I’m Joining the Mob
Survey says: Running a business is hard. Running a local business is even harder. Add to the mix a looming, on-demand world dominated by robot cars and Amazon drones, and you can’t even photoshop the picture a few shades rosier. So what, then, can you do in the face of larger than large forces like globalization, stagnating wages, and corporate consolidation? What of systems of credit and lending stacked in favor of corporate chains? What of rising costs of doing business?
In a country where “half of the growth in business establishments from 2010–14 occurred in just twenty counties,” what can you do take on sputtering trends in small business formation? Well, it turns out the first step, at least, is pretty simple. You can join the cash mob.
A cash mob is a group of awesome folks who meet up at a local business and commit to spending some cash. The goal is to support locally-owned businesses, meet new people, and raise awareness. As NPR tells it, the first cash mob was started by Chris Smith, a Buffalo resident that wanted to inspire a movement in his city. Smith’s idea took off. Cash mobs are now active in dozens of states and more than ten countries worldwide. Think of them as a much friendlier, less felonious form of extortion than the real mob.
Shopping local isn’t just some kind of altruistic public service or latte-fueled act of privilege. The economic benefits are real, and there’s plenty of research to back it up. Locally-owned businesses often result in what’s been called a local premium, which is an economist’s way of saying they outperform national chain stores when it comes to keeping money moving through a local economy. In fact, on a per square foot basis, local businesses punch above their weight, in some cases recirculating up to four times as much money through locally-owned supply chains than big box retailers. A study looking at Portland, Maine found “that money spent at local businesses generates as much as a 76% greater return to the local economy than money spent at national chains.”
In total, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), an advocate for localism nationwide, lists eleven different ways shopping local benefits a community. Whichever way you slice it, local business matters. Every dollar you spend is a chance to invest in Tallahassee (or wherever you’re laying down roots). It’s a chance to invest in your neighbors, in your friends, and in our shared future.
I started CashMobTLH because I want to put my money where my twitter is. I want to do something, however small it might be, to help people understand the power of a purchase. There are thousands of entrepreneurs working hard every day to build a life here in Tallahassee. I catch glimpses of them through storefronts or behind point-of-sale machines. They roast coffee. They schedule employees. They handle bookkeeping (god bless them). They cut hair. They sling books, brews, and other things that start with b. Most I’ll never meet. A few I’m lucky enough to know by name. All have my respect.
Their work matters, not just to them and their families, but to each of us, to the identity and the culture of the place we call home. Because when you build a business, you build a community. So come join the mob, and we’ll build it all together, one purchase at a time.