A festival that comes to Northville each August may look like any summertime fair, but behind the temporary town of tents, banners, bands and children's play areas is a successful effort to build up fledgling Michigan-made businesses.
For five years the Buy Michigan Now festival
has shut down Main & Center streets and opened 2 1/2 blocks of downtown to small- and medium-sized Michigan businesses looking for exposure for their goods and services. Dozens and dozens of times over the years, says Buy Michigan Now founder Lisa Diggs, the vendor-customer connection made at the fair propels entrepreneurial ideas into commercial reality.
"We've had businesses that grew out of the event in a great way, where they've gone on to get on store shelves. Others have opened their own shops or offices. We're sort of a little breeding ground for that kind of success," says Diggs.
This year, as in past years, about 100 vendors will bring all sorts of products, such as foods, patio furniture, smartphone repair services, to the festival. Small businesses in downtown Northville are also part of the event, which draws large crowds with its carefully-screened vendors, a beer and wine garden where Michigan crafters sell their liquid handiwork, live entertainment and a kids' play area spread across the festival area.
The 2014 festival is Aug. 1, 2 and 3, and applications for vendors are now being taken online here
"It's a campaign and a festival with a cause," says Diggs, an entrepreneur herself. Through Buy Michigan Now
and her consulting work as owner of The Catalyst Co., she promotes businesses in a number of ways throughout the year, including providing publicity and media exposure that is normally too costly for a start-up.
The first year of the Buy Michigan Now campaign was in 2007 and came with heavy involvement from the state of Michigan and Gov. Jennifer Granholm. It was a weeklong event with numerous celebrations and promotion. It formed at a time when Michigan's economy was tanking and when the mindset of buying local was taking shape.
"We're literally about getting more people to sit up and take notice of where their product or service comes from. The idea when we started was to have a day for people to think about how to buy only Michigan products, make a meal only from Michigan. Then we realized we needed much more than a day."
Source: Lisa Diggs, founder Buy Michigan Now
Writer: Kim North Shine