In our most recent blog post article, we get to chat with Carey from Little Shop Talk, who sells small business coupon books at local schools to raise money for the school system right here in Abbotsford, Mission, and the surrounding areas of the Fraser Valley, Lower Mainland, and Metro Vancouver, while advertising and promoting local businesses AND teaching the students about entrepreneurship while doing community outreach. You have got to check out this article, there is so much community-uplifting going on at Little Shop Talk! We encourage all local small business owners to reach out and chat with Carey.
Can you explain the inspiration behind the creation of Little Shop Talk and its connection to the communities in Mission and Abbotsford, BC?
Little Shop Talk started with a simple conversation between two small business owners. I had just read an article that Mission had an estimated 41000 citizens… and I thought WOW, if even half of them knew about my business, I would be doing ok. I started thinking about a way to reach new customers from my own city and thought of making a small-scale coupon book with about 10 other small shops… that would be distributed at the local markets we attended. This quickly turned into a large-scale idea with huge dreams! Playing around with different ways of distribution, it was decided to sell coupon books at our local schools as a fundraiser for the children. Allowing Little Shop Talk to help even more throughout the community.
How has Little Shop Talk evolved since its inception?
Little Shop Talk is expanding. In the first year, we were exclusively in Mission. The second year we expanding to Mission + Abbotsford, and for our upcoming third year, we are expanding to all across the Lower Mainland. Which is allowing us to help even more small shops grow and help even more schools fundraise.
How do you select the small businesses that are included in the coupon book? Can you describe the process?
Applications are open for 3 months out of the year. If a business is considered ‘small’ (see below answer) they can apply and will be accepted! Once a shop applies, I take the time to vet the business, follow them on their socials, and take a look at their products and or services. Once I am sure they are a small business, they are sent an approval email and invoice. At this stage is where they choose their coupon value(s) to offer in the coupon book. I also love to get to know the businesses even more and ask some questions about their journey so I can share them on Little Shop Talk’s platforms.
What type of businesses usually participate? Is there certain criteria they have to meet?
If you are a small business, you are welcome to join! I am proud to say that we can accept businesses in ANY stage of growth. If you sell at markets, have a storefront, work from home, or have employees, you are welcome! Where Little Shop Talk draws the line is corporations. If you don’t make the decisions fully for your business and have to answer to a board, then we can’t accept you but can direct you to some other great advertising programs that will. Large corporations usually have a large advertising budget as well. We are focused on helping the little guys grow by offering affordable advertising!
How do the businesses in your coupon book benefit? Have there been any particular success stories?
In the first year, Little Shop Talk helped so many businesses grow within the community. Mission has such an outstanding sense of small business spirit. Businesses had small to medium amount of coupon book uses in the first year! It was the hype of 2021 and supporting locals was huge. I heard from so many shoppers that they were able to discover businesses they had never heard of!! The current edition (2022/2023) has been different. 2023 has been a tough year for so many. Stores have closed, gas is expensive, and interest rates are through the roof!! Coupon book uses have been less for most, I am trying really hard to drive potential customers to these small businesses’ social media pages so that when they are ready to make a purchase, they are reminded of the amazing local shop they can buy from. With the change in the economy, Little Shop Talk is adapting. We are expanding to the entire Lower Mainland which will allow for more businesses to advertise and grow, LST always offers a VERY affordable advertising fee of only $125/year. We are now offering a digital copy of the coupon book to allow shoppers to have access to their book at all times!
How does the process work for businesses that want to become a vendor?
Apply, wait for a response, pay, and then you are in! I design the full coupon book. You don’t need to worry about that, I just need the information and plug it into a fun, colorful book layout that highlights each business’s products and services. There is quite a bit of wait time between each step. Especially the design process! It can take up to 6 weeks for me to complete all of them.
Can you talk about the fundraising aspect of Little Shop Talk? How much of the proceeds go to local schools?
I am so proud of the fundraising side of Little Shop Talk. Coupon books retail for $20, and the school keeps $10 of each book sold! This makes Little Shop Talk one of the best fundraisers for the schools. We have helped raise THOUSANDS of dollars for the schools, which spend their money buying new playgrounds, sports equipment, and planning amazing fun and sports days for the children.
How are the schools chosen that benefit from your project?
We have reached out to over 550 schools across the Fraser Valley and Vancouver areas. It is up to the individual schools PAC’s to decide if the Little Shop Talk fundraiser works for their school’s demographic as well as their schedule.
What impact has the Little Shop Talk had on the students’ understanding of entrepreneurship and community involvement?
Although Little Shop Talk can not interfere with the school curriculum, I hope that the marketing materials provided to the schools when running the fundraiser bring a little light to the small business world.
How can people in the community get involved with Little Shop Talk?
Word of mouth is amazing. Use your coupon book and tell a friend! Knowing that each business that is inside the coupon book is trying to grow, they are trying to reach their goals, feed their families, and are following their dreams.
Do you have any plans for expanding Little Shop Talk to other areas?
For the next edition of Little Shop Talk, we are expanding all across the Lower Mainland. We are excited to reach more businesses and help raise even more funds.
What is the vision for the future of Little Shop Talk?
I am working on turning Little Shop Talk into a Smartphone App for even more convenience for shoppers. I am also working towards a new website that allows schools, sports, dance teams, and charitable organizations to run the fundraiser strictly through my site so it’s simple and easy for them to raise funds. In the near future, I am also VERY excited to be working towards setting up a bursary for a couple of students per year who have the entrepreneurial drive.
Have there been any challenges in running Little Shop Talk? If so, how have you overcome these?
Economy. This has been the hardest to overcome. 2023 people aren’t spending money like they used to on extras. They are very aware of where they are spending their money.
What has been your proudest moment since launching Little Shop Talk?
Little Shop Talk WON the Innovative Business Award from the Mission Chamber of Commerce earlier in 2023. I am still in shock from the win, still in awe of the support for the community.
Outside of running Little Shop Talk, what do you get up to for fun in your personal time?
What personal time? haha I run another business, The Blue House On The Corner, and this was one of the reasons why I started Little Shop Talk. I also have two amazing children (4 and 8) and love spending time with them and watching them grow.
Lastly, is there anything else you would like the community to know about yourself or Little Shop Talk?
I am just a woman who LOVES the small business community. I am passionate about your business and helping you grow! I love to see everyone’s creativity, I am always BLOWN AWAY by the talent I see on a daily basis and can’t wait to meet even more small shops along the way!
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