Three years ago on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I sat before my computer anxiously watching as the very first version of www.BuyMichiganNow.com went live for the world to see. It consisted of a few pages talking about the difference we could make economically if we worked together to buy locally, a pledge that people could add their names to as a demonstration of commitment, and a Holiday Gift Guide that could be downloaded. That first gift guide had some retailers listed, food options to complete your feast, and about 30 suggestions of gifts.
I sent a press release out to try to capture people's attention about this simple idea in time for Black Friday and all the shopping that would happen in the weeks to follow. Next, I emailed friends and family encouraging them to take the pledge and invite others to do the same. I had no idea what, if anything, would happen. The next day, as my family gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving I showed them the site and talked a little bit about what I was trying to do. One by one, they logged on and took the pledge. It was really fun, and I watched the counter grow from one to twenty, to thirty...
By the next day, I noticed that number had grown to close to one hundred. Wow! People were taking the time to look at my little project and show their support. Within a week or so it was 200, and Google and other search engines hadn't even found the site yet.
The next week I had to travel out of state on behalf of a client. I was focused entirely on work and didn't have much time to be thinking about my little initative back home. Finally I boarded my flight and headed back to Detroit. I got off the plane, turned my cell phone back on and saw that there was a new voicemail. It was fairly late by then, so I presumed the message was likely to be from my kind parents who were picking me up at the airport and probably wanted to coordinate where to meet. Much to my surprise, the call had come from Governor Granholm's office. It seems the governor was preparing to do her statewide radio address for the week and her staff wanted to know if I would be agreeable to her mentioning the website in her message. She would be encouraging people to keep their dollars here for the holiday season and they thought my site was a great example of ways to do that.
I remember thinking, how cool it was that they even knew about it and then realized that must mean other people do too. It's not just an idea in my head anymore, it's a real campaign. So, now what do I do? Before I had much time to ponder that question, media calls started coming in. The most overwhelming of which came from Fox2 News in Detroit. They wanted to know if they could send a reporter over to my house in about an hour to talk about the campaign and get Michigan gift ideas. Naturally the correct answer to that question is "Yes," until you hang up the phone and a little voice says, "Did you just say yes to having television cameras in this house in an HOUR? Have you lost your mind?!"
There was no time to think about...just get moving. Call in reinforcements (my nearby family), clean the house, restock on Michigan food and beverages, get your gift ideas under the tree, and...never mind your hour's up and the reporter is at your door. The story aired and I realized I had a full-fledged campaign on my hands and was off on a new, somewhat unexpected adventure.
Now here were are three whole years later. Today another Holiday Gift Guide went up, and it's the fourth one! We received hundreds and hundreds of ideas about what to put in it this time. The couple hundred pledge-takers have grown to 5500+ with the word spreading to more each day. Our social media network, which barely existed when the campaign was launched, now has about 10,000 people in it. There's a monthly newsletter with nearly 5,000 subscribers, and we've thrown two full-blown festivals in downtown Northville. The businesses highlighted in the site, are no longer just those that I personally researched, now there are 2500+ that have added themselves to our Michigan Blue Pages directory. Food items aren't just in an annual gift guide anymore, they are in a Grocery Guide of their own, which is available year-round and even became our first mobile phone application. Thanks to our friends at Digital 10 Network in Novi, a video now airs sixteen times a day in Secretary of State offices throughout Michigan encouraging people to commit to buying from Michigan-based businesses.
Thus today as we enter into another holiday buying season, and better yet, approach Thanksgiving, I wanted to take a moment and share with you the humble beginnings of this little idea and say THANK YOU to all who have nurtured it and helped it grow. Together we truly are revitalizing Michigan, one product, one purchase, one person at a time...and there are bigger and better thing on the horizon!
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