Local Motion Part 2

Get on board the “Buy Local” movement and tap into enthusiastic support for your independent store!
by : 

Maggie Feeney

January 9, 2014

(Part 2 of a 3-part series)

[Go back to Part 1] | [Jump to Part 3]

So you’re ready to start a Buy Local business alliance in your town. You’ve done your research and reached out to other businesses you think would make a great working group to launch it. Now, it’s time to hold your first official meeting.

When you call the first meeting, do so with an agenda set up and sent to people beforehand, so they can come knowing the structure and direction of the meeting and be prepared with ideas. This is the first in probably several meetings in the “forming” stage of your group. It’s important for everyone to have a voice in this first meeting (and, arguably, all your meetings) and to not stifle anyone’s creativity. Still, you want to get things accomplished, which is why that agenda is so important for gently steering people back to the focus of the meeting.

You can help set the tone and pace of the meeting by starting with ground rules, which I prefer to call “community agreements.” A few I appreciate are listed below:

  • Step up/step back (meaning for those who tend to dominate a discussion, step back and let others share and for those who typically sit back and observe, step up and contribute)
  • Keep an open mind
  • Focus on the positive
  • Be present (silence cell phones, don’t text during the meeting, listen attentively, etc.)
  • Suspend judgment and assumptions
  • Start on time/end on time

Hopefully everyone will leave knowing what everyone else hopes to gain by being involved in the group, what everyone’s vision is moving forward, and what the next steps are—even if that’s just knowing when and where the next meeting will be held.

We’ve got a group—now what?

Whether you realized it or not, you are now a community organizer! While that may sound like a big job for someone who just wanted to increase sales in their store, it’s not so bad now that you have a group to work with and people with an undoubtedly diverse skill set (Suzie is a marketing wizard, Gene knows practically everyone in town by name, Mary serves on the county council, etc). For more help moving forward, check out BALLE’s comprehensive guide, “Getting Started in Your Community: Ten Steps to Starting a Network of Locally Owned Businesses,” which is available for download here: https://bealocalist.org/sites/default/files/10%20Steps%20to%20Starting%2.... In very clear and readable terms, it covers how to decide on your membership criteria and geographic scope, how to create a steering committee and action teams, how to draft your mission and vision, and much more.

[Continued in Part 3]

Maggie Feeney is Editor in Chief of Retailing Insight.