German Village Gazette

Central Ohio 'Beanstalk' network is still growing

By By GAIL MARTINEAU
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The Small Business Beanstalk has been spreading its roots in central Ohio since it issued its first community card about one year ago.

Since then, more than 300 local businesses have signed on and tens of thousands of cards have been issued to central Ohio residents to help support the SBB's "buy local" initiative.

The SBB was created to link consumers with local businesses and provide a marketing and professional network to businesses to help further their enterprises in central Ohio.

Current SBB deals include 10 percent off at Lavash Café in Clintonville, 10 percent off at Mazah Mediterranean Eatery in Grandview and 50 percent off the first visit at the Relaxation Station in Worthington.

Now, a number of local municipalities and city organizations have signed on to support the SBB's efforts, led by its founder Timothy Wolf Starr.

The city of Gahanna recently made a $2,000 payment to the SBB to help inspire area independent businesses to get on board with the organization.

As a part of the partnership, the city's payment helps subsidize the cost of businesses joining the SBB and helps brings new local businesses on board.

The SBB also plans to partner with the city on events like the Holiday Lights Festival program in December to hand out community cards and educate the community about the program.

Brian Hoyt, public information manager with Gahanna, said he saw a partnership with the SBB as a win-win.

"I saw this as being a marketing tool for us," he said.

Half of the money came from Hoyt's marketing budget and the other half came from the city's economic development marketing budget, he said.

"It seemed like a natural fit," Hoyt said. "It is to promote business."

Gahanna first talked with the SBB a year ago but decided to wait for a partnership to see how the organization would grow. He said he thinks of the city's monetary contribution as an extension of the city's marketing plan.

"It's creative marketing," Hoyt said. "It's a matter of not only getting the local business name out, but what is unique to the SBB's plan is it not only buy local but it also is a buy regional plan, and it creates a nice buzz."

Starr said the partnership with Gahanna has allowed the SBB to grow its presence in the community.

"It was a great match, because it was an area we had not had a lot of footprints in yet," he said. "They were very interested in engaging."

Currently, about 15 businesses in Gahanna are members of the SBB, and Starr said the SBB hopes to double that number in the next three months.

Mindy Mace, the executive director with the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Worthington, said she is working with the SBB in a similar way.

"The Olde Worthington Business Association, which is the organization that represents the merchants and the restaurants in Olde Worthington, and the convention bureau put money up front to get the program kicked off," she said.

Mace said she sees value from a marketing standpoint in working with the SBB.

Together, the groups have worked to create a temporary SBB card, called the Key to Worthington, that allows visitors to receive regular SBB discounts while visiting the city.

"I believe it's a good program," she said. "It offers discounts to our visitors, and it's a good piece to be able to give out to people who are attending events in the area."

She said the goal with the partnership was to provide exposure to Worthington businesses.

"The program was presented to us that it would be an incentive to bring business to the area," Mace said. "We just wanted to support our businesses because we believe that the merchants and the restaurant mix that Worthington has is unique and we want to support them in gaining more business."

Starr said the program with the Convention and Visitors Bureau helped bring together businesses in both Olde Worthington and the Worthington Hills area.

The two organizations created a map to help shoppers find local stores and restaurants in both areas.

Ray DeGraw, mayor of Grandview Heights, said he has plans to further the city's relationship with the SBB in the coming months.

He said he hopes to approach his city council to see what future support Grandview can give the organization.

Already, he has passed out community cards to all 68 city employees.

"It started a couple of months ago," DeGraw said. "They are excited to get them. They go through the cards quickly."

He said he thinks getting the SBB cards in employees' and residents' hands is a good way to support local business.

"I support anything that is 'buy local,'" he said. "Anything that we can do to support the local businesses is good."

Starr said working with DeGraw and others to get cards into residents' hands is a good way to keep tax dollars local.

"It was a nice single full swoop," he said. "It really gets those tax dollars cycling back through."

In the coming months, Starr said he hopes to broaden the SBB's community partnerships and work with areas like Grove City and Bexley.

For more information on the SBB, including its new "Big Deal" daily deal partnership with the Dispatch Printing Company, visit the organization's website at www.thesbb.com.

gmartineau@thisweeknews.com

www.ThisWeekNEWS.com

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