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Local Chicago Small Business, Gretta’s Goats Gives Back to the Community

By Danielle Malloy

With daily deals for just about anything you could want—from dinner at the new Chinese restaurant down the street to a guided tour of your favorite microbrewery—Groupon provides customers with an endless array of delightful, unexpected ways to explore their community and beyond. And with a new City Guide blog that features expert tips and recommendations for food, style, and art, it’s even easier to discover hidden gems from local merchants.

Gretta with goatTake Gretta Winkelbauer, for instance. I met Gretta last winter at an indoor farmers’ market in the Chicago neighborhood of Logan Square. She was standing behind a small table stacked with a variety of handmade soaps, enthusiastically explaining that the main ingredient for her product came straight from goats that she pastured and milked herself.

Four months later, and now thoroughly addicted to goat-milk soap, I found myself at Prairie Crossing Organic Farm in Grayslake—where Gretta currently leases a few acres of land. We stood surrounded by a herd of loud, adorable mini goats trying to eat my clothes and shoelaces as Gretta explained everything about her soap, from the hand-milking process to the types of essential oils she uses in her all-natural recipe. When asked why she started her business, Gretta explained that she used to teach blind children for 15 years, and she wanted a way to give back—without asking for donations. A few years and a goat herd later, Gretta’s Goats was born. Read on to learn more about how small businesses and Gretta’s Goats in particular are doing good in their communities and beyond.

headshot 3Dani is an associate editor at Groupon. She enjoys live music and hates capers. When she’s not trying her hand at amateur seamstressing or searching for the perfect pair of holiday socks, she can be found trying to convince passersby why Solange Knowles is so much cooler than her sister Beyoncé.

Five Thoughts on How Small Businesses Give Back

Little Berlin

Groupon Grassroots merchant community partner Little Berlin helps outfit a public art space in Philadelphia.

In our How Small Businesses Make a Big Impact series, we learned how three small businesses show their commitment to their communities and connect to their customers by giving back. National Bakery and Deli in Wisconsin, USA Insulation in Omaha, and JReznick Studios in Brooklyn shared how they use their business’s resources to benefit nonprofits and individuals in need.  By investing in their community, they not only aligned their personal values with their businesses, they also received a return on their investment in the form of an increase in customers and awareness of their services and products.

Here’s a recap of some of the themes merchants expressed during our series:

  • Start small. Don’t be dissuaded by the misconception that charitable activities have to be big. Small actions can have a big impact.
  • Your business can help tell the story about what you and your customers care about.  Connect to customers through that story.
  • Bigger businesses might appear to be the ones who are giving, but small businesses are giving back too
  • PR is a small business’s friend. Use it to celebrate how your business is helping make a difference.
  • Businesses gain new customers and retain existing customers through attention to their charitable work, whether it’s big or small.

How do you give back as small business owners? Share what you are doing and your business could be featured on Groupon, too. We look forward to celebrating more of our merchants who are making an impact in their communities!

Donuts that Make a Difference: The Philanthropic work of National Bakery and Deli

by Danielle Carlson

National Bakery and Deli

For National Bakery and Deli and co-owner Jeff Callen in Wisconsin, giving away free donuts was the first step toward a long-term partnership with Easter Seals that Callen describes, is a “win win.” Autism is a cause that is close to Callen’s family, as well as the families of several of his employees, so supporting Easter Seals, an advocate for adults and children with disabilities, was a natural fit. And like when many small businesses start, they began small with their philanthropic efforts, offering a puzzle-shaped voucher for a free donut to customers that donated a dollar to the cause. With only a couple donation buckets in each store, this effort still made quite an impact. As Callen says, it was “crazy how much money we raised.”

fundraising campaign for Autism plaque

For their next effort they called on their bakers’ creativity and culinary talents to create colorful, puzzle piece cookies, and donated $.50 of the sale of each cookie to Easter Seals. As a Polish bakery, they also took advantage of their busiest day of the year, Paczki Day, also known as the Fat Thursday, to increase awareness for Easter Seals and raise even more money. Each year they sell popular Paczki Day t-shirts with catchy slogans such as “Got Paczki?” and donate the proceeds from these t-shirts to Easter Seals.

cookies that National Bakery and Deli makes to support families and children with Autism

But for Callen, Paczki Day wasn’t just about raising money from t-shirt sales. Camera crews from four local TV stations were on hand one year to capture the buzz about a huge thanks to National Bakery and Deli’s presence in the community and the promotion done for Easter Seals. This joint effort is the “win win” Callen is so excited about. Not only was awareness built about children and families experiences autism and Easter Seal’s mission, but Easter Seal’s promotional efforts brought new customers into the bakery after TV crews spread the word to the entire city.

customers at the bakery

But for Callen, Paczki Day wasn’t just about raising money from t-shirt sales. Camera crews from four local TV stations were on hand one year to capture the buzz about a huge thanks to National Bakery and Deli’s presence in the community and the promotion done for Easter Seals. This joint effort is the “win win” Callen is so excited about. Not only was awareness built about children and families experiences autism and Easter Seal’s mission, but Easter Seal’s promotional efforts brought new customers into the bakery after TV crews spread the word to the entire city.

553273_920042225852_875809192_n (1)Danielle is a California transplant living in the neighborhood Andersonville in Chicago so she can walk to the beach whenever she wants. When she’s not writing, she spends most of her time juicing all the vegetables in her kitchen, drinking beers in friends’ backyards, trying to master crow pose, and pondering whether her cat would like a leash.

A Portrait of Giving: JReznick Studios and the Fallen Angel Project

Russel Timoshenko, NYPD officer, was killed in the line of duty in 2007. He is the inspiration behind JReznick Studio’s charitable work painting portraits of fallen officers for family members.

Russel Timoshenko, NYPD officer, was killed in the line of duty in 2007. He is the inspiration behind JReznick Studio’s charitable work painting portraits of fallen officers for family members.

Jodi and Jeff Reznick figured out how to use art to give back to their community. They opened JReznick Studios on E. 17th Street in New York. In 2009 they extended their vision of providing their customers with art and frames to families in the New York City area who recently experienced the loss of a family member.

Jodi just finished a portrait of a service member killed in the line of duty, even though she has never met him. She paints portraits of family members killed in the line of duty through JReznik Studio’s “Fallen Angel Project.” To date, the “Fallen Angel Project” has donated seven portraits to families. Jeff says there is one moment that stands out when he could feel the difference that the project is making. It was during a police department ceremony where a family was formally given a “Fallen Angel Project” portrait that JReznick Studios donated. A family member walked up to Jodi and Jeff to confide in them about the loneliness that accompanied their grief. “They spoke about how no one seemed to understand their pain, how no one seemed to remember.” says Jeff.

A few months later the family’s loss and the “Fallen Angel Project” portrait caught the attention of media outlet Newsday who covered the family’s story. Jeff says that the family said “people started to remember that tragic night and with that the isolation and loneliness dissipated.” Jeff confides that he and Jodi  “were deeply moved by this confession…”

More recently, JReznik Studio’s charitable work went beyond the “Fallen Angel Project” to focus on helping feed New York City’s hungry. They donated 10% of proceeds from a local art show curated at JReznik Studios in June to the Masbia soup kitchen network. Masbia provides hot, nutritious meals for hundreds of New Yorkers in desperate need of food and coordinates weekend grocery bags for families who need some extra help with food at home. Jeff says, “We are not wealthy, so we have discovered that the best way to be part of the solution is to use our business (art/framing) resources. This simply gets us more charity bang for the buck! What we get out of it is good press and positive publicity.” Jeff notes that his customers’ response is positive, which in turn positively impacts their business’s brand, helps acquire customer leads, and improves customer retention. “Many of our clients tell us that when it came time to frame they thought of no other framer but us because we are constantly being written up for kind projects.” says Jeff.

When asked what advice JReznik Studios would give to the small business sector when it comes to giving back to community?

“Work with people who work for the work and not for the money. Those folks are lets say, pre screened towards integrity.”

By working with the nonprofit sector, Jeff stays true to his conviction, rooted in faith, that it is their “duty and honor to help & support others.” His small business benefits in return.

To see more of How Small Business Make a Big Impact, go here or the Merchant Works blog.

Omaha Small Business Gives Back in a Big Way

Dan and Todd give back to their community as owners of USA Insulation in Omaha, Nebraska.

Dan and Todd give back to their community as owners of USA Insulation in Omaha, Nebraska.

USA Insulation in Omaha, Nebraska is one of the smallest insulation businesses in Omaha. But the way that they give back to the community is big.

When Dan and Todd Travaille opened USA Insulation in 1977, they immediately began giving 2% of their sales to Open Door Mission, a community organization providing basic needs and life-changing programs to the homeless and needy in Omaha.  When asked why their business began with giving back in mind, Dan says that giving back was “something that I felt within myself. It’s all about my core values.” Giving back to their community grew, and USA Insulation began to offer their customers with a wider range of charities to support through the 2% of profits going towards positive community impact.

The economy’s downturn took an effect on USA Insulation though, and consequently Dan and Todd had to rethink how they could grow their local business while still benefitting organizations that aligned with helping the neediest and most vulnerable. Dan and Todd began to offer services ad hoc to members of the community. They advertised on their local Christian radio, KGBI, for nominations of community members who most needed their help.

They met a single mom whose family, two children ages 1 and 8, were having trouble breathing in their home. Once USA Insulation inspected the home, they found problems in their insulation. After showing the landlord  what the problems were, the landlord was persuaded to fix them.  Other times USA Insulation has donated products and services to community members in need. Dan says:

It’s all about listening to what is happening in your customers’ lives and providing assistance when you can.

Dan says that a lot of the small business sector gives back to their communities. But the small business community doesn’t always talk about how they support charities, while bigger businesses do. “We struggle between what we have to do as a business and how we want to give.” says Dan. “In fact, having this interview makes me think that we should formalize some of the ways that we are giving back.”

To see more of How Small Business Make a Big Impact, go here or the Merchant Works blog.

How Small Businesses Make a Big Impact: Interviews with Groupon Merchants on Philanthropy

fundraising campaigns

Groupon Grassroots merchant partner, Tire Pros & Auto Repair, repurposes tires to build a community garden and provide fresh produce to a Phoenix neighborhood in need.

Here at Groupon we value giving back to communities. Whether it’s through our Groupon Grassroots pro-bono fundraising campaigns, Groupon’s Employee Volunteer Program (EVP), or local merchant initiatives, we work to use our resources reinventing the ecommerce space for local businesses to make a positive impact. However, our corporate operation is not the only facet of the Groupon family making a difference.

We work with scores of small business owners integral to the economic success and cultural personality of their community. And despite their small size, many of these businesses are finding ways to create meaningful change in their own communities through philanthropic work, sponsorship, and in-kind giving—often strengthening their own business and ties to the community in the process.

So to celebrate merchant philanthropy we are running a series of merchant interviews that spotlight the great work Groupon merchants are doing in their communities. Each of these three merchants found ways to use their resources, expertise, and voice to make an impact, and we hope that their stories and advice will inspire other merchants to incorporate this type of giving into their own businesses.

Look out for the three interviews on Groupon Works and Groupon Grassroots that will be posted over the next three days, and a final wrap-up post with tips for making an impact with your business. Have any ideas for how we can continue to spotlight the great work of merchants in the local business sector? Let us know under the comments section below.

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