|Community members help local businesses with cash mob|
|Written by Jacob Lambert, Daily Vidette Senior Staff|
|Sunday, 22 April 2012 12:35|
There’s a new mob in town, and they are striking small businesses on the 10th and 20th of every month, armed with no more than their wallets and a steadfast desire to keep the economy of Bloomington-Normal thriving.
Vikki Baptiste, creator of BloNo Cash Mob, adopted the movement, which originated with Cleveland native Andrew Samtoy as a means of stimulating economic growth through supporting small businesses that put money back into their local economies.
“I liked the flash mob idea, but cash mob had a purpose to it … without the bad dancing,” Baptiste said.
The concept is simple. Pick one of the nearly 360 small businesses in Bloomington–Normal, and spend $10 on the 10th of the month, or $20 on the 20th of the month.
Having already mobbed three businesses, Quinn’s Shell Station, Common Ground Grocery, and North Street Records in Normal, many Bloomington–Normal residents are beginning to take notice as the number of supporters continues to grow exponentially. However, when it comes to selecting a business to mob, there is a fair amount of logistics that come into play.
“Not every business is the kind of business that you can cash mob,” Baptiste said. “Someone suggested that we do a tattoo parlor; I don’t know how many people want to get a $20 tattoo.”
She added that a successful cash mob requires an open line of communication between the mob and the businesses they plan to visit. This ensures that small businesses have the time to prepare for an influx of customers.
“I would love it to be a complete surprise, but it’s just not practical,” she said.
While she knows that one cash mob is not enough to save a business, it does go a long way in supporting the small business culture that is a fundamental part of both Downtown Bloomington and Uptown Normal.
Money put into small businesses is money that benefits the community at large, and this is the main motivation behind the Cash Mob movement.
“I want to preserve the Uptown, Downtown feeling so it’s still there for my daughters when they grow up and they are shopping with their own families,” Baptiste said. “We want to make sure we haven’t driven small business owners out of town just because there are cheaper options.”
Jeremy Plue, ISU alum and owner of Meltdown Graphix in Bloomington, was an early supporter of BloNo Cash Mob as one of the four small business owners that originally helped create the cash mob movement via Facebook.
Beyond benefiting the local economy, Plue said buying from small businesses typically results in a better overall buying experience, with reliable customer service and higher quality products.
“There are a lot of people who use online sites to get their stuff and they are unhappy with the customer service and product they get,” he said. “What do you do when you order shirts from a company in California, you get them in the mail, and you don’t like what you see? You’re pretty much stuck with what you’ve got.”
With so many small businesses surrounding ISU, Plue said students could play a huge role in keeping these businesses alive and well.
“I don’t know if students realize how much they can affect my company or any company from one week to the next,” Plue said. “[Students] should have pride in the fact that we get so much from them, and even though they are taking so much from us, they have the opportunity to give back just as much … one person can make a difference to a company like mine.”
Since its inception, the BloNo Cash Mob group on Facebook now has over 400 members from small business owners to community members and students. Plue said he hopes continued awareness of the group will convince other large local businesses, such as State Farm, to get involved in supporting the movement.
Furthermore, he hopes that those who do join the group come to realize how much of an impact they can have by making the choice to buy locally every so often.
“If every person in the group [on Facebook], which is over 400 people, went out and spent $20 at one company on one day, that’s over $8,000,” he said. “Most companies don’t make $8,000 in a week. With that kind of power, it’s a no-brainer.”
While the future of the BloNo Cash Mob remains undetermined, Plue said he hopes students and community members will continue to do their part in supporting what he calls the “unsung heroes of business.”
“Ideally, I just want people to realize how important our small businesses are. We are the engine behind every local economy; we are what keep things going,” Plue said.