Challenging economic times call for innovative thinking from a society's citizens; a prime example of which is being currently exhibited in Harlem, New York. Spear-headed by independent Harlem business owners, the Power of One is a movement that seeks to promote and support each other and their community in a unique manner. Utilizing the simple concept of rewards/loyalty programs, the Power of One encourages individuals to purchase a card for $1.00 which then enables the cardholder to receive discounts, VIP access and other perks when one spends or invests within Harlem. Seen as Harlem's very-own bailout plan, the program was created to incite sustainable change in the economics of this legendary location.
Marva Allen, owner of the HueMan Bookstore and inventor of the concept, believes strongly in the potential of such action. She explains, "The challenges we face are the challenges that every small business in America faces: how to scale their businesses to the next level with limited access to capital. Our ability to work together has been a giant leap forward for people whose history has divided trust. If we learn the art of collaboration we can in fact affect economic viability."
The idea of pooling resources to create and build wealth is a strategy that has been successfully used in financially stable communities around the world. The business owners involved in The Power of One program see their roles not only as value driven but also as community gatekeepers helping to solve social and economic problems that improve the quality of life for their customers, their employees and their community. "I signed on to the Power of One because I believe in the principle of communities and groups working together for the common good. As a solopreuneur, I'm also looking for a community of peers, explains Power of One collaborator, Marcia Mayne. "I find that among the diverse business community, the challenge is to get more businesses to see the value of participating…to get them excited about the potential of the organization. And we can do that by each individual business speaking with other businesses about their experiences. Mine is one of the few businesses in the Power of One that doesn't have a storefront but whenever I'm out, which I am especially on weekend, I talk to the owners where I get my goods and services to tell them about my experiences and why they should join. And what I've gotten so far is clients and referrals and several thousand dollars worth of business."
A University of Michigan study of urban areas shows that spending just 10% of one's income in the community increases capital circulation exponentially, in some cases by as much as $140 million. This increase, in turn, can also benefit the community at large. In fact, in the case of the Power of One, the program donates 15% of the money raised to charitable organizations that serve and enrich the Harlem community, such as Opus 118, The Melvin van Peebles Foundation, The Theater of the Oppressed and Cool Culture has slated another 5% to a fund concerned with the beautification of Harlem.
And the success will definitely be measured. According to Allen, "The metrics will be based on the fundamentals of business: i.e.increased revenue, profitability and arriving at and maintaining positive cash flow. We are also working with another organization, Torch Enterprises, to help us keep on the narrow road of success. Founded by Pamela Jolly a Wharton MBA we have taken steps to quantify through data collection what success looks like for grassroots organizations such as the Power of One."
To obtain a card, and other offerings, community investors can go to the website www.the-powerofone.com. <http://the-powerofone.com/>
As success mounts for the Power of One program, the country may witness a domino affect of similar programs across Black neighborhoods. The best hope is that such areas become models for self-empowerment to many.
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