The “3/50 Project” Aims to Boost Small Retailers

A local campaign to help small retailers survive is growing into an international effort that’s gaining steam.

The 3/50 Project is simple in its scope: it urges shoppers to spend $50 every month at three local businesses in order to help keep those businesses alive and thriving. If local residents with some discretionary money to spend did so locally, projections say nearly $43 million in revenue would be generated nationwide for shopkeepers.

Founded by Cinda Baxter, retail consultant and professional speaker, the 3/50 project was started after TV host Oprah Winfrey and financial guru Suze Orman told viewers in March 2009 to stop spending money on anything that was a non-necessity. Immediately after that, “I heard from numerous friends and business associates fearful for their professional survival; a week later, the 3/50 Project was born,” Baxter says.

Now, the effort seems to have taken on a life of its own. “ has some 20,000 small businesses registered as supporters, and has registered more than 1.5 million page views,” Baxter says. “It has more than 63,000 fans on its Facebook site.”

The project has also received extensive press coverage, appearing in more than 40 arenas including The Wall Street Journal, Fox Business News, CNN, Consumer Reports, Forbes, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and others.

The project has grown so large that it’s cutting into Baxter’s other life as a professional speaker and consultant. So why continue?

“It’s an awareness campaign to remind us of local merchants, and to help us all realize and recognize how much revenue they return to the community,” Baxter says. “Spending locally is an investment in our quality of life.”

Baxter says the next step is international chapters; work is already underway to launch similar versions in Canada, the U.K. and Australia.

She also says she’d like to find sponsors to underwrite the growing site’s expenses, but she makes this pledge: “We will never accept a national sponsor who competes against small retailers.”

–Rory J. Thompson