During the first week of July, over 40 local business alliances across the country celebrated Independents Week, an annual event that draws public attention to the importance of supporting locally owned, independent businesses.
The first Independents Week took place in Tampa, Florida, in 2002. It was conceived by Carla Jimenez, co-owner of Inkwood Books and co-founder of the Tampa Independent Business Alliance. The event was so successful, earning extensive local media coverage, that Jimenez continued to organize it each year and, in 2005, the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) took the idea national.
“Since AMIBA began promoting this event nationally we’ve seen the campaign take on a life of its own, from simple letters-to-the-editor to much more elaborate, well-planned community events, ” said Jennifer Rockne, director of AMIBA.
In Humboldt County, California, residents could be spotted wearing special pins indicating their participation in the Humboldt County Independent Business Alliance’s “Go Local Challenge,” in which participants pledged to shop only at local independent businesses for the week. Two of the county’s largest cities, Arcata and Eureka, as well as the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, issued proclamations expressing support for local businesses. The initiative was featured in several local media stories.
Local First Arizona, a coalition of some 900 local businesses in the Phoenix area, disseminated its Independents Week message via the airwaves. The alliance urged its members to underwrite programming on local NPR affiliates KJZZ and KBAQ. For every two underwriting spots, Local First Arizona received a 15-second public service announcement mentioning its website and Independents Week.
The group also made a “Golden Ticket” available, which could be redeemed for 20 percent off at any participating member business during the week. Several local radio shows and the Arizona Republic covered the campaign.
Local First Arizona is already seeing positive results. “Businesses reported about one-third of the people who used the [Golden] Ticket were new customers,” said Kimber Lanning, director of Local First. In addition, she said more than 50 new businesses joined Local First, the webpage where the Golden Ticket could be downloaded received 8,000 views, and overall site traffic was up 40 percent.
Meanwhile, the Albuquerque Independent Business Alliance placed a month’s worth of advertising on the side of city buses encouraging locals to “Celebrate Independents,” and held a special “Indie Fiesta” featuring speakers and booths showcasing strategies for growing local business and making the city’s local enterprises more environmentally sound.
In Frisco, Colorado, the newly formed Summit Independent Business Alliance sponsored a float in two local parades. The float, which spectators voted “best of parade,” was decorated as a bee with the group’s “Be Local ” Buy Local” logo. As the float rolled through the parade route, emcees spoke to the thousands of onlookers about the benefits of independent businesses.
In Portland, Maine, the Portland Independent Business and Community Alliance invited residents to sign the “Declaration of Independents,” which was available at locations throughout the city, organized a “Meet Your Local Farmer” event at the Portland Farmer’s Market, and released its first printed directory of local businesses. The campaign and its message were featured on the evening news on the local NBC affiliate.