Cinda Baxter opened an upscale stationery shop in Minneapolis in 1998. It was a success, so much so that others wanted her secret small business formula. She became a retail coach. After the economy hit bottom in March 2009, she turned a simple concept into a viral campaign that hit the nation’s conscience. Her “3/50 Project” encouraged consumers to pick three independent brick and mortars at which to spend $50, each month, to save local economies. The following year, American Express launched its Small Business Saturday campaign to encourage cardmembers to swipe locally the day after Black Friday. Cinda Baxter was tapped as Amex’s spokesperson.
Cinda credits Oprah with inspiring her the week she launched The 3/50 Project. For the first time in seven years, Ms. Winfrey had tactfully cancelled her annual Favorite Things episode in 2009 because of the economy’s doldrums. (The show resumed in 2010.) If even Oprah was stumped about how to go forward, maybe it was time to think out of the box–or out of the Big Box, anyway. And an annual ritual was born. Cinda Baxter’s favorite things, for the record, are dark chocolate and thriving independent entrepreneurs. Get local!