Local Friends for

Local Business

 

 

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Questions and Answers

Local Friends for Local Business has passed its first anniversary... (and its second... and continues...)

The effort began in January of 2012, and over the first year several friends of mine asked a few questions about the effort. As the first anniversary closed in, I found myself thinking about some of those questions a bit more, and I decided others might have some of the same thoughts. So, not really frequently asked… here are some questions and answers about Local Friends for Local Business…

What do you get out of this?

Nothing.

Honestly. Nothing.

I mean, sure, if people do pay attention to it, there is a chance some of them will check out more of the In My Backpack web site. And perhaps some of my other efforts earn a bit of attention thanks to an extra visit or two and someone looking around.

But as far as a financial windfall (or even free ice cream every so often)… there is nothing like that at all involved in this project.

I’m doing it because I want to, and I think many others might find it interesting as well.

Not for money? Then why did you decide to do this?

A bit of a long story. And it breaks down into two different things smashing together and setting off a light-bulb moment.

First of all, when I travel, I really enjoy finding places that I simply couldn’t experience at home. And I don’t necessarily mean touristy spots. Disney World is great. Disney World is hardly a hidden treasure… definitely not a small business… and I don’t know if it really makes a community unique and special (regardless of what you may think about Disney World, Orlando, Kissimmee and everything else from that region).

Some great names that have been found during travels and fit what I’m trying to describe -- and I picked these because they came immediately to mind and not necessarily because they fit all of the Local Friends ideas -- include: La Teresita Restaurant in Tampa, Diamond Creek Restaurant in Peach Springs, and Winking Lizard Tavern in Cleveland.

Some are well known. Some are a bit hidden. Still, these are local treasures and community-making businesses, often unique and not necessarily touristy.

That same concept sort of applies when I am either at or near my home. I have several places that I love going to that are unique, different, and can only be found in one place… or only in two or three spots in that area.

The second element comes into focus with a trip for Terry and I. We were visiting friends that had moved, and before the trip we were sending all sorts of information back and forth about possible things to do and see. Most of them were things our friends had “found” since they moved. You get it… the treasures in their new community.

The “smashing together” came during that trip when we realized we would never see everything our friends were initially suggesting, and it hit me that lots of smaller businesses end up going without attention even by those that live close by. These places deserve some applause and recognition, and hopefully some additional support.

The light bulb this set off was to create a challenge… even if I was the only participant… to identify some category every month and then try to find a small, local business to visit that fit the theme. I figured it would be fun, support some local businesses (even if just a little bit), and possibly even teach me a few things about where I lived.

Why a full month for each challenge?

This has changed since the early days. It started as a challenge spread out over five days.

The main reason it started out as five days is that I didn’t want to make it a single day. People work odd hours… literally around the clock… and the classic standard of the Saturday-Sunday weekend no longer offers a day off from work for many people. It needed extra days to make it accessible to everyone and the personal demands they might be facing.

It eventually became apparent that designating things as a monthly theme covered everyone the best. The goal of the program is to support the little places near you. And that can happen whenever it works best for you.

How are the categories determined?

I haven’t got a clue.

Ok… that’s not completely true. But the reality is that I don’t have a set plan. If people decide to send me suggestions, that would be great.

Usually I get near the end of a month, realize I need to come up with something to announce, and I’ll kick it around to some friends for thoughts or just focus on something on my mind at the time.

Occasionally the idea might fit into something timed really well… like ice cream in the summer. For the most part though, it will simply be an attempt to mix things up a bit.

Are you going to recommend places?

Honestly… no. But in several ways… yes.

We’ll start with the yes.

In the History section for Local Friends for Local Business, I list the current month and all previous efforts. As part of that, I am including the names (with city and state details) of places I’m visiting. On occasion I’m also adding in a few favorites of mine that fit that month’s challenge, as well as places people tell me they have visited or would recommend.

So… absolutely… if you look around, you will find places mentioned in ways that could be considered a recommendation.

The trouble is…

I can’t check everything. Even when I do mention them, there have been places people have told me about that I have never known of before, still haven’t visited, and can’t truly offer many details on.

Could a place be horrendous? Yes. It could.

Could it be that the owner of the place sent me the details looking for a cheap advertisement? Yup. Might happen.

Still… the idea is based on celebrating community treasures and generating neighborhood support. So if any of these notes get you out exploring… finding places you have never tried before… and possibly leaving a few dollars at a small business while telling your friends about this great place you just learned about… awesome. I think the positives are worth it.

How about organized visits with lots of people? Do you think getting a group to stop by a place would be fun?

Sure. It could be. But, I don’t see it as an option that would be a Local Friends for Local Business kind of thing.

Maybe Terry and I get together with some friends and head out to dinner with that month’s Local Friends challenge providing the basic idea for where we go. Maybe you do the same. Awesome. I could see that happening. (Heck… it has happened already.)

I do not see thirty people meeting in a parking lot and surprising a store owner.

Here’s a thought that might explain it better… I would really love to see Local Friends not as a way to increase business for one day at one store, but rather as an on-going adventure based on community awareness and involvement.

I haven’t really thought about Local Friends as something specific to a certain community. (Stay with me...) When Local Friends began, I lived in the region of Rhode Island – Connecticut – Massachusetts, and as such would most often find myself looking around there during the challenges. I also have family and friends in places like Syracuse, Baltimore, Ocala, Seattle, Chicago, Las Vegas and more… even overseas in England and Australia. If ten people visited one store in Warwick, Rhode Island… or, if ten people visited ten different stores in ten different cities… I would consider those moments equally successful, even though in one case a single specific store benefitted more than in the other.

Extending even beyond that though… I would love to see you return to these places... recommend them to friends... often.

It’s not a one-day, one-location idea.

It’s an on-going endeavor. Not just today… but next month as well. It’s about finding that store around the corner that you never visited before. It’s about recognizing the value these establishments bring to our neighborhoods and how they create the unique landscape that makes my home different from yours (and just as exciting).

 



If you have any comments or questions, please contact us at LocalFriends@inmybackpack.com