SOS! We need your donations – US retailer’s expansion plea

You’ve got a thriving local natural products store with a tribe of loyal customers. You’d love to expand into bigger premises. Then suddenly the shop unit next door comes up for rent. The problem is, your funds just won’t stretch far enough to do a proper buildout – and a previous business loss means you can’t get a loan. What do you do?

That was the question facing Theresa Anderson, who has been running Organico, a small natural products store and café´in Ramsey, New Jersey, since 2003.

Then Anderson’s light bulb moment struck. She would ask her customers to help out. Her first move was to email around 150 of her most loyal shoppers. She was frank with them: she told them that the rent on the new premises would be high; that she had poor personal credit and couldn’t get a bank loan; that it was too late for investors. But she enthused them too: their donations – however small – would help Organico continue to serve their community, support local producers and keep the ‘health victories’ coming.

Anderson also added a ‘donate’ button on Organico’s website and pushed out the message on social media.

And, as Anderson tells the US trade magazine Natural Foods Merchandiser (NFM) this month, Organico’s SOS has been answered. Thanks in part to customer donations the retailer is now in its bigger premises and about 80% of the way to realizing its wider expansion plan.

organicoBut Organico’s customers didn’t just lend a hand financially, they helped with the packing, painting and drywalling – they even brought in chairs, tables and fixtures. The experience has left Anderson humbled. She tells NFM: “It was amazing. I was so touched by their actions and generosity. It makes me tear up thinking about it.”

“It was amazing. I was so touched by their actions and generosity. It makes me tear up thinking about it”

Not surprisingly, Anderson has been taking every opportunity she can to thank her loyal customers. One facebook post reads: “Your donations, well-wishes and excitement have brought us to a whole new level of joy”.

• Take a look at photos of Organico’s new look store on its Facebook page.