So I was analyzing my Blogger stats the other day (I’m kind of an info geek like that) and I noticed that the post which has received the most reads in this little baby blog is “Action Idea #1: Support Local Independent Business”. I’m assuming this means one of three things:
1) You all really love the idea of local independent business (yay!)
2) You’re a fan of action and love it when people “do something” or at least suggest doing something
3) You’re a fan of Alex, my tech support hero of the evening who was tagged in the Facebook post (which makes sense, because he’s pretty fabulous).
Or perhaps it’s none of the above and that post just happened to go live at the exact right moment when you were all attentively reading your Facebook feeds.
Whatever the actual reason for reading the blog is, I’m going to assume for the moment that you all are at least somewhat interested in local independent business. And thus, the idea for this blog post, which begins with a question: just how do we support local independent business?
The short answer: shop there, or perhaps to put it more broadly, purchase their goods and services.
Now, perhaps you already do this. Maybe you’re an avid supporter of The 3/50 Project or you have a more personal approach to patronizing your favorite local businesses. Excellent. Now, how do we get more people to join you? Well, first things first, we get people to know that these places exist. Now, how do we do that? I’m going to suggest two approaches: one that comes pretty naturally and the other perhaps not as much.
1. Word of Mouth: When talking with friends or particularly people who are new to the area, resist the urge to lament about the current state of the local business community. Focus on the positive. Make a point to share the good news when you find a great salon, bookstore, bed and breakfast, boutique, restaurant, gift shop and so on.
2. Online Reviews: Think about it, if you're unfamiliar with a town, where do you go to find out about local businesses and attractions? Chances are the internet is at least a part of the equation, whether you access it on your phone or via a computer. Do you ever review local businesses on the internet? If not, I encourage you to visit websites like Trip Advisor, Urban Spoon, or Yahoo/Google Reviews and CONTRIBUTE! Upload pictures and share your insights about your favorite Hibbing businesses.
Now what good is this going to do? Well, the hope is actions like this will contribute to building a critical mass of people who actively choose to spend their time and money in Hibbing. Businesses will flourish and contribute to the tax base of the community as well as other civic projects. This sustained success will encourage other entrepreneurs to take a chance on Hibbing. Empty store fronts will fill. There will be a renewed sense of hope and community pride.
A little idealistic and naïve? Perhaps. It is an idea that I believe can work though, if enough of us contribute. What do you think?