Monday, October 21, 2013

Looking Local

In a round-about way, I recently discovered an organization that every independently owned business should know about: The 3/50 Project.

It is an organization, founded by former retailer, retail consultant, and professional speaker Cinda Baxter, built to strengthen independent brick and mortar businesses. Here is how it got its name:
  • 3: What three independently owned businesses would you miss if they disappeared? Stop in. Say hello. Pick up something that brings a smile. Your purchases are what keeps those businesses around.
  • 50: If half the employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned independent businesses, it would generate $42.6 billion in revenue. 
"Independent" merchants who have no outside corporate support of any kind are the same businesses who return the largest percentage of their annual revenue to the local economy, according to a 2009 Civic Economics Study. Stated on The 3/50 Project's website: "For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community in taxes, payroll and other expenditures. If you spend that in a national chain, only $43 stays here."

Those are good reasons for consumers to patronize their local independent retailers. And the free resources and networking offered by The 3/50 Project are good reasons for independently owned businesses to join their ranks of supporters.

It came as no surprise to me to see some of my favorite small retailers on The 3/50 Project's list of participating independents in my town. The 3/50 Project encourages membership and support from all around the country. It only started in 2009 and is on a great growth path (5,000 indie businesses joined in its first two months of existence and grew to 23,000 by 2011). I believe many, even most, people want the small brick and mortar businesses to survive, we just don't realize the impact of our dollars. The 3/50 Project spells it out and helps small businesses enhance their social media presence, network with each other, and find strength in numbers. 

In 2011, The 3/50 Project launched an iPhone App called LookLocal to give small business owners a tool in the battle for consumer attention. According to their press release, LookLocal features “independent brick and mortar” merchants, locating those closest to where the user stands, regardless of whether they are at home or on the road--a feature no regional or city-specific app can offer.

As The 3/50 Project seeks to make connections, I discovered it on my way to a wedding. I am heading to a family wedding in Denver on November 2nd and saw, on the website of the B&B where I am staying, a link to The 3/50 Project and I was curious. So I explored and found more. The B&B also has a close relationship with a local independently owned book store, The Tattered Cover. That prompted me to initiate a conversation with The Tattered Cover about consigning my book. Life is full of connections.

As the year's biggest shopping season approaches, look around you and find those indie retailers who need our support and whose creativity and hard work offer unique, high-quality products and services far above their bigger competitors with the big advertising budgets. They can positively impact our way of life more than we know.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Learning from the Pros

While I was working on the research and writing of my book, I tried to read as many memoirs, biographies, and collections as I could. This tactic introduced me to so many different writing styles and was my D-I-Y approach to learning how to tell a story. From that collection of books, emerged my short-list of wonderful guidebooks:

  1. Growing Up, by Russell Baker: It still holds as my all-time favorite memoir. His gift of story-telling is unsurpassed. This should be read within the same 90 days as reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith.
  2. Anything and everything by Anne Lamott, but especially Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. For any anxious, new, blocked, or expert writers, this is a gem like no other.
  3. All Over But the Shoutin', by Rick Bragg. An unbelievable story told with incredible candor.
  4. Living Out Loud, by Anna Quindlen: A great collection of columns and perfect bedside book.
  5. The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses, by Jeannette Walls. Thanks to Dennis, I have a signed copy of The Glass Castle with Ms. Walls' encouragement to me, "To Kathy, Good luck writing! Jeannette Walls"
  6. God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours, by Regina Brett.
From the list, you can see that I am genetically predisposed to enjoy works by columnists! Ellen Goodman is my other go-to gal for describing the human experience and how it affects the heart.

So with my lessons from the pros, I plowed ahead and tried to write a book from my folders of research. In fact, I wrote the first draft of what would become Preacher Kid, from cover to cover, as a detached reporter focused on getting the facts right. Then after some soul-searching and life detours, I rewrote the entire book from a personal perspective, recognizing that my voice added value to my grandma's story.
Preacher Kid on the Needham Library "New" shelf!

I think, over time, my voice may develop into something different, but will still retain a certain true core. When I write my next book (!), we will see if any evolution has taken place. One of my favorite voices to listen to is Anne Lamott. She has a freshness, intelligence, and liveliness found in her stream-of-consciousness writing that engages me as if she is sitting on my back porch, shooting the breeze with me. She writes with an abandonment I don't yet have. She possesses a window into my soul and much of what she writes articulates or uncovers true feelings I share. It is a fantastic combination.

And speaking of Anne Lamott, I won her latest book in a contest this week! When I saw that she was giving away copies of her soon-to-be-released book via Goodreads, I decided to click the button and enter.

I wrote about one of Anne's other books in a prior post. Her sequel to Help, Thank, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers was written in the aftermath of the December 2012 Newtown, CT tragedy. The book is titled, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and RepairIf you know me well, you can see the appropriateness, on many levels, of me winning Stitches.

Thank you to all of the professionals who have helped me so far!