A graduate of Northland High School is trying out a very modern twist on an ancient fairy story in central Ohio.

A graduate of Northland High School is trying out a very modern twist on an ancient fairy story in central Ohio.

In the English tale, which dates to at least the early 19th century, Jack's mom was less than thrilled that he traded the family cow for a handful of supposedly magical beans. She changed her tune when he returned with treasures after climbing the resultant beanstalk to the castle of a wealthy giant.

Timothy Wolf Starr is hoping that the seeds he and his partners are planting with their Small Business Beanstalk will help locally owned businesses grow and find new customers.

Giants need not apply.

"The SBB is a local-first company that leverages connections of all types to support business and community growth," according to its Web site. "We use problem-solving, networking and relationship-building techniques to grow small businesses through a unique combination of matchmaking and concierge services.

"The SBB also connects local retail businesses to our neighbors, a broad base of active consumers from all throughout the Columbus community. The SBB makes this easier with the SBB card, which provides discounts at independent retailers, restaurants and bars in neighborhoods throughout central Ohio.

"We believe there is real, fiscal value when local businesses support other local businesses and when consumers shop local."

The Small Business Beanstalk recently opened its first permanent location at 211 E. Arcadia Ave. in Clintonville after operating out of office co-op space in the Short North and other locations.

The main man behind this plan is Starr, who these days goes by his middle name Wolf rather than Timothy. The founder and CEO of Small Business Beanstalk was born in Victorian Village but now lives only a few doors down from the new home office of his enterprise.

A 2001 graduate of Northland High, Starr delayed attending college in order to run for a seat on the Columbus board of education. He came in last out of a field of eight.

After that, Starr said, he found a job with Nationwide while also attending Ohio State University, majoring in political science. From there, Starr said that he got involved with business development, in such disparate areas as asphalt and Christmas lights.

About halfway through his studies toward a degree, Starr said that he found himself working 90-hour weeks with a venture capital firm, and decided enough was enough.

"I was trying to figure out where I wanted to be in life," Starr said.

Cutting back his work efforts to closer to 40 hours a week, Starr said that he was involved with helping friends, now graduating from college, start up their own businesses and quickly came to see some "economy of scale" aspects to having these friends pool their purchasing power.

"It developed from there," Starr said.

He created a "buying club program," by which the businesses of these friends could enjoy discounts on purchases from national retailers like Staples.

However, Starr said, he came to realize this approach afforded his clients no chance to help out the local economy. The switch was made to an entirely locally focused program of discounts and tradeoffs between business owners.

In some cases, enough locally owned businesses pooling their purchases can obtain significant discounts from other members of the group, according to Starr. For example, he said, a downtown firm that prints business cards was able to offer almost the same pricing as a major online outfit when 20 accounts all came together.

"It doesn't work in every single instance," Starr admitted.

The result has been the Beanstalk, a growing network of back-and-forth discounts between local businesses, which is defined in most instances as based in central Ohio or at the very least within Ohio. A service fee charged to these business owners pays for Starr and the SBB staff to facilitate the program.

In September, the retail and restaurant aspect of SBB was launched with introductions of the cards, similar in many ways to those provided increasing by grocery and drug stores. About 100 different locations now offer some form of discount, the exact nature of which is up to the individual business owners.

By driving more customers to their doors, SBB personnel convince business owners to provide some form of discount to cardholders.

"We first launched a successful pilot of the Community Card in the Short North," Starr said in a press release. "Today, we've expanded to Clintonville, downtown Historic Dublin and Gahanna. We have 45 businesses accepting the card throughout central Ohio and we've distributed nearly 1,200 SBB Community Cards throughout the community."

"We're essentially putting a tribe together, individuals who want to shop locally," Starr said in a recent interview. "You start to support your own local economy.

"It's really a new concept," he added.

Starr has three partners in SBB: Nathan Faulkner, Alex Rider and Charles Erickson.

More information is available at www.thesbb.com, including how to obtain the free cards.