When I was a kid I'd hear stories of my great-grandmother's corner grocery store in Saint Louis Missouri. How my grandmother lived with her mother and younger sister in a cramped room in the back, all off the daily sales. How my great-grandmother used to give free candy to my father and his friends, even when she couldn't really afford to. Of my father's pizza restaurant he started with his best friend Ron, just because they loved to make pizza. And how he met my mother when they hired her as waitstaff.
My father went on to start a medical device company that grew to 5 employees, my mother took over a coffee and tea company where I was a barista, my first job. My early life was full of local businesses trying to make it. I watched the owners of these businesses support others around them, and seek the same from the tight knit neighborhoods where they made their living. Over time the strong fabric that tied our neighborhoods together gave way to the dull monotone of franchises and chains. In the past 5 years however, we've been witness to a renaissance of local businesses.
Today local businesses make up over 55% of all sales in the US and provide 55% of jobs. Together they are a significant force in the national economy! Yet, the support network between them is frayed and weak. We wanted to do something to help. Every Friday at Square we host a company all-hands to discuss how we're doing as a company. The highs, the lows, what we aren't talking about (but should be). We decided to take this on the road, starting in our own neighborhood in San Francisco, to Oakland, Stockton, Saint Louis, Detroit, Minneapolis, Toronto, and soon, New Orleans and the Bronx. We call it "Let's Talk."
The format is simple: 4 local merchants up on stage sharing their experiences starting and growing a business. The audience is a mix of fellow established neighborhood business, folks who want to start one, and government officials, including mayors and governors. Mayor Francis Slay of Saint Louis tweeted a pledge to rework the city's interface to support local businesses starting in his city. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's office vowed to continue the momentum and invited us to return to Detroit next year to measure their progress. Our hope is that these venues for sharing become a regular occurrence, driven by the local seller community themselves.
What can you do? Neighborhood businesses are the core of our society and economy. If we build strong neighborhood networks, we build a strong nation. A focus on the neighborhood economy will have dramatic positive effect on the national economy and potentially the global economy. As buyers, let's explore our neighborhoods and support the businesses around us. As business owners, let's have more simple discussions about what works, and what needs to be fixed.
Our mission at Square is to "make commerce easy." Why? Because it's hard enough to get started and grow, much less worry about your tools working correctly. If we succeed in our mission, the result is giving time back to focus on what's more meaningful: sellers focusing on their customers, and buyers focusing on what they're about to experience. No matter how much of our lives move online, we'll always have the local places we love: the cafe, concert hall, flower shop, restaurant and bar. We believe technology is best when it gives way to simple human connections, and that's why we do what we do at Square. Cheers to the local businesses we love.
This blog post is part of a series produced by Square as part of Let's Talk, an event series bringing local business owners together to collaborate and connect within their communities. For more information about Square, click here.