When Covid-19 first made landfall in Omaha, we all groaned in frustration at the thought of being stuck at home for up to two full weeks. Restaurants shut their doors, their owners developing tiny ulcers as they wondered what kind of impact the closure would have. Just one week can break a small business.

Seven months later, many of these restaurants have found themselves permanently shuttered, and many more are still operating, but unrecognizable. As these establishments find new ways to serve, their customers are being reminded that there is still one way to give these restaurants a fighting chance.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

The harsh reality is that if Omaha’s economy is going to recover, it’s going to take more than a bailout and having your favorite chain restaurant deliver to your door. Supporting locally-owned businesses feeds funds directly back into our local economy, and that kind of meaningful impact is the name of the long-game.

One local group is creating actionable steps to keep Omaha’s small businesses thriving.

Bob Johnson and Dave Loveland, who share extensive business and sales backgrounds and a passion for entrepreneurship, launched the Facebook group Keep Local Alive (KLA) in early summer.

It was an attempt to “move from word to action” and truly create traction around the efforts to keep locally owned establishments flourishing. The pair do more than cheerlead their followers to spend locally; they support local businesses by educating them on ways to actively engage their customers, even now.

The page grew rapidly, hitting more than 13,000 members in September. Participants are encouraged to take part in easy challenges, like the “shift 20 challenge.” Simply spend $20 you would usually spend at a chain at a locally owned establishment instead. That’s just five lattes a month from one of the many locally owned (and locally sourced) coffee shops, instead of a chain that may or may not burn their beans.

Head to www.Move20SaveLocal.Com to take the pledge, and to access tools and tips to Keep Local Alive. The site shows you exactly how much potential impact there is for Omahans to stimulate and revitalize our own economy.

Bob and Dave understand that Omaha citizens aren’t passive spectators in the destruction of the local culture it’s taken generations to cultivate, but engaged and excited to affect change and action. That’s why the Keep Local Alive page isn’t your standard gripe-group, but a living to-do list.

The private group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/KLA.Omaha/) is a sonnet of positive restaurant reviews, kudos for covid precautions, and tips about restaurants who may need a little more love in any given week. While your standard private local group pretty quickly devolves into burn-book level rants, KLA is a place to find your next favorite.

The group’s energy is proof that while we have lost a lot these last several months, Omaha’s humanity is alive and well. Members are quick with tips, suggestions, and encouragement, and the admins foster a hopeful ambiance for their fervent followers and casual lurkers.

The team is working on a directory of local businesses to make support easier, and the myriad members are encouraged to share all of their positive experiences through stories, pictures, tags, and hashtags. And when some of those stories included members finding themselves the sole customer in a beloved local establishment, a new Call to Action was delivered.

Cash Mobs

The group has been using their numbers to give in guerilla fashion through the cash mob phenomena. Page followers nominate a business who could use a boost, and an establishment is chosen each week. Participants then buy gift cards, make purchases, grab take-out, and dine at the selected target to boost sales for the establishment. Diners are encouraged to tag the business, hashtagging #Move20mob to encourage others to take part.

Establishments are given ample notice that they will be subject to the sudden influx of customers for a week. This allows them to make inventory and staff choices to handle the sudden increase in traffic. Hartland BBQ sold out entirely the week the mob chose to target them, and as we’ve mentioned, a week can change everything for a small business.

And it’s not just diners on the KLA page, but many local business owners rely on the group for inspiration, and jump at every chance to support their fellow entrepreneurs. You’ll find small businesses reaching out to one another, employing one another from the comments section for odd jobs, website design, beauty services, and home improvement. Many of these locally owned businesses engage with the Cash Mob targets by purchasing gift cards to the establishment and using them as giveaways on their own pages. For some, it took a pandemic to find the locally owned establishments that would become the local proprietors they can’t imagine life without.

You can find this team using their platform across social media, podcasts, (Including this one at OvationUp.Com), and out in the real world actively living their own Call to Action.

The movement has spread, and Keep Local Alive groups are sprouting up in other cities like wildflowers. With a little luck and twenty bucks, who knows how much more good can be done?

Head to  https://www.facebook.com/keeplocalalive.omaha/ to join the movement.

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