by Marilyn Koop (Norman, Oklahoma)
It all started with listening to NPR. I was listening to the program Marketplace Money (which I don’t normally listen to) when the story of the Cleveland Cash Mob aired. How brilliant to bring awareness and focus to locally-owned businesses. I was struck by the utter simplicity and impact of what a cash mob could do – symbolically and tangibly -for a community. All I could think in that moment was “I am doing this Norman. I’m just gonna do it.” So, I did it. When I got home I created a Norman Cash Mob Twitter account; a Norman Cash Mob Facebook group; and, a blog Norman Cash Mob. I was doing it. And I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel to do it either – Cleveland Cash Mob already had it down. Andrew Samtoy was extremely helpful and supportive when I made contact with him, asking for advice and clarification. Chalk up another mark in the Benefits category of social media tools. By utilizing as many forms of social media tools as possible, and by using old-school text messaging, Norman Cash Mob was created and grew in a very short period of time.
I am fortunate enough to live in a community that is FULL of locally-owned shops, one element that makes Norman, Oklahoma a very special town. But my town is growing larger everyday. When I first moved to Norman to attend the University of Oklahoma, Norman had a population of 75,000 and now, 25 years later Norman is a small city of 111,000 -without the student population of OU. With this growth and the ever-proliferate amount of “big box” national chain stores, it’s very important that our community not only continue to support locally-owned small businesses but passionately support them. Participating in a cash mob is a demonstrable act of this passion.
Above all the practical reasons to organize a cash mob for my community, it’s the expression of love toward our locally-owned shops that people – including myself -connect with the “why do it” of Norman Cash Mob. To know that just by gathering together to show this love to a chosen local shop, awareness is raised; money infuses a business; people enjoy the act and the fun; and, it becomes something greater than just the act itself. That’s local-empowerment that ripples and rolls like the wind through the grass on the plains.
The inaugural Norman Cash Mob was held on December 2, 2011 at 6 p.m. The local shop mobbed was a great, unique place The Wild Hare, owned by Reese Truesdell. We had a great mix of people show up, including lots of families. From 6 p.m – 8 p.m., 25 cash mobbers dropped $955 in The Wild Hare. Quite remarkable when you consider the size of Norman. Of course, we all viewed it as a great success and people were ready for the next Norman Cash Mob (which will be held December 16, 2011). It is the goal of Norman Cash Mob to do a cash mob at least once a month. I believe that the combination of fun, adventure, socializing, and demonstrating love for their locally-owned shops, Norman Cash Mob will continue to grow.
So why do people get together and do a cash mob? Maybe we feel more connected to our local shop owners because they’re our friends; our kids play together; we went to school together; we serve on non-profits together; we’re neighbors. Truly, this connection we feel contributes to our desire for our locally-owned businesses to succeed. The more we support our local shops, the stronger our community is as a whole. It’s a pretty simple dynamic but one that still requires tending and care. The more people are talking about Norman Cash Mob, the more people are becoming informed and passionate about supporting their hometown shops which was the goal all along.