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B Corps Unite to Educate Consumers and Give Something Back
A holiday pop-up store filled with products from the network of Certified B Corporations in the Portland, Oregon, area shows how collaboration can build community awareness of business as a force for good — and inform consumers how they can vote with their dollars for businesses that align with their values.
Launched in 2018 as a holiday pop-up in Portland’s Lloyd Center Mall, the PDX B Store aims to give something back to the B Corp community by spreading the word about business as a force for good. The store offers wines from nearby Willamette Valley vineyards, coffee from local roasters, and other gift-worthy products from B Corps in and around Portland. The initial idea for the pop-up came from Abe Tannenbaum of Grapevine Outdoor, a pending B Corp.
In launching his hometown outdoor advertising business in 2015, Tannenbaum and Grapevine Outdoor co-founder Russell Davis-Cohen wanted to operate a company that does its part to improve the world through a focus on community and giving back. “We saw this industry that we both were involved in that had room for change for the better,” he says.
From the start at Grapevine Outdoor, Tannenbaum and Davis-Cohen worked with B Corps in the Portland area that were living the values they and their business shared, and that were giving something back to their community.
“I would advocate and talk about B Corps all the time,” he says. “But I found most people didn’t know what it was, even in Portland. There’s a lot to it — it’s not a quick conversation.”
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Bringing an Idea to Life
Those conversations planted the seeds for his pop-up store idea, and as Tannenbaum became more familiar with B Corps he also learned more about the process to certify as a B Corp. Within a couple years of launching their business, Tannenbaum and Davis-Cohen decided to pursue B Corp certification and get involved with the B Local PDX group, starting with a “learning lunch” designed to educate businesses on the certification process.
While introducing himself and his aspiring B Corp business at the meeting, Tannenbaum also mentioned that he worked with a local mall, the Lloyd Center, that let local businesses use vacant storefronts for pop-up locations and suggested the B Corp group consider opening a holiday store there as a marketing and promotional platform to raise awareness of B Corps.
The idea was a hit, and Tannenbaum and Davis-Cohen led the charge to make it a reality within a short timeline with help from the PDX B Local community.
“We threw everything together in five or six weeks. A lot of people got involved and helped make it happen,” he says.
Filled with products from regional B Corps — including coffee, honey, wine, tea — the B Store was open to customers in 2018 for 10 days, operating as an LLC. Staffed by the Grapevine Outdoor duo and a few other volunteers, the store produced plenty of conversation with customers about B Corps — “meaningful conversations in a shopping atmosphere,” Tannenbaum says — and opportunities for the businesses involved.
This year the PDX B Store is partnering with and featuring products from B Corps including Love Bottle, Scout Books, Real Leaders, Banyan Botanicals, Herb Pharm, Fishpeople, Red Duck, Wild Friends Foods, Tony’s Chocolonely, Alter Eco, Cabot Creamery, GloryBee, Nossa Familia Coffee, Yogi Tea, Brew Dr. Kombucha, Guayaki Yerba Mate, Hopworks Brewery, Sufferfest Beer, A to Z Wineworks, Rex Hill Winery, Winderlea Vineyard and Winery, Sokol Blosser Winery, Evolution, Brooks Winery, David Hill Winery, Stoller Winery, and Chehalem Winery.
Through customer surveys, the PDX B Store team learned that nearly half of the customers had not heard of B Corps before visiting the store, but all of them indicated they would be likely to seek out products from B Corps in the future and were interested in B Corps workshops and other events.
That’s an additional, expanded role Tannenbaum sees the store serving if it were to become a permanent location: as a site for workshops and events, and a resource center where people could learn more about working for or making their business a B Corp.
Present Success, Future Potential
Now open for its second holiday season, the PDX B Store team has more involvement from the community, including the B Local marketing committee known as Always B Collaborating. This year all store profits will be donated to B Local PDX, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit, to support B Corp marketing and brand awareness initiatives in 2020.
“We look at this as an awareness campaign. We’re passionate about the project and definitely see the benefits of it,” Tannenbaum says. “We see how this could grow even more, where this could go and how it could work better. It’s a side project now, but to take it to the next level would require more involvement from a larger team.”
Check out this 40-minute Vote Every Day webinar from B Lab that features B Corp marketing leaders and campaign resources, a holiday toolkit, plus information on B Corp partnerships, community activations and how other B Corps can get involved.
In parallel, Grapevine Outdoor this year has moved toward B Corp certification by completing the B Impact Assessment with help from another local resource: B Impact PSU, a free consulting service at Portland State University.
“This propelled us into the community,” Tannenbaum says. “It’s been helpful to get to know more people and companies.”
For other B Corp groups interested in launching a pop-up store or similar project to give something back to their community, Tannenbaum offers several recommendations beyond the basics of clarifying costs and determining a payment model.
“The main piece of advice is to start earlier than you think you need to start,” he says. “Give yourself enough time to put all the pieces together. Because it’s a lot of work with different companies.”
But it’s through that work with other companies that B Corps can bring more businesses and people into the community.
“We see the triple bottom line and the B Corp movement as legitimate solutions to a lot of the challenges that we face,” Tannenbaum says. “We wanted to do something to create some optimism and some hope. There’s definitely a lot of heart in it beyond a normal pop-up kind of thing.”
Read more from B the Change on Vote Every Day promotions and campaigns:
- Consumer Choice in the Grocery Aisles: B Corps Collaborate for Vote Every Day Campaign
- B Corp Month: A Time to Toast Purpose-Driven Businesses
- British B Corps Partner With Grocer to Launch Online Shop
- The Pop-Up Polling Precinct Highlighting How to Vote for B Corps
B the Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.
A Purposeful Reason for the Season: Oregon B Corps Launch Holiday Pop-Up Store was originally published in B the Change on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.