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Devin: What is your superpower?
Jen: My superpower is seeing connections between different topics–different passions that people have. To me, the connection between shopping local and investing local is all the same.
Jen Risley is the operations manager for the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA), a national nonprofit working to advance the interests of local businesses; she also serves as the editor of the Main Street Journal, a publication advocating for local investing, especially via crowdfunding.
Jen’s roles harmonize remarkably well. She simultaneously encourages people to shop and invest in local businesses.
She describes AMIBA’s holiday season push to encourage local shopping this way:
From November 1st till the end of the year, we're trying to remind people to shift as much spending as they can to locally-owned businesses. So, from your meals and celebrations to your gifts and gift-making supplies, there are just lots of opportunities to make those decisions to buy locally. It doesn't have to just be those big gifts. It could be what you eat during the day.
We're trying to make it clear to people that there are just lots of choices over the holiday season. We're here to help remind you to make those shifts in your spending.
The more you spend locally, the more dollars recirculate in your local economy. That means more jobs for your community. It could mean a summer job for your teenager or your grandchild. It means more charitable contributions to the causes that you care about, and it means it could potentially influence what your town or your city looks like in terms of land use. So there are lots of things that happen when you choose to buy local.
Similarly, she makes the case for local investing under the Main Street Journal (a substack newsletter) banner:
The Main Street Journal is through Michael Shuman. He's a local economist and an author. He spends a lot of time looking at how people can move their money from Wall Street to Main Street through investment crowdfunding where they live.
On our website, we have [investment opportunities] allocated by region. So, if you live in the southwest, you could see this huge list. But you can go to the southwest and go, “Oh wait, is there anything in Utah or Arizona?”
Of local investing, Jen says, “Their success means your success!”
In her work, Jen uses her passion for connecting ideas as a superpower.
AI Episode Summary
The guest, Jen Risley, is the operations manager at the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) and the editor of the Main Street Journal.
The focus of the conversation is on the importance of shopping local and supporting locally-owned businesses.
The initiative, known as Shop Indie Local, aims to encourage people to shift their spending to local businesses from November 1st to the end of the year.
Shopping local helps to support the local economy, create jobs, and contribute to charitable causes in the community.
It is easy to be tempted by the convenience and affordability of online platforms like Amazon, but shopping local has a more significant impact on the community.
Tips for shopping locally include making a conscious decision to shift some spending, asking friends for recommendations, starting small with local food options, and exploring local farmer's markets or co-ops.
Jen also works on promoting local investing through crowdfunding in the Main Street Journal.
Local investing through crowdfunding platforms like Wefunder helps to support local businesses and allows investors to make a profit.
By connecting different topics and passions and sharing them on social media, Jen believes that she can inspire others to learn and make connections as well.
Jen encourages people to follow hashtags related to their interests on social media platforms, engage with the conversations, and share their own findings and insights with others.
How to Develop Connecting Ideas As a Superpower
Jen’s superpower is connecting ideas. She recalls how she first employed that ability for impact during college:
I wound up going to Kenya, um, for a semester program, which was something I've always wanted to do but never had the opportunity because of living in a household with a single mom. We never really had the opportunity to travel or get exposed to different cultures like that. I was able to go through my university and have that chance to see how different life can be, how different life is to so many people around the world.
I went from thinking small in my suburban town to thinking huge and realizing that everything I ever thought about the world was completely not wrong but just completely limited. By having that experience and coming back from it with a whole new mind view. One of the things that I took with me from that experience was my relationship to food and just how strange it was when my homestay brother was saying, “You go to school all day, or you go to university, who stays at home and makes the food?”
I started to explain, “Well, we have grocery stores that we go to…” I realized as I was trying to explain to him what my reality was, how strange the reality became.
When I came back home and started looking around and going, “Wow, this really seems wrong to me,” I was able to connect with other people who were doing great work in my community. We started working with some of the local farmers in our community.
Back then, bovine growth hormone was the big topic. It was just thinking about how farmers were producing milk and learning from them, why they weren't happy with going in the direction others were telling them to go in terms of their local food system.
That was one great opportunity to get frustrated with the system, learn from people who were in the system, and then again, share what I was learning and connect with other people to hopefully change some other people's minds. That was a great experience and taught me a lot that I'm still carrying with me.
Having developed this ability to connect ideas, Jen offers some guidance for developing this skill:
If we're talking about social media or online media, it's just starting with a platform that you're interested in or that you're already using. I use a lot of hashtags, so I'll start following a hashtag that is connected with something that I want to learn.
So, if it's cooperatives or it's employee-owned businesses, you learn what hashtags people use. Then, every day or so, I start to look at the stream of conversation that's happening around that topic. On Twitter or whatever it's called now, I'll like whatever I want to read later, and then I'll go back to it. So, I'll have all these different primary resources to look at.
Then, something that I've been lucky to be able to do is we have a weekly paper, and so they let me write an article every month. As I'm looking to see what topics are coming up, I know eventually, I'm going to have to write something that is accessible to enough people in my community. So yeah, I'm learning. But then I have to figure out, “Okay, my neighbors, are they going to care about employee-owned businesses? How can I make that a little bit more important to them?”
So it is that kind of like putting your ear up to social media, having questions, but then seeing what other people are talking about and then finding a way, whether it's a blog post or on Substack or something, that's going to hold you accountable for actually producing something that you can then share with others.
With Jen’s guidance and example, you can improve your ability to connect ideas and communicate them. With practice, you may make this a superpower that enables you to do more good in the world.
Jen Risley (she/her):
Director of Operations, American Independent Business Alliance
About American Independent Business Alliance: The mission of AMIBA is to build a strong local economy movement by supporting the growth and development of local business alliances and networks that are committed to the following objectives:
- Supporting local independent businesses in growing and thriving
- Building a strong local economy that is diverse, inclusive, and equitable
- Working to mitigate climate change and adapt to the damage brought on by global warming
Twitter Handle: @theAMIBA
Company Facebook Page: http://facebook.com/theAMIBA
Biographical Information: Jen served as an early organizer of her local food co-op in 2007. In addition to her co-op and AMIBA work, she’s program manager of The Local Crowd Monadnock, a community-based crowdfunding program for independently owned businesses. She holds a Master’s in Education from Antioch University New England and lives in Keene, NH.
Twitter Handle: @MonadnockLocal
Personal Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/MonadnockLocal
Instagram Handle: @the.amiba
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