( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) Local Initiative in Hendersonville, NC Supports The Small Business Community in The Western North Carolina Town During COVID-19
ENSPIRE Contributor: Rosa Fallon
Every year, thousands flock to the Western North Carolina region to experience all of the wonderful tastes, sights, and sounds of mountain living. The area is known for its tight-knit, small-town culture, offering a wide variety of unique local businesses for residents and tourists alike to enjoy. Many small businesses rely on the tourism industry as a substantial source of revenue, but cash flow has become slow as a result of the current pandemic.
Local businesses in Hendersonville, North Carolina, a town just south of Asheville, are being hit hard by the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. In an effort to help small businesses stay afloat, The Chamber of Commerce, Friends of Downtown Hendersonville, and a few local volunteers launched Love Hendo, a website giving customers information on how they can support their favorite small businesses.
One of those volunteers is Will Holt, a full-time minister and freelance digital marketer, who helped create the Love Hendo website. Holt helps manage the website by creating content and keeping the information updated. He said Love Hendo is a movement that promotes love for the community. “It is a social movement that seeks to show love in the community with a sense of pride for one’s place,” Holt said. “People here love their town and county. Woven into the fabric of this ‘love of place’ are the local businesses.”
Love Hendo presents multiple different kinds of businesses on its website, ranging from retail and food to hospitality and wellness. The website mainly features information on how to purchase gift cards, among other things, which will funnel cash flow directly into the hands of small business owners. Nicole Laughter Lowery, director of operations at the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce said Love Hendo is a great one-stop resource for local customers to stay updated and informed on their favorite shops, restaurants, and other services. “It’s a catch-all for our local small businesses, so people can have a one-stop-shop to see how to buy gift cards or see what special services they are offering,” she said. “It’s an easy way for people to get information about their favorite local businesses.”
Love Hendo also provides information about other options customers can choose from to offer their support. One of these options is to purchase a Love Hendo t-shirt or sweatshirt made by Big Frog, an Asheville-based t-shirt printing company. A percentage of funds from t-shirt sales will be directed to small businesses in Henderson county.
Lowery said the blueprints for the Love Hendo movement were already present based on a similar program called Shop and Dine Henderson County launched by The Chamber during the recession in 2008. The idea behind Shop and Dine was to provide an incentive for people to spend their money locally instead of shopping online or at larger retail outlets and restaurants. The program encouraged shoppers to bring in their receipts to be entered into drawings to win prizes. As the economy began to repair itself, the effort started to slow down and became shelved in the midst of other projects. In the wake of COVID-19, Shop and Dine were revitalized to be used as a small business fund program to collect money from the Love Hendo t-shirt sales.
Local resident Jared Bellmund posted photos of him and his family sporting #LoveHendo gear on Facebook, encouraging friends to go purchase their own. Bellmund, a partnering manager with ALLCHOICE Insurance in Hendersonville, reallocated business marketing funds to purchase shirts to help local businesses.
“This is important because we are supporting locals to help them stay in business,” Bellmund said. “I think it helps by keeping our community involved with each other even when we cannot gather together.”
While the initiative is a quick way to help give immediate relief to small businesses, Lowery said she believes it is going to take on a life of its own with the continued support from The Chamber and the community. The question of “What’s next?” is being explored by the team.
“It might have come about in a moment of crisis, but it doesn’t just have to exist in a moment of crisis,” she said. “The options are pretty broad right now, but because of the idea that people are in Henderson county and that there’s not really another place in the world like it, the lasting intention behind it is always going to be there.”
For more information on how you can show your support for this great community, visit www.lovehendo.com. #LoveHendo