A local campaign that started in the Midwest 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 them 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 retail consultant and professional speaker, Cinda Baxter, The 3/50 Project began 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. “The350Project.net has some 20,000 small businesses registered as supporters, and has had 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 venues 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, and 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.” Retailers interested in joining up to promote the cause can do so at www.the350project.net, and registration is free.