For Tim Hudyncia and Lea Knepley, co-founders of “Lets Buy Local” (LBL), a time of crisis is a time to act.
When they became aware that two members of LBL had to close the business they owned and operated due to a major personal health issue, Hudyncia and Knepley immediately decided to host an auction to help raise money for their friends.
“They’re just taking a one-day approach to life,” Hudyncia said.
With more than 20 donated products, LBL, a membership alliance of at least 60 local independent businesses in Rhode Island, as well as the Ocean State Artisans (OSA), a statewide volunteer organization of artists, artisans, craftspeople and craft-related business owners, they ended up raising $1,060 during an auction they held in support of the cause. All of the proceeds are to benefit the members in need.
LBL, which was founded more than a year ago, often rallies people together for “Cash Mobs,” or group visits to independently owned business to increase revenue and introduce more shoppers to local stores. A majority of the goods sold at these stores are handmade or purchased from local venders.
Using the “Cash Mob” concept, Hudyncia and Knepley created the “Cause Mob” for the auction.
“The brilliance of the Cash Mob is to be there to help when help is needed, and that’s exactly what this is,” said Hudyncia, a chiropractor who also owns Nature’s Lather, a bath and body goods store at 3055 West Shore Road that he operates with his wife Dr. Shannon Cutts. “When we heard about this crisis, we said, ‘Let’s do something,’ and we thought of a way that we could take the Cash Mob and just tweak it a little. We wanted to do something as a business community.”
Knepley, who owns and operates Knepley Therapeutic Massage at 5784 Post Road with her husband Andrew, agrees.
“It’s meant to help one of our members because that’s what community is about and that’s what the organization is about,” she said. “We help one another.”
From there, they asked LBL and OSA affiliates to consider donating items to be bid on during the auction. The response, said Hudyncia, was nothing less than “amazing.”
“We received a lot of very generous donations,” he said. “People really like to help. I think that’s what people enjoy doing more than anything.”
Hudyncia and Knepley donated products from their businesses, with Hudyncia donating a collection of homemade soaps and Knepley donating a “Stress Buster” spa package.
OSA members and other LBL members donated and bid on items, including Carol Pratt, who owns Carol’s Country at 3293 Post Road, and Maureen Gendron of Johnston, owner of Wags to Whiskers.
They, along with 30 others, attended the live auction portion of the event, which was open to the public and took place Nov. 12 at the Rocky Hill Grange at 1340 South County Trail in East Greenwich. Live bidding started at 7 and closed at 8:15. Each item was bid on, with a majority of the winners taking home their goods by the end of the event.
“I try to help out whenever I can,” said Gendron, who primarily sells products online and through various local venders and bazaars. “We have to help each other. I have a good support system of my own, so I try to give that back to other people.”
Before the event, people had the opportunity to bid on items via a Facebook event page that Hudyncia and Knepley created. As of a week prior to the live auction, they garnished $600 in bids.
OSA Vice President Norma McEntee of Cranston attended the event, as the individuals who are forced to close their store are also members of the OSA.
“We’re supporting our local people and that’s what it’s all about,” she said as she left the event, an armload of items she won under her arm.
LBL member Bob Roeleveld of RI Local Magazine also ended the evening by taking home a few items. He said that he enjoys being part of LBL because they are building a local business community together.
“It’s not about one individual business; it’s about local businesses going back to what they were in the community – people that care for one another,” said Roeleveld. “Never mind the fact that a dollar spent locally translates into three and a half [times] more revenue in the local economy, as opposed to a dollar spent with a big box store, which represents pennies to the local economy.”
Hudyncia feels the same. He said he and the rest of the members of LBL get a thrill from the experience of buying locally and taking part in the Cash Mobs.
“We do these cash mobs and we’re happy to do them because we want to help bring people together and just create a little buzz and excitement for our local businesses,” he said. “If you go back to the inception of Lets Buy Local, I coined the phrase, ‘Building up community with kindness.’ That’s really the essence of what we hope Lets Buy Local will be and become more and more.”
According to Hudyncia, the first Cash Mob took place in August 2011 in Buffalo, N.Y. and was organized by Christopher Smith. The concept has spread throughout the country, with Rhode Island’s first Cash Mob occurring during the beginning of the year in Wakefield after Laura Coiro Winward, owner of Waves of Creation, put it together. It was attended by more than 40 “mobstas” resulting in nearly $1,000 in business for Jennifer’s Chocolates.
Further, central Rhode Island's April Cash Mob resulted in $1,300 in sales for Sparkle Unique Gifts, located in Coventry.
The OSA will be holding their 22nd annual holiday craft festival Nov. 23 from 10 to 5 p.m. and Nov. 24 from 9 to 4 p.m. at the Community College of Rhode Island Knight Campus. Admission is just $1. The college is located at 400 East Avenue.
For more information about Lets Buy Local, visit LetsBuyLocal.org. Learn more about Ocean State Artisans at OceanStateArtisans.com.