As a long-time board member of Cambridge Local First, I have held various
positions in the organization and recognized the value it offers to locally owned,
independent business owners.
For fifteen years CLF has operated with an active board and hundreds of
members, both business owners and residents. The work of keeping our members
informed about best practices in financing, business continuation, employee
engagement and customer service have taken up much of our attention and served
our members well. This work is time consuming to do well. We have always
struggled financially as an organization to continue this work.
Since mid-March, and especially since the shut down of all non-essential
businesses in Massachusetts, CLF has dramatically increased its work in all of these
areas. Under the leadership of Theodora Skeadas, CLF has held webinars and town
meetings, engaged interns to do surveys and research, connected with surrounding
local business communities lacking representation, with various media to engage
Cambridge residents and businesses not (yet) members of CLF. Attendance and
response to these efforts have been impressive. There is a large community of
people who want to know more, to support local businesses, to see our city come
back to liveliness as it is safe to do so.
As a business owner in Cambridge for nearly thirty years, I have seen some
ups and downs in the market place. Like the rest of us, I have never seen anything
like this. I know many businesses will not survive it. It is possible that my own will
not survive this stretch, regardless of how well we are appreciated, how hard we try.
CLF has been an extremely helpful resource as I navigate government loans,
the Mass DUA, social media, and the general marketplace. Independent businesses
do not have the resources larger businesses do. Owner/operators wear many hats:
finance, human resources, marketing, compliance, planning, bookkeeping, customer
service policies, etc. CLF has offered assistance in all of these areas, through its
education, advocacy web site and social media efforts.
Also, because CLF has been funded by member dues and some sponsorships,
its budget has always been inadequate to the demands our members make of it.
Dues is naturally limited because of the size of the businesses involved.
Sponsorships are always tricky and changing, particularly now. This is not true of
other business associations in the city, which can, depending on their location, rely
on bigger dues and sponsorship revenues from bigger players in their
neighborhoods. CLF is city-wide and restricts its membership to locally owned
independent businesses and supporting residents. These businesses are significant
contributors to the unique and vibrant culture of Our Fair City.
Irving House at Harvard & Isaac Harding House