Winnebago Buy Local celebrates fifth year with Feb. 3 event

Staff Report

Over the past five years, more and more people have pledged to “buy local” in Winnebago County, and over the past half-decade, more than 175 locally owned businesses have helped to make this continue to be possible. To celebrate this local achievement, Winnebago Buy Local is inviting local business owners to its 2015 Kickoff Celebration Tuesday, Feb. 3.

Beginning at 6 p.m., Feb. 3, at Giovanni’s Convention Center, 610 N. Bell School Road, Rockford, this free event will feature Saya Hillman of Chicago’s Mac & Cheese Productions. Hillman is one of Brazen Careerist’s Top 20 Young Professionals to Watch, appears in Forbes, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Crain’s Chicago Business, US News & World Report and The Huffington Post, and is a TEDx speaker.

The Feb. 3 celebration will have door prizes, hors d’oeuvers, networking opportunities and a cash bar.

Winnebago Buy Local’s mission is supporting and cultivating local independent businesses while focusing on the transformation of the local economy toward green jobs, sustainable industries and practices, and buying local first.

Because local businesses are the bread-and-butter of every city, Winnebago Buy Local helps the local economy keep local wealth local while also making the region a unique place to live and visit.

Studies mention that shopping with a locally owned business keeps about 68 cents of every $1 spent in the local economy, versus much less when shopping with non-locally owned businesses.

Through the past five years, Winnebago Buy Local has held several large, yearly, events; has given back to the local nonprofit community; and has continuously held valuable and educational gatherings for locally owned businesses to network and help each other succeed in the constantly changing business landscape.

Local, unique to Winnebago County businesses are encouraged to attend the Feb. 3 event and to join Winnebago Buy Local in its fifth year.

RSVP to or visit for more information.

If you joined Winnebago Buy Local …


Dear Honorable Winnebago Buy Local Member,

We are excited for 2015. Because of your support, people are seeing the importance of buying local, and the momentum is stronger than ever before! Do you feel it? Membership is growing still, totaling over 175 member businesses, increasing from 140 members in the beginning of 2014.

Members of Winnebago Buy Local are finding success through actively buying local themselves, supporting and making connections at our meetings, interacting on social media with each other and the community, cross-promoting, retailing local business products, and joining forces with special events. We are proud to see our members are working together to make Winnebago County’s local economy strong. Because of local businesses like yours, Winnebago County continues to improve and become unique from anywhere else in the world.

Through our grassroots efforts in 2014, Winnebago Buy Local has received great positive press from the local newspapers, and has been promoted and advocated on local news stations, blogs, social media, radio stations and more. We reached out to the attendees of the Rockford City Market, community events and other public meetings. We are excited to have so many community members wholeheartedly standing behind us and look forward to more positive press in 2015.

2014 accomplishments: Be proud to be a Winnebago Buy Local member

February of 2014 was our kick-off celebration at Giovanni’s with Lynn Piesker as our Guest Speaker with over 125 local business owners in attendance. She gave us important information regarding the “First Order of Business” and making sure our business pyramid is right-side-up.

In March of 2014, we launched our brand-new website with the help of local business, Rockford Art Deli, featuring better member profiles, event pages, resources, and a mobile friendly directory. Take a look at

In April of 2014, we began our year of free educational meetings for our local businesses at Health First Wellness Center with IL State Representative John Cabello, who gave us advice on pushing LOCAL-support on a government level. Dr. Rob Andino taught us about how our health is most important as business owners.

Other free educational meetings throughout the year included keynote speakers and topics such as: Lori Gummow of Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful on Green Business Practices, Aaron Wilson from Channel 23 on How to Get Your Message Across, and Meeting of the Media Minds featuring media supestars, Steve Shannon from 97ZOK, Whitney Martin from Channel 23, Melissa Westphal from Rockford Register Star. And Jacob Bradt from

July of 2014, A Totally Local Ice Cream Social 2nd annual celebration was held at the Lombardi Club and was attended by over double the attendance of 2013, reaching close to 800 guests. The public who attended gained awareness about different local businesses through locally made Dairyhaus ice cream, locally made root beer by Rockford Brewing Company, and the distribution of over 30 wacky toppings by different local business owners. At this event, we collected school supplies and were able to donate six overflowing boxes of school supplies (totaling 643 items) along with $350 to Rock House Kids to help make back-to-school time easier for children who did not have the means to purchase the supplies they need. We can’t wait to make this event bigger and better in 2015.

In July of 2014, members of Winnebago Buy Local participated in an outdoor event with the Main Street District in Rockford called “Off the Chain,” which featured 100 percent locally-owned businesses, food vendors and local music on the blocks of Main Street and State Street.

In August of 2014, we received three honorable proclamations making the ENTIRE month of August Winnebago Buy Local Month, county-wide. On Aug. 4, 2014, Mayor Morrissey presented us with a Proclamation for the City of Rockford. On Aug. 14, 2014, County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen presented the Proclamation for Winnebago County. On Aug. 18, 2014, Board of Trustees member Aaron Wilson presented the Proclamation for the Village of Machesney Park. We continue to feel honored, and look forward to proclaiming August 2015 Winnebago Buy Local Month.

December of 2014, Winnebago Buy Local held its 4th Local Holiday Market at Rockford University with astounding support from the community. More than 30 local businesses gathered to sell goods/services for the holiday season, and dozens of our Winnebago Buy Local businesses were represented in a locally-printed tote bag given to the first 120 guests. Rosie’s Birthday Club wrapped gifts for a donation that benefited area children in need of birthday parties. We invited Rockford University’s Sociology and Anthropology clubs to sel hot cocoa and coffee for a donation, which benefited Rockford area homeless. Through social media, news coverage, and hard work, we blew past all records in attendance, mounds of positive comments, and sales were great for businesses involved.

Throughout the year, we maintained a highly active social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, MailChimp, Youtube, and LinkedIn, communicating with the public and business owners alike to draw everyone closer together and make local businesses more accessible and available to the community.

Without your help, we wouldn’t have achieved such great things in 2014. Winnebago Buy Local is 100% volunteer, simple and grassroots. We are membership funded and depend on your support to exist. We are all hard-working business owners striving to make Winnebago County a better place for LOCAL businesses. Your business makes our county shine.

What members should watch for in 2015

• More business and community-oriented blogs on our website

• Tools for our members to broaden their exposure to the public eye

• More FREE educational events for businesses

• E-Digest to share members’ B2B promotions

• Winnebago Buy Local Month proclaimed county-wide in August 2015

• Great public events to raise awareness of local businesses such as A Totally Local Ice Cream Social and A Local Holiday Market

We thank you for your continued support in another amazing year … 2015, here we come!

From the Jan. 28-Feb. 3, 2015, issue

You might also like

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!