Not long after the American Independent Business Alliance launched in 2001, we received a call from Elissa Breitbard, a business owner in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who read a feature about Indie Business Alliances in the Utne Reader and wanted to learn more. Within a few months, Albuquerque catalyzed their own organization and became the first AMIBA affiliate outside of the original Boulder Independent Business Alliance.
“Albuquerque was growing and being touted as a city with a bright future. [It came] as no surprise that national chains started descending on our community and their arrival delivered a big hit to many local businesses as people went to explore the new arrivals,” related Clifton Chadwick, Executive Director.
Gaining traction was a big challenge. Local organizers felt like they were pushing against the grain of economic development that saw attracting chains as “development” without calculating the costs on public infrastructure. Many folks also viewed major chains a s a signal that the city was “on the map” and therefore, represented progress (a challenge usually associated with much smaller communities).
Then came the recent recession, and many businesses went into “survival mode,” and AIBA’s membership suffered. As the economy improved, membership began growing again and many business owners mentioned how important relationships with fellow entrepreneurs were to their businesses.
AIBA rebranded under the name Keep It Querque to put the “call-to-action” out front and further differentiate the role of their organization from other area business groups like Chambers of Commerce. “Keep It Querque began to collaborate with those chambers, working with them on certain functions like networking and allowing Keep It Querque to put our focus on consumer education,” said Chadwick.
The group had been producing a print directory with distribution help from member businesses. With the internet and mobile apps gaining ubiquity, in 2014 Keep It Querque decided to shift their approach — the new approach would put directories into more than 100,000 Albuquerque area homes. “We created, essentially, a four-page ad for insertion in the center of a locally-owned ‘shopper’ magazine,” said Chadwick. The ad included member businesses, but also a public education component using data from a 2013 study the group commissioned from Civic Economics demonstrating the powerful local economic multiplier their independent businesses provided in the community, a“10% Shift” challenge, detailing many non-economic reasons to “go local.”
And they crowdfunded to get it done. They partnered with Main Street Crowd, developed locally and specifically as a community-based economic development tool.
Keep It Querque gained valuable media attention to help get word to the community. The directory was featured on the cover of the shopper magazine urging readers to “Pull It Out.” The economic impact study helped Keep It Querque generate additional positive press for their pro-local business initiatives, which was reinforced with publicity generated by their crowdfunding initiative and the announcement of one of their first major funders, locally-owned Main Bank.
The group issued another press release when they reached 50% of their crowdfunding goal, and Chadwick said other businesses responded to pledge (those pledges included membership in Keep It Querque as a premium). Other organizations began calling with interest in collaborating.
Keep It Querque will repeat the crowdfunding project for their 2016 directory and plan to direct citizens to their new mobile app, the product of a local designer who embraced the Keep It Querque mission as a result of the crowdfunded directory’s publicity.
Keep It Querque just produced a “Forum of Best Practices” at which, rather than bring in an expert from afar, the group feature “Local Success Stories,” in which business owners share their responses to common business challenges like competing with online giants, and collaborative initiatives such as finding or creating buying groups. Chadwick is confident, based on an enthusiastic response from participants, they will continue the Local Collaboration among members at future forums throughout the year.Print This Post