For decades, the musical Rent has invited us to consider how we, “measure a year,” and as I look back on the first year of Intentionalist I find myself challenged to distill our initial five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes into a blog, but here goes.
As I reflected with my team, we joked about whether over the course of our first year I consumed 525,600 calories of ice cream from diverse small businesses. And while the figure may (or may not) be true, I’d like to take this moment to think about the impact that Intentionalist has had, not on my waistline, but in an effort to change the way that we think about the difference we can make through everyday decisions about where we eat, drink and shop – in support of the small businesses that shape our communities and the wonderfully diverse people behind them.
To state the obvious, we’re a start-up – a social enterprise – but a start-up nonetheless. And with this designation comes an understandably important emphasis on metrics related to growth and traction.
As I think back on this year, I would point to three stages of exploration as we’ve kicked the tires and tested our hypotheses that:
- There is indeed an opportunity gap between the small businesses in our communities, and the ability of people who care to easily find and support them.
- Connection between people – can help cut through our tendency to spend our money purely on the basis of transaction convenience.
We intentionally began with an emphasis on getting to know the small businesses that we want to see survive and thrive during a time when they are increasingly challenged to maintain a foothold in the context of rapid economic growth and change, here in Seattle, and throughout the country.
For those keen to know some of our year one milestones:
- Our intersectional online guide now includes more than 1,000 family-owned, LGBTQ-owned, disability-owned, minority-owned, women-owned, and veteran owned businesses.
- We have met and/or interviewed hundreds of business owners, capturing and sharing their stories with support from The Riveter, The Evergrey, the Seattle Storm, TONL, Impact Hub Seattle, the Seattle Office of Economic Development, Seattle Credit Union, Foundation Community, and Seattle Startup Week.
- A successful iFundWomen crowdfunding campaign in May engaged more than 300 people and raised $35,000.
- We created online resources for three conferences, enabling thousands of attendees to find and support local businesses in Atlanta, NYC, and Phoenix.
- The Intentionalist community has grown on average by more than 20% month-over-month through grassroots outreach and dozens of events.
- We won the Founders Live pitch competition during Seattle Startup Week and then rapped about it.
- Spend Like It Matters: Leveraging Consumer Spending Toward a More Inclusive Economy was published in Social Innovations Journal.
- Our Holiday Gift Guide increased traffic to our site by 400%.
But when I think about what will drive our long-term impact, what is not reflected above are some of the qualitative elements that make what we are building unique. We are a mission-driven organization, and while I recognize that we are not doing justice to our mission without growth and a solid foundation from which to scale, I try to stay grounded in our “why” which is all about building connection and community in support of greater economic inclusion.
In this first year, I am most proud of the feedback we have received that we are finding success when it comes to building trust – with the small businesses at the core of our mission, and with people who genuinely share our belief that where we spend our money matters.
I am incredibly grateful to the business owners who have taken the time to let us know that we are indeed making a difference, and that the Intentionalist approach to prioritizing creating value for them is both refreshing and reinforces a culture of trust. Thanks especially to the owners of businesses like Busy Bee Café, Georgia Beer Garden, Pink Bee Curry & Sandwiches, Simply Soulful, Cone & Steiner, Miro Tea, Café Turko, Señor Moose Cafe, Hood Famous Bakeshop, Happy Grilllmore, Sugarpill, and Terra Plata for giving us the time of day when the businesses profiled in our online guide numbered just a handful or two.
We have been fortunate to begin collaborating with organizations like Ventures, the Greater Seattle Business Association, El Centro De La Raza, African Women Business Alliance, Ethnic Seattle, and Business Impact Northwest, who recognize that we can better serve small and micro-business owners through integrated partnerships.
And incredibly, we are now starting to be recognized in Seattle as a familiar name and face among a broader community of business owners, non-profit leaders, and conscious consumers, who are genuinely excited by the potential of what we’re building. Thank you to everyone letting us know that you’ve heard about and are excited to be a part of what we’re up to – especially those of you who currently live outside of Seattle and the United States!
I am aware that it is a privilege to have the opportunity to lead a small but mighty and passionate team in building what we believe is a movement that harnesses more intentional consumer spending in support of the communities and cities in which we want to live and work. I am often asked about what long-term success looks like, and from a consumer perspective, it looks like each of us having at our fingertips a resource that allows us to be intentional about who benefits from the money we spend, wherever we are in the world.
There may be “no crying in baseball”, but there is absolutely crying in entrepreneurship! Last week in conversation with a group of female founders, I was moved to tears as I described why I believe Intentionalist matters. I cry because I care. Deeply. And because I believe that the growing, intersectional Intentionalist community can be part of the solution to a myriad of issues – from income inequality, to bridging cross-cultural differences – that confront us today. Intentionalist is about showing up for people and communities that matter through the money we spend – it is about walking the walk and translating intention into action.
Small businesses are so much more than the products or services that they offer – they are people providing for their families – they are someone’s lifelong dream to own her own business – they are the sponsors of youth sports teams, our neighbors, and leaders in our communities.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
Thank you all for being a part of the first year of Intentionalist. I am incredibly excited about all that is still to come, and hope that you will let us know how we can continue to grow this movement and make it easier for you to #SpendLikeItMatters. Because it does.