Initiative boosts local businesses |

Initiative boosts local businesses

John Seelmeyer

Steven Finlayson and a buddy were grousing about the local economy last year.

“I wish somebody would do something,” Finlayson remarked.

Almost before the words were out of his mouth, he came to a realization: He was the somebody, and maybe it was up to him to do something.

Barely more than six months later, Finlayson has a handful of programs in place to help locally owned businesses thrive.

His company, The Strong Conservative, has created an online directory of local businesses. It’s developing e-mailed coupon programs to drive traffic for the businesses that participate in the directory.

It’s conducting conference calls at which business owners can share tips. It’s providing help to small businesses that want to use Facebook and other social marketing tools.

But Finlayson, who’s building The Strong Conservative in spare moments after he works 60 hours a week in the grocery business, hasn’t yet figured a way to make the venture into a money-maker.

And he’s not entirely certain that he wants to.

“I’m in it to help people,” he says. “I figure that what goes around, comes around.”

On the other hand, Finlayson says he’s been approached by investors who want to capitalize The Strong Conservative into something more substantial.

They’re drawn, he says, by the company’s plans to use online contests as a tool to collect 10,000 to 15,000 e-mail addresses from consumers. Those addresses, in turn, would provide a marketing vehicle for local business.

The framework of the plan is online at

For the moment, however, Finlayson wants to build his list of member businesses to 40 roughly double the current participation and he wants to find ways to help them connect and share knowledge.

“Business people just need ways to stay connected,” he says. “And we want to give them meat-and-potatoes information they can use.”

Another job on Finlayson’s to-do list: Change the branding of The Strong Conservative to “TSC.”

He initially selected the name, he says, because he figured owners of small businesses are financially conservative. Only later did he realize that business owners and consumers alike saw a political message in the name.


See more