On Tuesday, March 27, at 7 p.m., Laury Hammel, co-founder of Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), will read from the inspiring new book he co-authored with Gun Denhart, Growing Local Value: How to Build Business Partnerships That Strenghten Your Community at Pegasus Books in downtown Berkeley.
The authors are preaching (in an un-preachy voice) what they have practiced. Hammel is the owner and president of The Longfellow Clubs, four New England health and recreation clubs. Gun Denhart co-founded the Hanna Andersson children’s clothing company in Portland, Oregon. Both entrepreneurs built flourishing firms whose success had a lot to do with their innovative community programs.
While people often think of community activism in terms of philanthropy or volunteer work, Hammel and Denhart show how every aspect of a business—from product creation to employee recruitment to vendor selection to raising capital—can be set up to benefit both the bottom line and the local community.
Each of the book’s seven chapters offers lessons in building a meaningful and profitable relationship with a key stakeholder group: customers, investors, nonprofits, government, other businesses, employees and the environment itself. Those lessons are illustrated by vivid case histories drawn from a wide range of industries located all over the United States. The authors are keenly aware of the challenges facing small and medium-sized independent entrepreneurs; they tell what worked—and what didn’t.
For this reader, it’s these stories that make this book compelling. A few examples: Rejuvenation Lighting in Portland, Oregon, established a home-buying program for its employees. TAGS Hardware of Cambridge, Massachusetts, mails every new resident in town a coupon offering a free trash can and a duplicate house key and sends out “free light bulb cards” to frequent customers. Hammel’s Longfellow Clubs helped an inner-city indoor/outdoor tennis club founded by African Americans to get back on its feet with generous donations of time, money and expertise.
Growing Local Value has a local angle: published by a San Francisco firm, Berrett-Koheler, the book is part of the Social Venture Network Series. Closer to home, the chair of the Social Venture Network is Berkeley consultant and author Mal Warwick, whose letter to the reader serves as the book’s preface.
According to the press release, after his reading Hammel will lead a discussion on sustaining a thriving downtown in any community. That, of course, is a topic of utmost importance in today’s Berkeley. It’s not one addressed in Growing Local Value. But the author’s imaginative, can-do approach to “value-based entrepreneurship” and his personal track record make me eager to hear his ideas about revitalizing city centers and—what is crucial for for Berkeley—about creating a vibrant retail economy.
Hammel founded the nation’s first business association of socially responsible businesses in 1988, the New England Business Association for Social Responsibility. He started BALLE with Judy Wicks, owner of the White Dog Café in Philadelphia. Both he and Wicks will be speaking at BALLE’s 2007 International Conference, to be held in Berkeley from May 31 to June 2. Hammel’s appearance at Pegasus is sponsored by Berkeley’s two BALLE networks, the Berkeley Business District Network and the Sustainable Business Alliance, as well as by Sustainable Berkeley.
Pegasus Books, 2349 Shattuck Ave.
For more information, contact Gina at
Pegasus: 528-3254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about BALLE is available at www.livingeconomies.org or (415) 255-1108.