Indie Week Celebration with Oakland Grown!

July 1, 2016 • 5 min read
Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson


If you’ve got Brexit fatigue, here’s an independence you can wholeheartedly get behind. The American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) has declared next week Independents Week in honor of local businesses. Oakland Grown, a program of the Sustainable Business Alliance*, is taking the opportunity to relaunch. The group works to strengthen Oakland’s local economy, “social well being, and unique sense of place” by supporting the growth and development of locally owned and independently operated businesses and local artists. That makes this holiday weekend an especially good time to remember the implications of what we’re saying when we say #LoveLocal.

For consumers, the appeal of shopping locally be the unique products and personal interactions possible at local businesses, but it’s important for people to understand how their choice to buy locally (or not) affects the community as a whole. Jeff Milchen, co-director and co-founder of AMIBA, argues, “The disappearance of local businesses leaves a social and economic void that is palpable and real—even when it goes unmeasured.”

When we shop, buy, or do things locally, we’re not just supporting the one independent business we’ve patronized. When we spend at merchants based in our communities, like those supported by Oakland Grown, that money recirculates in the local economy in three important ways

Direct impact — Business owners spend in the local economy to operate their business, including purchases like inventory, utilities, equipment, and payroll.

Indirect impact — The other local businesses the first business patronized use that money to patronize more local businesses.

Induced impact — The additional consumer spending as individuals (employees, business owners) spend in the local economy.

In fact, in 2012 study, about 48 percent of each purchase at a local independent business recirculated locally, compared to less than 14 percent of a chain store purchase. Researchers have called this the “local multiplier effect.” In 2003, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance found that for each $100 spent at local independents, $45 of secondary local spending was generated (compared to a mere $14 for a big-box chain).

indie vs. chain
image courtesy of AMIBA

The more business at local independents the more robust the local economy. Local businesses create local jobs. Local businesses spend money at other local businesses, as do business owners and their employees. Local shops tend to carry more locally-produced goods than chains, which means more work for local producers. And, AMIBA points out, “Though a single local shop likely stocks a smaller selection than can be found online or at a large chain, a multiplicity of independent retailers creates great diversity. When thousands of shops serve the preferences of their customers’ tastes (and reflect different owners’ interests), market opportunities are created for a wide variety of goods and services.”

This is exactly the kind of community for which Oakland Grown advocates. In addition to creating opportunities for business owners and artists to network and share best practices, the group fights for public policies that make independents more resilient and “level the economic playing field.”

East Bay Independents Events

If you’re a locally owned and independently operated business in Oakland, remind your customers that they can some cool Oakland Grown prizes, including t-shirts and gift cards, if they post a picture of themselves, family, friends, or pets at a business like yours.

This holiday weekend, Friday through Monday, you can order any book from LOAKL, which will source your book from a local independent bookseller, and you can pick it up at the store or get free delivery during the week of July 4.

Support Oakland’s Emerging 100, young adult entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities, by shopping at their stores or volunteering to mentor an up-and-coming entrepreneur. The Emerging 100 is a collaborative initiative among Youth Business USA, Youth Impact Hub Oakland, and the City of Oakland Mayor’s Office.

local multiplier effect
image courtesy of AMBIA

Resources for local businesses

Oakland’s creative community remains one of the largest and most diverse in the country. Oakland Makers is an “alliance of artisan producers, industrial fabricators, educators, and manufacturers working together to grow a diverse, creative economy.” And, of course, Oakland Grown provides its membership with support for a variety of shop local campaigns, Oakland Grown spending and rewards cards, networking, expert talks, member promotion, assistance finding local capital, and more. (3,800 Facebook fans, anyone?)

There are resources a-plenty for businesses in the East Bay. Localwise helps connect local employers with prospective employees. They recently held the 2016 Work Local Awards, recognizing the best employers in the East Bay and San Francisco. The City of Oakland has a website dedicated to local independent businesses, the Oakland Business Assistance Center. The site provides information on starting a business and resources for existing businesses, including information about taxes, licenses, and permits, financing, going green, and more.

An Independent Happy Ending

And that 2003 study by the Institute for Local Self- Reliance? It was for the city of Austin, Texas, and it demonstrated an independent bookseller, Book People, and an independent music seller, Waterloo Records, returned more than three times as much money to the local economy than a proposed Borders Books and Music outlet would. We’re tickled pink to report that Book People and Waterloo Records are still thriving in Austin—and, of course, there’s no Borders.

You can read more about the state of local business in Oakland in our coverage of this year’s Oakland Small Business Week.

Happy 4th, and be sure to support your local independents wherever you are this weekend!


*The Sustainable Business Alliance is an association of over 250 local East Bay businesses, social enterprises, artisans, and service providers that “engages business, community residents, and government in actions that benefit the local economy, social equity, the environment, and quality of life for current and future generations.”


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