There is likely no entity in Savannah that is more adamant about you buying local goods and services than Buy Local.
Established in 1999, the organization is comprised of over 150 business that call Chatham County home. Community advocacy, access to support, selection, price and convenience are all values that make up the Buy Local philosophy.
The Buy Local mission is to support independent, locally owned and operated businesses in the greater Chatham County area, said Courtney Rawlins, president of Buy Local. Their intend is to maintain the unique community character, provide continuing opportunities for entrepreneurs, build the community economic strength and prevent the displacement of community-based businesses by national and global entities.
According to the U.S. Labor Bureau approximately 50% of small businesses fail within the first five years. One way that Buy Local aims to minimize this number for Chatham County business owners is by allowing newer entrepreneurs to connect with seasoned business owners who have “been there, done that.”
“We understand that we all need one another to be successful so we span the gamut,” Rawlins said. “We have people that have businesses that have been in business for six months and we have businesses that have been running for generations and generations.”
Another way to increase the viability of businesses is for their community to prioritize patronizing them as opposed to larger, nonlocal organizations.
“When we talk about what buying locally does, versus buying from a ‘big box’ store, you can take $68 and put it in your local economy, or you can take $48 and put it in your local economy,” Rawlins said. “When spending $100 at an independent business $68 will be reinvested into the community, while when spending $100 in a ‘big box’ store only $48 is invested back.”
Buy Local encourages community engagement in their efforts through networking and community building opportunities provided through monthly luncheons, quarterly socials, members marketplaces and holiday parties. They also acknowledge businesses yearly through their Advocate, Business of the Year and Media Awards.
Graphic courtesy of Buy Local
A graphic shows community members why buying local is worth every cent.
They also make it easier for locals to patronize our homegrown businesses by providing a member directory on their website. Also, ‘Buy Local Bingo’ is introduced at each monthly luncheon. The Bingo usually consists of small requirements like “do a business review” “like this business’ Facebook page,” or “take a picture in front of this new shop.”
“That could be a game changer for someone,” Rawlins said.
She mentioned that now Buy Local has found a new way to economically support the community.
“We just adopted a new bylaw that states once a month there will be a donation to a nonprofit, community-centered organization where we can invest membership dollars into them so they can make a bigger impact back into the community,” Rawlins said.
She said it feels like a privilege to give back to the local communities.
“It’s way better to give than it is to receive,” she said. “To say that it feels ‘good’ to do that would be an understatement.”
Rawlins said she encourages locals who want to get more involved to join the Buy Local team and one of their seven committees.
“Help us make Buy Local the biggest and the best that it can be,” Rawlins said. “This is a group of people who genuinely want to see local businesses be successful.”