Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A new partnership aims to educate the community on the value of keeping its money at home.
By Hope Rurik

20101027-bizprofileABIZ-0101Shannon Broussard Lynd and Artesia owner Gina Girouard Babineaux are on the campaign trail, but their rhetoric has nothing to do with politics. They’re campaigning to reshape the way Acadiana thinks about shopping.

The effort, launched Oct. 15 and dubbed Shop Local Acadiana, is part marketing and part education — and it’s all about the benefits to the whole community when people keep their money here.

“Being a local business owner, I saw an obvious difference between shopping at a national chain, in a mass-market environment, and shopping with locally owned businesses,” says Babineaux. “After a lot of brainstorming, we decided to move forward with a plan to educate the community on the importance of shopping locally, what it means for Acadiana and what it can do for our community, and it just evolved into what it is now.”

Babineaux went into business for herself shortly after graduating from UL Lafayette in public relations. The opportunity to open Artesia presented itself and Babineaux took it, initially thinking it would be a short-term project. Eight and a half years later, Artesia’s doors are still open.

“I grew up in the small-business-owner mentality,” says Babineaux, whose father was an entrepreneur. “My love has always been marketing and business. I never anticipated being in the fashion industry, but I’ve always envisioned myself owning my own business. I tried it and loved it. I was also successful with it and decided it was a career I needed to make.”

Also a Lafayette native, Lynd left to pursue a programming degree from the business school of Texas A&M. After graduating and working for software companies in major cities across the country, she decided to move back to Lafayette in 2003. She landed a position with Bizzuka, which specializes in website development and content management.

“Through my seven years with Bizzuka, I found that those that I really enjoyed working with were the small business owners, the mom and pops, the people who are putting everything into their businesses. That’s where my inspiration came from for Shop Local,” says Lynd. “Those are the people whose life is on the line with their whole business.”

The two like-minded women met through their children five years ago and formed a relationship around what they know: business.

“Because we both have marketing and business backgrounds, we’d be at birthday parties for 4-year-olds and be talking business all the time,” says Lynd. “The more I learned from her about running her own business, the more I really started to understand the issues of local businesses.”

Babineaux and Lynd developed a plan to share that understanding with the rest of Acadiana and couple it with a broad spectrum marketing campaign. Every three months, Shop Local Acadiana will launch a new campaign featuring a guidebook with profiles of owners and their businesses; that will be supplemented by coupons to each business, offers via text messaging, radio spots, billboards and e-blasts.

For the first launch, 62 businesses partnered with Shop Local Acadiana. The businesses each pay a fee and get all the marketing advantages that, for many of them, might normally be out of reach.

“A smaller portion of our campaign is to offer each individual member business in our organization advertising that they couldn’t normally afford — advertising that allows them to compete with national chains,” says Babineaux.

“It’s a little bit like a co-op, but the really important thing is that the members are paying to educate the community. Most of them aren’t doing it for the advertising; most of them are doing for the cause. The advertising component seals the deal and makes it a little easier, but most of them believe this is what’s important for Acadiana right now so that we can make an impact,” adds Lynd. “They believe in this community and they want to see it succeed.”

The two emphasize that the goal of Shop Local Acadiana is really to get people to change the way they think about shopping so that their first stop is always local.

“We understand that you can’t get everything from a local business, but give them a chance. If they’re too expensive or they don’t have what you need, of course, go someplace else, but just give them the shot,” says Lynd. “These member businesses have made a commitment to themselves to also shop local first, so you can shop or eat or do business with confidence that they are going to turn around and keep it in Acadiana.”

The guidebook should be out in a matter of days at member businesses throughout Acadiana. Look for “Certified Locally Owned” window decals and yard signs to find member businesses.

“We just encourage people to stop and think, before you spend that $20, [about] the effect you could have in your community. I’m going to eat out anyway, I’m going to shop anyway, I’m going to buy these products anyway, let me just stop and think, how can I do it in the best interest of the community?”

Shop Local Acadiana by the numbers:
62 member businesses with coupons online and in the guidebook
3 times more of your money stays in Acadiana when you shop local
Local businesses’ operating costs are 5 to 6 times higher than larger competitors
10 percent of the proceeds of each campaign goes to a local nonprofit

For more information on becoming a  member or to subscribe for email offers:
Gina Girouard Babineaux
(337) 739-4151
Shannon Broussard Lynd
(337) 849-9294

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