by Laury Hammel and Gun Denhart
Laury Hammel is co-founder of Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) and the owner and president of The Longfellow Clubs, four New England health and recreation clubs. Gun Denhart co-founded the Hanna Andersson children’s clothing company in Portland, Oregon. Both entrepreneurs built flourishing firms whose success had a lot to do with their innovative community programs.
While people often think of community activism in terms of philanthropy or volunteer work, Hammel and Denhart show in Growing Local Value how every aspect of a business — from product creation to employee recruitment to vendor selection to raising capital — can be set up to benefit both the bottom line and the local community.
Each of the book’s seven chapters offers lessons in building a meaningful and profitable relationship with a key stakeholder group: customers, investors, nonprofits, government, other businesses, employees and the environment itself. Those lessons are illustrated by vivid case histories drawn from a wide range of industries located all over the United States. The authors are keenly aware of the challenges facing small and medium-sized independent entrepreneurs; they tell what worked — and what didn’t.
Rejuvenation Lighting in Portland, Oregon, established a home-buying program for its employees. TAGS Hardware of Cambridge, Massachusetts, mails every new resident in town a coupon offering a free trash can and a duplicate house key and sends out “free light bulb cards” to frequent customers. Hammel’s Longfellow Clubs helped an inner-city indoor/outdoor tennis club founded by African Americans to get back on its feet with generous donations of time, money and expertise.
Hammel founded the nation’s first business association of socially responsible businesses in 1988, the New England Business Association for Social Responsibility. He started BALLE with Judy Wicks, owner of the White Dog Café in Philadelphia . Both he and Wicks will be speaking at BALLE’s 2007 International Conference, to be held in Berkeley May 31 – June 2. Information about BALLE is available at www.livingeconomies.org or (415) 255-1108.
– Zelda Bronstein