Archive for October, 2014

The Power of Local Business

Photo Credit: Bioneers Conference 2009, flickr

Business Alliance for Local Living Economies promotes local business. Founded by Judy Wicks, long-time entrepreneur and owner of the White Dog Café  in Philadelphia, BALLE seeks to build the new economy, “one that will gradually displace our destructive and failing economy with a system that supports health, prosperity, and happiness for all people and regenerates the vital ecosystems upon which our economy depends.”  Moreover, BALLE envisions accomplishing this task in one generation.

How will BALLE accomplish this daunting task? By connecting leaders, spreading solutions, and attracting investment.

First, BALLE connects leaders.  Local business leaders face many obstacles.  Competing with giant corporations is not easy.  How can a local business owner source local products, pay workers a fair wage, keep prices competitive, and obtain financing? BALLE business leaders support one another in facing these challenges, and they dream up creative responses.  For example, BALLE entrepreneurs created crowdfunding and cash mobs, and moved their money from Wall Street to Main Street to support local financing. BALLE’s premise: “Movements gain momentum and scale when their leaders share ideas and learning, coordinate action, and work together to advance a larger agenda.”

Second, BALLE spreads solutions.  Connected leaders share their solutions with one another.  BALLE business leaders share their most effective strategies and tools.  For example, a recent BALLE webinar addressed the complex question of how local entrepreneurs can measure their impact.  Because funders and partners increasingly focus on assessment, local business leaders need to know how to quantify their impact on their communities. The webinar provided two real-life case studies and an online assessment tool.

Third, BALLE attracts investment.  Traditional bank financing and venture capital favor larger businesses or fast-growing startups.  Slower-growing local businesses fall through the cracks of traditional financing.  BALLE demonstrates to investors the value of small local businesses and attracts non-traditional financing. Recently, for example, five BALLE Fellows won a total of $500,000 in USDA grants.  One of them, Andrea Dean, in Hawi, Hawaii, received $67,863 for Kahua Paa Mua Inc., to train taro farmers and expand direct-to-consumer market opportunities for taro products, as well as $83,530 for the North Kohala Community Resource Center to increase low-income access to locally grown food and expand market opportunities for local farmers and producers.

BALLE demonstrates the power of local business to provide better products and services, to spark local economies, and to build a new economy for a better world.  The power of local business is just beginning to be tapped.  May BALLE’s vision continue to enlist new entrepreneurs to build this new world-transforming economy.