In late 2009 and early 2010, Karen and Bob King, owners of Choices Natural Market, and Frank Schier, editor & publisher of The Rock River Times, began to talk about networking small, locally-owned businesses in the Rockford area.
Frank was also chairman of the Winnebago County Green Business (WCGB) awards, and Choices had recently won the small business award for their commitment to carrying products that were fine examples of all things green and promoted education about sustainability. As the WCGB awards’ motto states, “Sustainibility Is Good Business.” An essential part of sustainability is localism that saves on transportation costs and impact; and very importantly, sustainability keeps homegrown money in the local market to improve the local community. Green equals green, as in dollars. The two businesses kept one another up to date about different approaches both found to help locally-owned businesses work with each other.
In February 2010, Karen called Frank and was very excited about a seminar she found being held April 1, 2010 at the University of Wisconsin’s (UW) Madison campus. UW’s Continuing Studies Department was offering a workshop “Building Community Business Networks for a Local Living Economy.” The cost of the day-long workshop was about $140, and they said they would try to make it, but neither of them was quite sure about attending because of the demands of their businesses. April 1, 2010, both Frank and Karen were happy to see one another at the workshop, attended by about 50 people from around the area. The operational model was set up on a county basis, and UW’s Dane County had their model up and running for quite some time.
Enthused by the knowledge from that meeting, the business owners started to call various other local business owners they knew to start a committee. The original committee consisted of Karen and Frank, Tony, Anthony and Lauren Artale of Artale Wines, and Skyler and Lauren Davis of Culture Shock, that met at Sherri’s Place restaurant, 5859 Forest Hills Road., Loves Park. Weekly meetings have continued to be held since then at Sherri’s, Octane, Swilligan’s, Wired Cafe, Giovanni’s, Aunt Mary’s Cafe and Bamboo and more.
As a result of the meetings, The Rock River Times and Lauren Vanags Davis of Lauren Vanags Designs host and design graphics for this website, winnebagobuylocal.com.
Please join us by discovering and supporting your local businesses. Check the online calendar for monthly meetings.