28 Local Pollinators You Can Start Today

-- We’re coming to you… uhh… somewhat live… from Baltimore Innovation Week.

If you’ve been following us since Monday, you know our purpose this week has been twofold.

First, it’s to take a behind-the-curtain look into Baltimore best and brightest local start-ups.

Second, it’s to explore the idea of what it takes to create a “pollinator” enterprise — a private business that seeds and strengthens the local economy, despite the local government’s best efforts to destroy it.

Today, as part of this journey, we’re going to show you a total of 28 model pollinator enterprises you can start in your hometown today.

More on that, though, in a moment.

First, here’s a very quick overview of what’s going on here at Baltimore Innovation Week.

Baltimore Innovation Week 2015 flyer

Baltimore Innovation Week 2015

Yesterday, we watched some pitches for local start-ups.

Presentation on drone innovations

(More on the most interesting ones to come in future episodes)

We also dove into the local drone culture (which is, by the way, for whatever reason, thriving in Baltimore… specifically, “drone art”)…

Test flying a drone

Test landing a drone

And, of course, we couldn’t help but think of how much need there is for  pollinators to encourage, fortify, and foster all of these local enterprises.

-- Which is why we’re keeping the pollinator train rolling this week…

Yesterday, you received a big picture overview of what a pollinator is… what he or she does… and the wider implications of private local development via the “pollinator revolution.”

Today, we drill down into the specifics.

“A pollinator business,” Michael Shuman, the veritable pollinator expert, writes in his book The Local Economy Solution, “will measure success not only by its own rate of return — though that matters — but also by its answers to questions like these:

  • “Have I increased the community’s percentage of jobs in locally owned business?
  • “Have I expanded the percentage of residents, particularly smart young adults, prepared to start new businesses?
  • “Have I pushed up the three-, five-, and ten-year survival rate of local business start-ups?
  • “Have I multiplied the number of local businesses consciously benchmarking, measuring, and improving their social performance with respect to workers, stakeholders, and the environment?”

If you can answer yes to all four of these questions, you, dear LFT reader, are already a pollinator. Good on you.

If you said no to any of them, on the other hand, you still have ways to go. But don’t worry. The concept is simple.

Local economic developers, rather than focusing on the “attract-and-retain” schemes to attract nonlocal businesses that governments are so fond of, should be private and focus on the the six P’s. They are as follows:

“Planning. What are the most plausible opportunities for new or expanded local businesses to meet local needs? (Planning here means both the “spatial” planning undertaken by urban planners and the “business” planning undertaken by consultants.)

“Purchasing. How can the community help these businesses, once established, flourish with concerted buy-local efforts involving nearby consumers, businesses, and government agencies?

“People. How can a new generation of entrepreneurs and employees be trained for these new local business opportunities?

“Partnership. How can local businesses improve their competitiveness by working together as a team?

“Purse. How can local capital be mobilized to finance these new or expanding local businesses?

“Public Policy. How can laws, regulations, and practices at all levels of government — local, state, national, and global — be recalibrated to eliminate the current advantages nonlocal businesses enjoy?”

Each of these concepts, apart from, of course, public policy, require a specific skill set. To excel at the current paradigm of “public policy,” in contrast, requires only a lack of pulse and a need to sunbathe under a heat lamp with other cold-blooded brethren.

A smart (and warm-blooded) economic developer will stop regulating local businesses out of existence (or ignore those who do), and instead, says Shuman, “will seek to have all five types of pollinators buzzing away in his or her community.”

Here’s how each pollinator plays his or her part…

Planning pollinators will help local businesses make solid, sustainable plans for growth. Purchasing pollinators will help local businesses attract more foot traffic, more orders, and, more contracts. People pollinators will help the local businesses improve the performance of each individual employee and the business’ relationship with economic developers. Partnership pollinators will help local businesses work together to strengthen ties and become more profitable in the process. And purse pollinators will help make it easier, cheaper, and more bountiful for investors to invest in local businesses.

Today, Shuman joins us to show you the 28 models of pollinator enterprises based on these five concepts. The following is pulled right from the appendix of his book, The Local Economy Solution. (You can pick up a copy, if you wish, here.)

If any of the enterprise models below “speak” to you — and you’re seriously considering starting a pollinator, of some sort, in your hometown — drop us a line at Chris@lfb.org and tell us all about your plans to save your city from the body snatchers.


28 Models of Pollinator Enterprises 

By Michael Shuman

A “pollinator” is a self-financing enterprise committed to boosting local business.

Some pollinators are for-profit businesses, some are nonprofits, but all allow a community to undertake one or more of five key economic development functions — planning, purchasing, people, partnerships and purse — with far greater efficacy and at a substantially lower cost than typical, taxpayer-funded programs.

All of the following models deploy business frameworks that ultimately aim to avoid dependency on government grants or charitable contributions.

Planning Pollinators

Definition: Planning means both “spatial” planning undertaken by urban planners and “business” planning undertaken by consultants.

Key Challenge: What are the most plausible opportunities for new or expanded local businesses to meet local needs?

Development Tools. The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) has developed a tool that helps communities easily measure “economic leakage” — the dollars currently leaving a community — to asses opportunities for more jobs and income from new or expanded local businesses. Click here.

Business Efficiency. The Main Street Genome Project analyzes data from local businesses to help the identify weak spots and remedy them by, for example, getting better prices from suppliers and sharing the savings with clients. Click here.

Green Design. Bazzani Associates brings old buildings back to life with green designs, and has revitalized several neighborhoods in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Click here.

Placemaking. The Village Well, based in Melbourne, is hired by public and private property owners to help stakeholders set in motion a plan to revitalize a place with many new kinds of work and play. Click here.

Purchasing Pollinators

Definition: Purchasing refers to buying by nearby consumers, businesses, and government agencies.

Key Challenge. How can the community help its businesses flourish with concerted buy-local or “Local First” efforts?

Coupon Books. The Chinook Book, active in a half dozen cities, enavles consumers to buy a book of coupons worth thousands of dollars of savings at local businesses. Click here.

Local Business Magazines. Edible Communities is a magazine, currently licensed in 85 cities across North America, that raises consumer awareness of local farmers and local food businesses and is underwritten primarily by local advertising. Click here.

Local Web Marketplaces. ShopCity licenses a web platform to three dozen American and Canadian cities that draws consumers to great local goods and services. Click here.

Local Debit Cards. Bernal Bucks in San Francisco has partnered with its local credit union to issue a debit card that rewards local business purchases. Click here.

Local Gift Cards. Tucson Originals provides foodies an easy “stocking stuffer” to buy for friends and relatives that ultimately can be redeemed at local restaurants. Click here.

Local Loyalty Cards. Supportland has 80,000 users in Portland, Oregon, who receive gifts and discounts for loyally making purchases at local stores and service providers. Click here.

People Pollinators 

Definition: People are the human factor in enterprise development, including entrepreneurs, employees, and economic developers.

Key Challenge: How can existing and new generations be trained for new and expanding local business opportunities?

Enterprise Facilitators. The Sirolli Institute, based in Sacramento, has helped 300 communities worldwide deploy “enterprise facilitators” that transform local entrepreneurs with great ideas into successful businesspeople. Click here.

Local Economic Developer Training. Simon Fraser University in Vancouver runs a successful “adult education” course that teaches development professionals how to do local economic development. Click here.

Youth Entrepreneurship Schools. Fundacion Parauaya now runs three high schools in Paraguay that pay all their expenses through the revenues generated by student-run enterprises, and is working with another organization based in the United Kingdom, Teach a Man to Fish, to spread this model worldwide. Click here.

Short Entrepreneurship Courses. ZingTrain, part of the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan, provides training through two- or three-day courses to more than one thousand entrepreneurs each year. Click here.

Maker Spaces. Maker Works, also in Ann Arbor, educates its members on how to use advanced industrial tools to make cutting-edge products. Click here.

Co-Working Spaces. The Impact Hub represents a worldwide network of 63 spaces where social entrepreneurs can work and cross-pollinate shoulder-to-shoulder with like-minded people. Click here.

Incubators. The Northwest Regional Planning Commission in rural Wisconsin runs a network of ten small business incubators over an area of 11,000 square miles, with “circuit riders” who move from site to site and provide various forms of technical assistance. Click here.

Accelerators. Each year the Seattle-based Fledge leads three cohorts of promising local entrepreneurs through intensive trainings, and pays for its work through modest royalty payments from its graduates. Click here.

Partnership Pollinators

Definition: Partnerships mean collaborations of, by, and for local businesses.

Key Challenge: How can local businesses improve their competitiveness by working together as a team?

Joint Support. Local First Arizona has grown to be the largest BALLE network in the United States (with 2,600 businesses) by providing members with technical assistance, peer support, and effective buy-local campaigns. Click here.

Joint Advertising. The Calgary-based organization REAP (standing for Respect the Earth and All People) mobilizes consumers to local ethical businesses through ads and an online directory and finances its work by positioning itself as a one-stop marketing firm for its 120 business members. Click here.

Joint Purchasing. Tucson Originals (noted above) negotiates discounts from “preferred” local suppliers that all its food-business members can enjoy.

Joint Delivery. Small Potatoes Urban Delivery directly delivers the products from small farmers and local food processors to locavore households in six metro areas in North America. Click here.

Joint Selling. The Reading Terminal Market is one of a growing number of permanent “public markets” that are effectively shopping malls for local food providers, local artisans, and other local businesses. Click here.

Purse Pollinators

Definition: Purse means capital for local business, including debt and equity, short- and long-term, in small and large amounts.

Key Challenge: How can local capital be mobilized to finance new or expanding local businesses?

Local Banking: Vancity is a pioneering locally owned credit union that serves 500,000 members in metro Vancouver and has staff who support 38,000 local business members with credit, partnerships, and technical assistance. Click here.

Local Securities Creation. Cutting Edge Capital, based in Oakland, teaches local small businesses how to jump through the legal hoops necessary to mobilize investment from non-wealthy, “retail” investors in their communities. Click here.

Local Securities Trading. Mission Markets is one of a growing number of companies that licenses to community trading platforms that connect local businesses with local investors. Click here.

Local Investment Funds. FarmWorks is one of sixty investment funds that Nova Scotia permits grassroot groups to organize and through which locals can reinvest tax-deferred retirement savings into local food enterprises. Click here.

Local Prepurchasing. Credibles, based in San Francisco, provides a platform for local food businesses to raise capital from their customers — without legal paperwork — through pre-selling. Click here.

[Chris’ note: Interested in starting any of these pollinator enterprises? Email it and tell us all about it: Chris@lfb.org.]

Until tomorrow,

Chris Campbell

Chris Campbell

Written By Chris Campbell

Chris Campbell is the Managing editor of Laissez Faire Today. Before joining Agora Financial, he was a researcher and contributor to SilverDoctors.com.