We recently had the chance to chat with Tina Campbell, Director of Development of ASSETS, about entrepreneurship in Lancaster, social and environmental challenges facing our community, the importance of purchasing locally, and ASSETS’ goal of making Lancaster the “silicon valley” of social enterprises using business as a force for good. ASSETS is the Lemon Street Market partner organization for our March & April #GiveLocal campaign, which invites shoppers to round up when checking out with all proceeds benefiting the partner organization. Take it away, Tina!
1. Describe ASSETS in 3 sentences or less.
The vision of ASSETS is to create an equitable and ethical economy in Lancaster. Our focus is on supporting businesses that provide self-employment income for underserved entrepreneurs and social enterprises that seek to intentionally hire those in poverty and address social and environmental challenges in Lancaster. We provide both training and lending services to these entrepreneurs.
2. What is so unique about the Lancaster business community?
Lancaster is a community where local businesses can thrive. Lancaster is creative and innovative and continues to find ways to support one another. We are entrepreneurial and attract entrepreneurs. At ASSETS, our vision would be to take this entrepreneurial spirit and use it in the best way possible for the community – through focusing our buying at women-owned businesses and businesses owned by people of color and buying from social enterprises.
3. How can entrepreneurship transform communities and alleviate poverty?
Lancaster County is ranked as the most generous county in Pennsylvania, donating $366 million to charity in 2015. Despite this, non-profits have been unable to stem the tide of poverty and inequality locally. Poverty and inequality are a persistent plague in Lancaster City, with a poverty rate of 30% with another 30% below 200% of the poverty level (a recognized indication of economic distress).
We recognize that governments and nonprofits are essential to meeting social and environmental challenges in our community but often the funding and resources for these sectors are insufficient. In order to overcome the significant challenges facing Lancaster’s residents, it is essential that the private sector and for-profit businesses engage with our community’s social and environmental priorities and strategize opportunities to address needs through their business models.
We know that locally-owned businesses create jobs. According to the Center for Local Self Reliance, if a community the size of Lancaster (county and city) shifted just 10% of their spending from national to local, it would result in over $130 million in new local spending, 1,600 new jobs, and $52 million in new local wages. Simply by shifting 10% our purchases to locally-owned businesses, we can see the poverty rate cut drastically.
4. What’s your favorite small business success story?
There are many great stories of our clients… not sure where to even start! Maybe I will just use this space a chance to put in a little plug for our ASSETS business directory. If you are searching for great, local businesses to purchase from, check out the directory.
5. What ASSETS projects should we keep an eye out for this spring?
We recently expanded and officially launched a program called “Measure What Matters.” This program is designed to help businesses measure their social and environmental performance with the same rigor that they measure their financial performance. The program will work in partnership with B Lab, the home of the B Corp certification and movement. This is a great way for businesses to measure how good they are FOR the Lancaster community. And, it can help traditional businesses who already function with great missions start to shift more of their business model to a social enterprise approach. Our goal would be to make Lancaster the silicon valley of social enterprises who are using business as a force for good! Look for more information and public forums around this program soon!
What’s your favorite item sold at Lemon Street Market?
There are so many great items at Lemon Street Market, but I have to say that The Lancaster Food Co. bread is absolutely amazing. Great tasting, organic bread with a great mission… if you haven’t tried it, I encourage you to do so!
By shopping at Lemon Street Market, customers are directly supporting more than 75 local farmers and vendors, and even more through local distributors like Lancaster Farm Fresh, Oasis, and Four Seasons. Help us to contribute even more to our community by choosing to #GiveLocal when you check out at Lemon Street Market. Shoppers can elect to “round up” their purchases to the nearest dollar when they check out or choose to increase their at-the-register donation by adding to their round up value.