by Laura Winward
Wakefield, Rhode Island
I had never heard of cash mobs until a friend posted the WSJ article about them on his facebook page. I thought, “Brilliant! Why aren’t these happening everywhere, everyday?” I forwarded it on my facebook page and sort of waited for someone to take up the charge.
And I waited.
And I waited.
And no one was doing it. I know what it’s like to not see a customer all week and to have people think that since you haven’t gone out of business, you must be doing ok, and all that time you know that you look solvent because you keep taking money out of your pocket to keep those doors open. It was on me to get the ball rolling. I love our merchants. We all have great ideas, but we all find excuses not to execute them. This was something I figured I could handle doing.
First I drove around surrounding towns to see who was new or who I thought could use the help. I discovered a bunch of new businesses I didn’t know about! Then I solicited ideas from my facebook friends. That’s how the location was chosen.
I picked a date and a time based on when my store was closed, because A) I didn’t want it to be about my store, and B) I could only do it if I wasn’t working. I gave myself about a three-week window because I figured it would need some time to build momentum. I don’t tweet (although I have a twitter account), so it was done totally through facebook. I created a facebook page and sent it to about 40 invites to friends and posted on some walls of businesses or people I thought would pass it on. And boy did they. By they day of the event over 650 fb invites had been sent and it was being talked about on pages over and over.
Our local papers are really good about supporting local businesses. The town paper ran a “pre-article” about a week before to let people know it was happening. The local patch.com website put it on their calendar and promoted it. I sent it to our three local tv stations, and one ran a small segment the morning of the event.
I picked a large parking lot close to the business to meet in. I used my sandwich board to mark the location so people were sure they were in the right place. The rest is sort of history. They came. They spent. They had fun. Most importantly, they talked about it….a lot! The two local papers and the patch.com were there. They spent and they interviewed and they are writing follow ups.
When I announced mine, Tim (the one who mentioned it on the blog) jumped right on the band wagon and organized #2 in his town of Warwick for next week. Another business owner from the town of Westerly who also has a store in my town is talking of doing one there. After our event, another business owner who has a store in our town and in Providence said he was probably going to organize one up there.
Today I started a new facebook page on the suggestion of a friend called Rhode Island Cash Mobs to be a central location for getting the word out about cash mobs occuring all over the state. I’m hoping it keeps its steam and happens all year long. If I don’t see another creep up here in town within a month, I’ll twist some arms until it happens.
I wouldn’t say anything went poorly. I think if we where able to have it on a weekend, we likely would have gotten higher attendence, but we did pretty darn good even with it being in the afternoon on a weekday. I also would have given the business owner more advanced notice. I didn’t get hold of her until a day before, so she only had one other person on staff. I ended up stepping behind the counter and helping out (or getting in the way, not sure which!) so really I wasn’t in the crowd feeling the energy. I wish I had been. Other than that, it went pretty seamlessly and was really easy to pull together.
I’m excited for the next one!
A Cash Mob in Bellport, New York is going to be on Inside Edition today (Monday, January 30, 2012) – check it out!
I want to applaud the first person to send us information about a Cash Mob that they started since seeing it in the last few days. Rachel M. Cotton-Smith (which is a pretty awesome name) is doing a CashMob at Arts on Main in Gastonia, NC in an effort to revitalize their downtown. It will be Saturday, Feb. 4th from 5-7 p.m. The Facebook invitation is at https://www.facebook.com/artsonmain .
Great Job Rachel!!!
I was at a meeting this morning and heard about Huntington Bank (which, for full disclosure, is my bank and I love it) getting this award for lending to and supporting small businesses. I contacted them and got this press release. In terms of size, Huntington seems to be between the super-local credit unions and the too-big-to-fail national banks, so it’s great to see them both growing and putting an emphasis on supporting small businesses in their communities! If anyone knows of other banks that do this sort of thing please let us know in the comments so we can celebrate them.
January 26, 2012
HUNTINGTON NAMED “GRAND SLAM” WINNER FOR SBA LENDING IN CLEVELAND DISTRICT
Huntington also No. 1 in Midwest SBA lending; No. 3 in the nation for SBA 7(a) loans
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Today Huntington (NASDAQ: HBAN; www.huntington.com) announced that it has been named the “Grand Slam” winner in number of loans (701), loan volume ($102,382,685), minority lending and 504 lending in the Cleveland SBA District Office. These totals are more than six times higher than the SBA results of any other financial institution in the Northeast Ohio region.
This distinction reflects the bank’s commitment to small business lending in the Midwest, and follows Huntington having been named “Triple Play” award winner the past two years for number of loans, loan volume and minority lending. Huntington is also the third-largest SBA lender in the country in number of loans, and the leader in Ohio, and in the bank’s Midwest markets in both number of loans and overall dollar volume.
“I’m pleased to recognize Huntington Bank for their continued strong commitment to making capital available to Northern Ohio small-business owners,” stated Gil Goldberg, district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Cleveland District Office. “Huntington recognizes that the success and growth of small-business is vital to our region’s economic recovery, and they work hard to meet the demand for loans from the small businesses in our area.”
“Huntington business bankers and SBA specialists in Northeast Ohio come to work each day with the firm belief that small business success is the heart of our country’s economic revival. Our SBA expertise assures Huntington will place entrepreneurs in the right SBA products, providing the access to capital to grow and sustain small businesses. As we move forward in this new year, our priorities remain job creation, business growth and expansion,” said Dan Walsh, president for Huntington in Northeast Ohio. “Huntington is proud of our SBA success and appreciates our long-standing partnership with Gil Goldberg and his Cleveland District SBA team.”
Huntington also announced last week that it has now lent more than $2.68 billion to small businesses since January 2010, which puts the bank well ahead of its goal to provide $4 billion in financing to small businesses in the Midwest over a three-year period.
For more information about Huntington and its small business lending programs, visit https://www.huntington.com or call 1-800-480-2001.
The San Diego Union-Tribune published a story about Cash Mobs a few weeks ago that I’ve been thinking about ever since because of this quote:
“I think it’s a fad, unfortunately,” said Bernhard Schroeder, director of the Entrepreneurial Management Center at San Diego State University. He said a one-shot approach isn’t enough to make a struggling business solvent.
“I think the people that are doing (cash mobs), they get more out of it than the small business person,” he said. “They want to feel that they are helping someone. But they’re not helping them out in a sustainable way.”
The reason I’ve been thinking about it is because, first, we’ve repeatedly stated that Cash Mobs isn’t designed to save businesses. If a business relies on Cash Mobs to save it from going under, that business has far larger problems than a Cash Mob can fix. Cash Mobs are admittedly one-shot infusions; they’re not meant to be repetitive or sustain a business. However, in that one-shot, the business clearly benefits – check out the fantastic mob in Chagrin Falls as an example.
Second, people are supposed get something out of Cash Mobs! Whether they get “more out of it than the small business person” is up for debate; if the small business person is selling something at a price they determine, and the Cash Mobber buys it at that price, I think most people would agree that, according to the market, both parties are benefiting and making a fair trade. In addition, the business is getting publicity – in some cases, a LOT of publicity – and I think it is difficult to put a value on that.
However, there are other benefits to Cash Mobs that aren’t exactly part of the business transaction. Cash Mobs are about creating and supporting our communities. In this, I will concede that the participants probably gain more in that we’re creating communities and networking people who otherwise might not be connected. For example, my friend Chris told me yesterday that he met some amazing people at the last Cleveland Cash Mob – like David Meyers from Cleveland Woodworks and Andrew Edward from the Cleveland Leadership Center. He and David are talking about working on a project together, and then he asked about the Cleveland Bridge Builders (which is run through the Cleveland Leadership Center). These aren’t the sorts of connections that you make at networking events or office happy hours – they go deeper than that. Making these connections is part of the community-building that I think is at the real heart of Cash Mobs.
To Schroeder’s first point: is it a fad? Who knows? What I do know is that right now, lots of people are doing great things for local businesses across the country and around the world, and if that’s a fad, it’s a fad worth supporting.
Chagrin Falls Cash Mob is getting HUGE – USA Today and the AP picked up the story! Great job, Jim!
by Marty Mordarski
…or maybe we do.
One of the indirect benefits of participating in a Cash Mob is that you can’t help but learn something new about your community. Not only can you become familiar with what might be a previously unknown locally owned businesses, but you also get to meet new people with whom you immediately have at least one thing in common: a shared passion for your community. That shared passion makes taking the next step (initiating a conversation with a stranger) a little easier to initiate.
Conversations with strangers can teach you a lot. You can learn about different ways in which people are supporting other local businesses. You might even learn about other local businesses that you could potentially patronize in the future.
Sure, you can educate yourself. There are lots of things you can do to learn more about the local businesses in your community. Here’s a short list…
- Google “local businesses [your community here]”;
- Find and use sites like Yelp! and others devoted to highlighting local businesses;
- Look in the Yellow Pages;
- Become a friend, fan, and follower of local businesses or “groups” on Twitter or Facebook;
- Attend local chamber of commerce meetings;
- If you’re really ambitious, walk down Main St. in your neighborhood and jot down the names of all the shops and stores you believe are locally owned.
For as practical (or impractical) as those ideas are, I’d argue that the type of “education” you can receive from meeting living, breathing people face-to-face (at a Cash Mob, for example) is still far more powerful. It’s because you learn the “why.” Why do your neighbors think it’s important to support this (or any) local business? The “why” is what drives us and it’s ultimately what connects us…and I think it’s tough to really understand just from a Google search or the number of “Likes”, “Fans”, or “Stars” next to the name of a business.
So when you Cash Mob, take advantage of one of the indirect but most important benefits of the whole activity. Meet someone new, talk about the reasons why you’re there – and connect!
Our first LA Cash Mob took place a week before Christmas (December 17th), on a Saturday night when many people had company parties or other holiday commitments. With only one week of promotion, it needed to be an event I could convince both strangers and friends to come out for, an event that sounded, well, fun. That actually WAS FUN. The store needed to be unique, with lots of possible gift items for men and women. Kellygreen Home in Santa Monica was exactly that…and then some. The shop prides itself on its eco-friendly products made by many local artists, all which promote a green way of life.
So we met, all twenty of us, on the street corner nearby, donned Santa hats and antlers, and descended upon Kellygreen Home. The Cash Mob felt like a shopping party, complete with snacks and hot apple cider provided by the store owner, Kelly Van Patter. The local artists themselves made an appearance, offering samples of their edible products and standing by to answer questions. After much talking and browsing, the buying had begun. We walked away with all sorts of goodies: candles make from recycled wine bottles, iPad cases make from recycled wetsuits, backpacks made from bike tire tubing, and much more. When it was all said and done, we had cashed in over a thousand dollars total. Kelly told me later that it was her biggest shopping day since she had opened, three months earlier.
Everyone who mobbed that night couldn’t believe what a cool store Kellygreen Home was and how much fun they had. And the after party…well, it turned out to be perfect. The Santa Monica Pub Crawl, an annual event that supports the local Santa Monica bars while fundraising for the Westside Food Bank, was happening on exactly the same night. We ended up getting tickets and combining our two events: Cash Mobbing followed by SM Pub Crawling at Salute Wine Bar and Finn McCool’s, complete with Santa hats.
I’ve learned two of the best things about Cash Mobs are the awesome stores you discover and the new friends you make. That definitely happened here. I came in with cash and left with not only great Christmas gifts (they were pretty awesome), but more importantly, new friends.
The second LA Cash Mob crashed a store in Burbank as part of a tandem mob with San Diego on January 8th. How was this store picked? Well, I had help in the form of good luck and good timing. I had just received a Christmas present from my good friend and fellow Cash Mobber, Courtney Kirkbride. It was an engraved necklace from a little shop in Burbank called “Mindful Nest”. It sounded interesting, so I looked it up. It was exactly 1.2 miles away from my place. I’d never even heard of it! This was an absolute travesty. But it also was a reminder of why Cash Mobs are so important. Without a doubt, Mindful Nest is an awesome store that definitely gives back to the community, selling only products that are made in America, with many of them handmade from local artists in the Burbank area. In fact, I’d even met one of these artists, Chad Meserve, years before through Courtney herself, but had no idea that his handmade robot figurines had been on sale just up the street from me. And now I know. And so do the twenty people that showed up for the second mob. And some of them now are in touch with the local artists, whose pieces they took home. And they will tell their friends about this store. Maybe they’ll give their mob goodies as gifts, and can tell the recipient about it too. This, in my opinion, is by far the most valuable role that the Cash Mob can play. The money that is spent is a nice bonus, but the real gift is that of exponential exposure- in this case, for both the store and the artists whose work was for sale. We are “forcing” a massive amount of “volunteer shoppers” to shop at a store they probably (due to chance) may never have set foot in, and probably would NEVER have set foot in, without the Cash Mob. I guarantee everyone that came to that Cash Mob has mentioned that store to someone since Sunday. And I guarantee many of those Cash Mobbers, myself included, will be back.
After shopping we found ourselves down the street at Tony’s Darts Away, a local pub that offers California’s finest drafts and yummy grub. But again, following in the tradition of the first mob, we didn’t just stop there. The hardcore mob that was left traveled over to Don Cuco’s Mexican Restaurant after Tony’s for margaritas and fajitas. It was a spectacularly fun evening!
For media coverage of LA’s Cash Mob, and other Cash Mobs, click here.
Lauren Way asked the staff of one of the San Diego Mob targets for their perspective on what it was like to be mobbed. The response:
The staff of Bluestocking Books is pleased to have been selected to be ‘Cash Mobbed’. The owner, Kris Nelson, was driven to the verge of tears of happiness about receiving this type of acknowledgement from the community. Not only did Cash Mob inject dollars into the business and the local community, but excitement and energy, too. The love has spread, encouraging our regular supporters to comment on their positive experiences in the store over the years, and their interest in keeping a book shoppe in this location, where one has been for about 50 years (Bluestocking is the third, existing in the location for over 12 years). Bluestocking Books takes great pleasure in being a part of the neighborhood of Hillcrest. We look forward to the future here. We are thankful to Cash Mob for the boost on all levels!
A few people have asked us a new question recently: “Where do you see Cash Mobs going?”
What they usually mean is, is this something that is going to continue? Is it going to evolve and change? What will it look like in six months or a year?
The answer is, quite simply: we don’t know.
We certainly see this continuing; there’s a lot of momentum behind the Mobs already going. Los Angeles just doubled the size of its first Cash Mob; Lisa Gilmore has been pushing the idea harder than pretty much anyone, going so far as to hand out fliers and set up booths at farmers markets. San Diego has had two, both successes; Norman, Oklahoma has had two; Victoria, BC had twelve last month. We’ve had two in Cleveland, putting about $3,000 into Tremont and Ohio City, and the list of mobs around the world is growing by the day. The neat thing about having all of these people acting independently and doing things their own way is that it becomes sort of like a Federal system – a whole bunch of people are experimenting, changing rules, and doing things their own way – or not. They’re learning about what works and, what’s probably as important, what doesn’t work.
What we’re hoping for is that everyone will share their experiences here, on the blog, the good and, more importantly, the bad. We really, REALLY want to know what you think contributed to the success of your Cash Mobs and what you would do differently in the future.
Let us know, either in the comments or by emailing us something we can put up as a stand-alone post!