesses at 10% below value and raise money by selling the cards at face value in the community.
Following the lead of Oakland Unwrapped, Portland Buy Local is organizing its third annual Indie Biz Awards. This is a great way to advance community awareness and support and draw positive attention to your independent businesses. We hope to see many more affiliates emulating this program soon and are ready to help you!
Website of the Month
Via their online features and bi-monthly publication, Yes Magazine consistently illuminates innovative work to strengthen communities and sustain independent locally-rooted businesses. As their name suggests, the publication seeks out success stories, especially replicable ones, to inspire action. While it leans left politically, everyone interested in local economic vitality and democracy should find plenty to engage them.
Social Media Tip of the Month
On your membership forms, ask the date your member businesses opened, then note their anniversaries in your newsletters and social media outlets. Each time your Independent Business Alliance or organization adds a new member, post it through all your media channels! Your members will be happy to see their name mentioned and it reminds people that you’re growing. People want to jump onto a moving bandwagon.