Shop Small, Shop Local: A Year Round Effort for Warsaw Couple
The owners of a small, independent insurance agency in Kosciusko County have made promoting local businesses in their community a mission of survival to help neighbors and fellow business owners. Joe and Gina Clevenger created a social media campaign, “Talk of the Town,” to help small, locally-owned businesses as they continue to recover from the economic downturn of the pandemic. Through its Facebook page, the couple has showcased about 100 businesses, including restaurants, boutiques, and even machining shops.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Joe Clevenger explained what pushed them to engage local customers.
“We started mainly during the pandemic. I was going around just buying coffees and lunches for local hospital nurses and staff, police, firefighters… to keep some of the businesses going. Because I knew that they were going to start hurting by not having people show up,” explained Joe Clevenger, himself a small business owner in Warsaw.
As part of the campaign, the Clevengers started to feature local small businesses on social media every Tuesday. They do this at no cost to the businesses.
“Our intent is to educate the public on small businesses to support – shop local – and be stronger together,” said Gina Clevenger.
Joe was born and raised in Warsaw, while Gina lived most of her life there. HIs father started the insurance agency in 1995. In 2017, Joe and Gina acquired the business and have a staff of 12. “Shopping local” is more than a catchphrase to the couple.
“When COVID hit you lost that human touch, you lost that human relationship. And this has been so positive, in my opinion, for businesses, to regain their composure and to feel empowered, again, that what they’re doing is the right thing and believing in their products,” said Gina.
While they live in Kosciusko County, the campaign has already profiled small businesses in Elkhart County and may expand to Marshall County.
Gina says the program is not only about promoting the businesses and the products they sell. The platform has also become a way for businesses to tell the community they have job openings.
“It’s gotten to a point now where the businesses have been contacting us, and they want to be featured…. because they want to tell the community that they’re hiring, and this is what their workplace culture is like,” said Gina.
The Clevengers hope the “Talk of the Town” campaign is more than talk, but also prompts action.
“Quite frankly, it’s building a beautiful base of community relations. Because when you go to town now you recognize a face with a name, and we feel like it’s just really helped in a lot of ways,” said Gina.
Click here to view their Facebook page.
Through the campaign, the insurance agency was able to present a $2,000 check last fall to an after school program in Warsaw called Bakers Youth Club.