Thinking Big About Buying Local

Buy-local campaigns | BCBusiness
The Small Town Love marketing project promotes buying locally in six small northern and central B.C. communities.

Six communities in B.C. are participating in a $75,000 pilot program to promote independently owned, local businesses

A buy-local campaign dubbed “Small Town Love” is giving small-business owners in central and northern B.C. a new way to market their independent operations. Six communities—Logan Lake, Fort St. James, 100 Mile House, Vanderhoof, Valemount and Burns Lake—have partnered with Northern Development Initiative Trust, which is focused on stimulating economic growth and job creation in central and northern B.C., to participate in the $75,000 pilot program. The money will be used to develop community websites with professional photography and written content for each of the participating businesses.
“It’s about buying locally and supporting your local business, your local neighbour—the one that contributes to the local hockey team,” says Renata King, director of business development at Northern Development Initiative Trust.
The six communities were chosen because each has a population of fewer than 5,000 people, a number that, to Northern Development, validated a need for creative assistance. King says that a key challenge for the small, independent businesses in these communities is having a limited marketing budget.

The entrepreneur behind the Small Town Love marketing brand, Amy Quarry, first launched the program in Quesnel, where she runs her marketing firm, Adboom Studio. Northern Development has partnered with Quarry to use the Small Town Love brand and $75,000 of its own money for the pilot program.

Each participating city will have a website with the Small Town Love name, such as Each business owner participating in the pilot program pays $50, a fee that has been subsidized by Northern Development, to have their own profile on the Small Town Love website for their community. There will also be a page on the website that highlights the community and local events.
Quarry’s original project, Small Town Love Quesnel, highlights local business owners through profiles on a website and in a guidebook, which differs from the website-driven Northern Development program. Quarry was inspired to start Small Town Love when she was working with independent businesses through Adboom.

“A lot of the business owners I worked with through my marketing company had such great stories and they were accomplishing such great things,” says Quarry. “I wanted to introduce them as people to their customers in a way that they don’t typically get to do.”

The Quesnel website currently features close to 100 businesses and is expected to have 150 profiles by November. The guidebooks feature Q&As with owners and have coupons from every participating business. The first edition, which was published in 2011 with a print run of 2,500, sold out in under four months. A second edition of the Quesnel book will be out this fall.

Small Town Love’s success clearly made an impression on Northern Development. “We researched buy-local campaigns across Canada and across North America and found that the Quesnel Small Town Love program was one of the best,” says King.  

Brenda Beatty, owner of Rocky Peak Adventure Gear in Quesnel, signed up immediately when she heard that Quarry was launching Small Town Love. As an independent business owner in a city of approximately 10,000, she faced a smaller market and stiff competition from online retailers. “In a small town we don’t have access to some of the sophisticated marketing that urban customers are used to seeing. Amy does a great job of bringing those skills and making them accessible to us,” says Beatty.
Beatty says that Small Town Love Quesnel made a noticeable difference in the number of customers coming into her store. The coupon for her business was 10 per cent off all merchandise, and Beatty says she had a coupon return rate between 20 and 25 per cent. She recommends that business owners in other communities get involved. “It’s easy to talk about benefit in terms of numbers and dollars, but one of the best things is that there is a strengthening of this feeling of community amongst the business people in the town,” she says.
Northern Development will be tracking the analytics on the websites and will be getting feedback from business owners to decide if they will support the website campaign as a full program in the New Year. So far the response has been positive, and four of the communities have close to 30 businesses signed up for the program, which is slated to launch November 1.
As for Small Town Love, Quarry hopes it will continue to grow. “My big dream is to see Small Town Love be less of a marketing project and more of a movement that inspires people to get to know the independent businesses in their community and support them.”