Residential Lighting: Tell us about The 3|50 Project.
Cinda Baxter: The 3|50 Project asks consumers to think of three locally owned businesses that they would miss if they disappeared, and then to pop in and pick up a little something. The “50” takes it a step further. If just half the employed U.S. population were to commit $50 of their current monthly spending to local businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion of revenue annually. So, it’s pick three, spend $50.
We get so caught up in this speed of moving from point A to point B that we have fallen into what I call “Commuter Consumerism.” We bolt out the door of the office, race to the grocery store, get to the dry cleaners, go to the drug store, fly home, feed the kids, get to bed and start all over again the next day. We see big, shiny objects along the side of the road as we race along, but we forget to look at the smaller ones in between.
RL: How did The 3|50 Project begin?
CB: It was nothing more than a couple of blog posts. One day, I had hundreds of e-mails from total strangers around the country. People saw the flyer on the blog, downloaded it and started e-mailing it to their friends. This thing went viral without me realizing it. Since then, I am averaging 350 to 450 inbound e-mails a day. Business owners tell me about long-lost customers that have returned. And consumers tell me stories about how they printed The 3|50 Project flyers, took them to businesses and told them to get on board.
RL: Is it an advertising program?
CB: No. It’s a “buy local” movement. There are a number of “buy local” projects out there, but we have thrown out the rule book when it comes to promotion. We don’t talk about macroeconomics, microeconomics and local living economy. We don’t ask you to get your calculator out and convert a percentage of your monthly income to spend locally. We don’t even tell people to stop going to big boxes. We just ask people to remember their local businesses and balance out their spending a bit.
RL: How does it work?
CB: The first thing they would want to do is go to www.the350project.net  and sign up as a supporter. That gets their business listed on our Web site, so that consumers can see who in town is locally, independently owned.
Our resources page has a plethora of free materials. There is a flyer they can print out on their desktop printer to hand to customers. They don’t have to explain anything. It’s easy. It’s not negative, and it’s not desperate. We have window clings for free. We have window banners to print at a local printer. We’ve even got a radio PSA.
RL: Do you qualify participants?
CB: The supporter pages are broken into two columns. One is entitled “Independent,” which represents companies and stores that are truly independent, brick-and-mortar, locally owned, with no franchise or chain affiliations. The second column is labeled “Supporters,” and that’s for everybody from Chamber of Commerce members to chain stores to sales organizations.
RL: Can showrooms get involved?
CB: There is one lighting store in St. Louis Park, MN, called Filament Lighting. Todd Pearsall, the owner, contacted his mall management. They have a mall newsletter that goes out to the surrounding community, and Todd said, “Let’s get an article in here about this.” So, they reached out to the community through The 3|50 Project, and he says it’s making a big difference.