American Independent Business Alliance

Buy Local Campaigns that Change with the New England Seasons

Buy Local Campaigns that Change with the New England Seasons

Monadnock Buy Local Keeps the Message Fresh

Monadnock-logoAt the foot of New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock lies a region of New England charm – communities with quaint clapboard houses, steepled churches, and captivating local culture. Watching out for the interests of the region’s local independent businesses is Monadnock Buy Local (MBL), based in Keene.

In 2009, the Keene Downtown Group used the national Independents Week celebration as a launchpad for the new Keene Buy Local Initiative.  That group quickly evolved into a year-round campaign which adopted a regional scope in the Southwest corner of New Hampshire.

In their initial years, MBL operated with a volunteer steering committee who came to recognize they needed to grow internally in order to make the regional impact they wanted.  Three years ago, they began executing a strategic plan, became a free-standing organization and gained 501c6 status (through AMIBA’s Group Exemption Program).

 Jen Risley, Monadnock Buy Local Executive Director

She’s so plaid. Jen Risley, Monadnock Buy Local Executive Director

Last year, they grew to a 9-member board of directors and hired a part-time executive director, Jen Risley.  Jen stepped into the role from that initial three-person steering committee, so was no stranger to what the organization wanted to accomplish.

Local Looks Good on You!
In 2015, a new local newspaper reporter was tasked with writing an article about Small Business Saturday.  When business owners she contacted (whether MBL member or not) kept bringing up Plaid Friday as well, she called Jen Risley to learn more. Started by a pair of independent business owners in Oakland, California, Plaid Friday is a fun and independent alternative to the “Black Friday” chain store frenzy.  It celebrates the diversity and creativity of local independent businesses, and encourages citizens to dress the part.

And it fits perfectly with New England culture and sensibility.  In fact, Monadnock Buy Local has become adept at putting a distinctly local spin on events and campaigns.

Plaid Friday Poster in actionJen Risley attests, “Our region goes mad for plaid on Plaid Friday.  When I walk around visiting members on that day, people stop me to enthusiastically say, ‘Hey, look! I’m wearing plaid!’”

The event has gained traction over the past several years in the Monadnock region with MBL at the helm, and is a keystone event of their holiday season Shift Your Shopping campaign (Risley has helped build this collaborative campaign nationally). It’s also a way to show support for MBL and the local economy. Independent businesses serve as Plaid Friday Hubs, acting as Shift Your Shopping ambassadors while taking photographs of shoppers for MBL’s Plaid Friday Collage and offering a variety of events and promotions to remind residents of their commitment to the community. “I love seeing both young and old participating,” says Risley.

The popular seasonal events also help sustain MBL’s broader year-round work to enhance the local economy. Sponsorship for their 2015 events increased 58%, while community participation increased 34% over the previous year. And their “Plaid Photo Booth” spurred the best month ever on their website.

The Toadstool Bookshops’ Willard Williams, attesting to the 2015 event’s success, said, “The reception for Plaid Friday here was fantastic. I am guessing about 2/3 of the people who came in were wearing plaid – and many of those who weren’t were aware of it. Every year it seems more and more people think about supporting their own, which is what it’s all about.”

The Cup is Mightier than the Keyboard
Another hallmark event of MBL’s Shift Your Shopping holiday campaign attracts participants with both a playful name and a taste of New England – and helps keeps more holiday spending local.  Several years ago, Williams
attended a local Shift Your Shopping/Plaid Friday planning event and voiced a desire for a local promotion to Plaid Friday kidscounter the “Cyber Monday” juggernaut.  A week later, he proposed Cider Monday, which since has become a day when independent businesses invite all to stop in for a free cup of good ole’ New England apple cider and browse their carefully curated selection, rather than kowtowing to the online retailers’ push for sales.

A Toadstool Bookshop promo says “Stop in for a free cup, maybe a snack, see some real people and have a good time checking out what’s in our stores. It’s sure to be a heartwarming experience. We can promise no crashing websites, our ‘servers’ won’t be overloaded and we bet they will even smile at you!”

Monadnock Buy Local’s success channels into their broader work to build a more durable local economy.  “Agriculture, art, transportation, health – our region has a wealth of initiatives strengthening parts of our economy.  These separate initiatives came together around common goals such as building good local jobs, enhancing our quality of life and strengthening our local economy,” says Risley.

Learn more about Independent Business Alliances or see who’s interested in launching a new IBA or “buy local” initiative in your community.

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