Two years ago on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I launched a little website. The idea was simple: times were tougher here in Michigan than in much of the rest of the country, and one way we could all help was to pay attention to where our money was going.
This wasn't going to be a website or a movement though. I started down this path by looking in my own fridge, cupboards, closets, garage, and most importantly in the mirror. I was trying to figure out what I was doing or not doing to help. Unquestionably there were changes I could make to keep more of my money local. Unfortunately it would take a lot of research to figure out what those changes were. I read labels, asked questions, made phone calls, and searched the internet.
I soon discovered that getting the information upon which to base my purchasing decisions was an incredibly time-consuming process. Eventually I developed a pretty good list of products to look for at grocery stores, and friends started asking, "Can I get a copy of that?" It was clear I was not the only one who wanted to make a change, but accurate information and time to look for it, was a huge barrier for all of us. Since I started to accumulate it, why not share it? Building a website seemed like the easiest way, compared to constantly emailing it out upon request, but it would take a little time.
Having worked in retail for many years, I certainly knew the tremendous amount of money that gets spent between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Even in the worst of times, we splurge for the holidays. It stood to reason then that encouraging people to change what they were buying and/or where it was coming from during the golden quarter could really make an impact. The best way to make that impact seemed to be to get a website up before "Black Friday." We barely made it. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving 2007, www.BuyMichiganNow.com was born. Back then it consisted primarily of some words of encouragement about the impact we could make together, a pledge for like-minded people to add their names and show support, and a Holiday Gift Guide that identified both gift and grocery ideas.
We launched along with a press release and people starting taking notice. The pledge number grew each day. Reporters came to my house (some on very short notice) to see what gifts were beneath my tree and what food was in my pantry. It was a lot of fun. It was even shocking when 3 weeks in I got a call from Governor Granholm's office saying that the governor wanted to mention my little site in her statewide radio address--Google had barely even found it by then.
Now, here we are, two years later. Our third annual holiday gift guide is up. More than 1500 businesses have added themselves to the Michigan Blue Pages, which now exists so that people can find a lot more than just gifts and groceries. More than 3700 of you have added your names to the Pledge to show Michigan businesses that we are serious about supporting them with our dollars if they are serious about keeping jobs here. The governor declared an entire Buy Michigan Week this year, at out request, and we even threw a 7-day festival to celebrate.
So much more has happened than what I could have anticipated. The best is that this simple little idea is no longer just mine, it's OURS. You are searching our site. You are buying from these companies. You are educating others about the benefits of buying locally. You are bragging about Michigan and taking a stand for a brighter future. So many of you have taken the time to write me a note, post something on the site, or chat at an event and tell me the changes that you've made or how your company has benefited. It's truly inspiring and I cannot wait to see what year three brings!
The first thing it has brought is this blog. I hesitated about doing a blog, but it does provide a cool forum for quick updates, personal thoughts, and great news that doesn't warrant an entire article. Hopefully there will even be a guest blogger from time to time. I promise to keep it fresh (and typically shorter than this). I hope you will return often and share your thoughts.
Thank you all for embracing this campaign, becoming a part of it, and embodying the spirit of Michigan. WE ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE!
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