By Alex Gladu, Independent We Stand
Founded in 2005 by a small group of active local business owners, Cambridge Local First (CLF) has always been ahead of the curve. Now, the group’s latest innovation gives local businesses and local consumers a whole new reason to celebrate.
CLF, a long time affiliate of the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) and local affiliate of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), in Cambridge, Massachusetts, began with 12 local business owners with the desire to expand buy local support in their community. Since 2005, the group has grown exponentially, thanks to dedicated leadership and innovative ideas. Laury Hammel, for example, serves on CLF’s Steering Committee, is the co-founder of BALLE and he runs his own successful local business. Rachael Solem, a CLF co-chair, has owned and operated her local bed and breakfast, Irving House, for more than 23 years. Within just one year, CLF grew from its initial 12 members to a network of 100 local businesses and community members. Now, the number is even higher, and the group offers several different levels of memberships.
In the spring, CLF launched its newest benefit for local businesses and consumers. Known as the CLF Community Card, it’s a community-wide consumer loyalty program that rewards shoppers for repeatedly choosing local businesses in the Cambridge as opposed to national chains. The Community Card gives shoppers exclusive discounts at many of CLF’s member businesses, with offers being changed and added regularly as the program continues. Community Card holders are also invited to CLF networking events and seminars. The Community Card costs just $20, and it comes with a CLF membership.
Loyalty programs have long been identified as a strategic opportunity for small businesses. According to Manta and BIA/Kelsey, 64 percent of small businesses with consumer loyalty programs say that their programs have been effective. What’s more, the same report asserts that repeat customers typically spend 67 percent more than first-time customers, making them a valuable audience to attract. Whereas local businesses often have to create and maintain these programs themselves, CLF has brought this approach to the entire community of local businesses, making it easy for them to adopt such a program and see results.
By bringing local businesses together and introducing innovative programs like the Community Card, CLF strengthens the local economy and the local business community of Cambridge. To see this type of innovation in your community, find a local business alliance near you through BALLE or the AMIBA. If there isn’t one in your area, consider starting your own. There’s no better way to start spreading the buy local movement than by working with like-minded businesses and experts.
Independent We Stand is dedicated to helping independent businesses across the country engage their communities and encouraging customers to buy local. If you’re a business owner, get buy local resources, tips and news by registering at www.independentwestand.org/membership/. If you’re a consumer, take the pledge to buy local and find local businesses in your community at www.independentwestand.org/take-a-stand/join-the-movement/.
About the Author
Alex is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is double-majoring in Public Relations and Spanish. Since becoming a writer for Independent We Stand, she has fully adopted the ‘buy local’ lifestyle. Her favorite indie business is Sugarland, a bakery in Chapel Hill, N.C, where she has been known to go a little cupcake crazy. She hopes to attend law school and pursue a career in nonprofit or political communication.