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(Photo by Mitchell Powers)
Portland Buy Local is now 16 years young, coming of age after some very difficult years for our local business community. Like many others, Portland Buy Local struggled to raise money and retain and recruit volunteers these past few years. As the need for our pandemic related assistance dwindled, the board questioned if there was still a need for this organization. Many of us felt strongly there was, and we heard from many of you that you agreed.
We spent the spring and summer talking with local businesses, community partners, and similar organizations. What we found was that Portland Buy Local is highly regarded, the buy local movement remains strong, and many other great organizations are promoting and advocating for Portland’s small businesses as well. We’re grateful for the many area non-profits and businesses helping to carry the buy local movement today.
So where does this organization fit? We’ve determined that our primary mission hasn’t really changed, but that we need to narrow our focus and think bigger. Portland Buy Local exists for two primary reasons. First, to educate our residents and visitors why they should choose local and how and where to do it. And second, to provide support to our locally owned, independent businesses giving them the resources they need to thrive. Through this work, we envision a community of local, independent businesses that do well and in turn do good.
They are profitable, successful, great places to work, and they meet the needs and make investments in the health of their community.
If you believe it’s possible, it usually is. Our small business owners know this, and they and their employees make the impossible possible every day. You’ve probably heard the Les Brown quote “If you shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Since we’re already in the presence of stars (gazing at you our local businesses), here are some of our moonshot goals, all of which we believe are possible.
First, we will be researching a transition of the organization to a 501C3 nonprofit. This will make us eligible for foundation and government grants as well as larger private and corporate donations to increase our impact for our members and the community at large.
Second, in keeping with our narrowed focus, we will create a series of educational events as well as build a network to provide ongoing, in-depth assistance in the areas our small business community needs most, like marketing, strategic planning, finance, real estate, and human resources.
At the most basic this will include at least bi-monthly in person, online, and recorded Q & A sessions with local professionals. This fall will include sessions on real estate leases, social media marketing, and managing employees. Stay tuned for dates.
Since we’re also thinking bigger, we will begin organizing a day long Indie Biz summit and gala to provide educational sessions on a wide variety of business and buy local topics relevant to businesses and consumers alike. We hope to host this late spring of 2023.
And perhaps the biggest idea, is the Indie Biz Support Network. We want to build a network of businesses helping businesses. Local, independent businesses will apply to be paired with others, large or small, and receive comprehensive, practical learning and assistance in their areas of need.
Third, to continue to provide impactful messaging and education, we need up-to-date statistics. The data we’ve shared in the past is between five and 20 years old. It’s time, we gather new information, at the local level. We plan to start on a long-term project to facilitate a study to quantify the financial and community benefits local, independent businesses provide to our people and region.
These are big goals, and achieving them will require partnerships, funding, and volunteers. If this vision resonates with you, please join us. Donate, join or rejoin as a member, and volunteer on a committee.
Thank you for your support, be well and buy local.
The Portland Buy Local Board of Directors Executive Committee
Amy Landry, Tom Gangewer, John Crane, Amber McDonald
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Portland, ME 04112
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