Organized solely through social media and word of mouth, Venture Local Franklin's cash mobs attract upwards of 40 people for each event. Dozens of people flock to the meeting area 15 minutes before the mob is planned with a $20 bill in hand. Their intent? To provide locally owned businesses with a quick, one time economic boost in sales just by shopping locally.
Venture Local Franklin (VLF) was formed a couple of years ago as a grassroots movement comprised of members of the community sharing the common interest of enhancing Franklin. A branch off of the regional economic improvement group AdvantageWest, VLF has been making waves in Franklin. From helping new business owners through sponsoring networking opportunities and connecting them with resources such as Western Carolina University's Small Business and Technology Development Center to organizing and executing cash mobs, VLF is a group of volunteers, working with no budget, no pay and no incentive other than loving the town they live in and wanting to see it grow.
Matt Bateman, owner of a local travel magazine, along with Bonnie Pickartz, owner of Goshen Timber Frames, have taken the helm for VLF and made it their personal responsibility to be resources for business owners and community members. Tuesday night at the Rathskeller on Main Street, Bateman lead VLF's monthly “hang-out.”
The Rathskeller, which, as of Oct. 1, is under new ownership, provided a great atmosphere for business owners, nonprofits, and community members to meet and discuss ideas and network with one another.
One main topic of Tuesday night was the success of VLF's cash mobs. The basic intent behind a cash mob is to encourage people to go into small, local businesses and spend their money, say $20, en masse, to give the business owner a little bit of economic stimulus, all in one big wave. The mobs fall right in line with the goal of being geared toward promoting positive and sustainable community advancement. As a citizen-maintained movement, VLF values inclusivity and participation that is action-based and outcome-focused. Through events like the cash mob, the group works to collaboratively strengthen the local economy by utilizing the area's natural resources to establish common goals, nurture entrepreneurial ventures and drive innovation with the goal of moving Franklin forward.
Last Friday marked the 12th cash mob, with more than 40 mobsters storming newly opened Robyn B, a children's clothing store located on Main Street. Nearly tripling Robyn B daily sales in just a two hour time span, the cash mob once again proved to be an effective means of economic stimulus.
A key component of each cash mob is a “paying it forward” aspect which requires that if a business is selected to be the scene of a mob, the business owners must commit to “pay it forward” in some sense to a local charity or organization. On Friday night Robyn B owner Brittany Murphy asked mobsters to bring a book to be donated to Read2Me, a group geared toward early literacy and putting books in the hands of children in Macon County. More than 140 books were collected for donation, and in addition to the books, Murphy pledged a portion of the sales generated during the mob to also be donated to Read2Me. Supporting local businesses and supporting local charities all at once, a remarkable concept.
After being attacked by one of the biggest mobs to date, Martha Holbrooks, owner of Mossy Rock on Main Street, donated a portion of her proceeds to the Franklin High Band, a welcome donation considering the budget cuts schools have seen this year.
During each cash mob, mobsters are asked to submit a nomination for the next mob event. Participants write a local business on a piece of paper and the submission is placed in a bucket. Bateman usually gets the business owner currently being mobbed to draw a name to determine the site of the next mob. Businesses wanting to be selected are encouraged to bring as many friends as possible to a mob and get them to nominate the business to increase chances of being selected.
Millie Decker Pejakovich, owner of By Mountain Hands, a newly opened local artist consignment shop located next to Hungry Bear on Macon Center Drive, is hoping that soon her businesses name will be drawn and selected for a mob, but in the meantime, enjoys being a part of VLF and their mission.
“I love VLF and what it is doing for our town,” said Pejakovich. “I support VLF because they support us, local business owners.”
To learn more about the Venture Local Franklin initiate, like their Facebook page or visit www.venturelocalfranklin.com.