The brainchild of Michael and Katrina Scotto di Carlo, these Portlanders saw a need for one card to take the place of all those pesky punch cards. Each time you shop at one of the participating businesses (101 of them!), you earn points. With these points you can purchase specific products or services offered by the participating businesses. An Iphone App with a map of the Supportland network is currently in the works, in the meantime you can set-up an account here, or pick up your very own free Supportland card at any of the participating businesses. Earn 15 points for patronizing a new business and 5 for hitting up your usual faves. The Supportland family includes boutiques, restaurants, classes/events, and services. Cargo, Crafty Wonderland, Food Fight! Grocery, and Common Ground Wellness Center are all a part of Supportland, just to name a few. For a complete list and for more information about Supportland click here. If you are a local business owner interested in joining click here.
- Kayla Rekofke
I had heard about this local initiative here and there, but never looked into it. According to their Facebook page, they are an "Extra-fancy rewards network for the finest locally-owned businesses in Portland." It's far more than that, though. You earn points for your purchases at local businesses that you can redeem for goods and services. It's a great incentive to shop local and be rewarded for it, aside from the joy of helping out your hood. So, I joined the program and my feet treats earned me quite a few points! I'm trying out a new salon next month (review coming in the future…) and I saw that they were recently added to the list: New Vintage Beauty Lounge.
I found this out when I got an email from Supportland today showing their updated business list.
And what to my wondering eyes should appear…
But Kanya's tattooed thigh, and her gorgeous, happy deer!
Yep, that is Kanya's thigh! I'll let her tell you the story of that awesome piece from a local shop out here in Oregon, but I thought it was pretty fantastic that they used this image in the email.
Supportland works like this: Make a purchase at your local record shop or massage therapist and get 15 points for your first time there. Get five points for each transaction after that. Then, just like the punchcards of yesteryear, once you get enough punches/points, trade it in for a free cookie/smoothie/haircut. Except with Supportland, you can trade in your points for an offer from any of the participating businesses. Swipe your card every morning when you get coffee down the street, and soon you'll have enough points for a free T-shirt.
Pretty sweet deal for consumers, but how do businesses benefit?
Local businesses pay $49 a month to participate in the program. Besides the fact that they get a nifty sticker to put in their window declaring them part of the Supportland crew, the businesses also get to offer three deals to customers, of which two can be used metro-wide. Businesses also can offer one of the more classic punchcard-variety rewards: for example, every 10 purchases at Cellar Door Coffee Roasters you get a free 12-ounce bag of coffee.
Businesses also get access to a wide array of information on consumer spending. Supportland doesn't track customer's personal information, but they do track spending metrics, like what other nearby businesses a customer frequents.
Katrina Scotto di Carlo pitches Supportland to local businesses each week around Portland, and plans to ramp that up to three informational sessions a week with businesses. This is quite a big step for Supportland, which she launched in August 2010 with her husband, Michael. Within the first month, 6,000 Supportland cards went into circulation. That number is now 17,135 and growing fast. (Consumers can only get the cards at participating businesses.)
There's also more in the pipeline for Supportland in the near future. The owners are working on smart phone apps so customers can check-in on their phone rather than swiping a card. They also are creating new ways to earn points. "The future of Supportland is doing good and giving back to the community," Katrina says. So far that may mean getting extra points for working out at the Green Microgym in Alberta, where people actually generate electricity by using the exercise machines. In the future, it could be getting extra points for volunteering.
Katrina and Michael are looking into ways to make Supportland benefit a wider array of businesses. The biggest hurdle so far has been restaurants because of their proprietary POS systems. Currently, they're partnering with ¿Por Qué No? on Mississippi Avenue to find a way around this (the solution may be as simple as a separate tablet provided to each restaurant for swiping the rewards cards).
The Scotto di Carlos just returned from the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) conference in Bellingham, Wash. Michael programmed the Supportland software to work anywhere, not just the test market of Portland. At the conference, they connected with four other West Coast communities, which are now interested in trying out Supportland. "We're totally keyed into the larger buy local movement," Katrina says.
- Emma Hall
At the heart of this energy seems to be a sort of local pride. And we know that local is an important sustainability issue because it transcends the pillars (social, personal, environmental, spiritual). Supportland is an incentive program for local businesses which encourages customers to support local by using a swipe card at participating shops. It seems to be taking the idea of creating local currency to a level that is actually implementable and integrative. A cool branding project too employing lovely illustrations which makes it seem more accessible. Learn about how Supportland works here. I could see this system implemented in East Vancouver. We'll have to let Vancouver's Greenest City Initiative know about, if they don't already.
But as cutting edge and grass roots as the Portland scene is, it's always a pleasure to take a step back and have a laugh. Enter Portlandia – a dreamy and absurd rendering of Portland, Oregon. My first experience was the episode 'Is is local' where the two main characters, Fred Armisen and Carri Brownstein, are out for lunch and are probing the server about the chicken they may order. I could not stop laughing.
Increasingly, businesses are rewarding consumers for good behavior
The Speed Camera Lottery: As part of its Fun Theory campaign, Volkswagen ran a competition in which consumers submitted ideas to prove that most people will do the "right" thing if it's fun. After selecting American Kevin Richardson as the winner, Volkswagen tapped The Swedish National Society for Road Safety to bring Richardson's idea, The Speed Camera Lottery, to fruition. The concept? Drivers who respect speed limits enter a lottery in which they can win the fines collected from those who do not. Using speedometers and cameras, the idea was tested for three days in Stockholm and the average speed dropped from 32 km/h to 25 km/h. If only someone would conceive such a creative way to stop people from texting while driving.
Fashion Trade: Donating wardrobe rejects to charity shops may seem altruistic but, sometimes, it may not be any better than taking them straight to the dump, since only a small percentage of such clothes are actually acceptable for resale. Following the lead of Marks and Spencer's Oxfam Clothes Exchange, both the Australian Red Cross and the New Zealand Red Cross forged a similar partnership with fashion retailer Country Road. Rather than just dropping unwanted rags at the nearest Red Cross store, donors are encouraged to include at least one pre-loved Country Road article. Those who do so receive a $10 voucher for use towards their next purchase of $50 or more at Country Road. Hmmm, fast fashion may not be such a bad thing after all.
Supportland: Buying local is second nature to most thoughtful consumers, but the decision is typically a personal one if it costs extra to patronize the hometown underdog. Supportland, a Portland-based collective of "neighborhood-business huggers," has launched a rewards card for 70 of the city's best local businesses. Shoppers who have the card can earn points redeemable for specific products and services. Unlike the standard rewards card points that can be used at only one retailer, Supportland points can be used across a wide network of stores. Designed so that it can be rebranded for any city, Supportland plans to go national later this year. Naturally, an iPhone app version is also forthcoming.
Neighborhood Notes, Portland, Ore. - September 14th, 2010
The bar is locally-owned and part of its draw. The Portlander places an order, and when it's time to pay, she pulls out a Supportland card along with her credit card. The bartender swipes both cards-the credit card for payment, and the Supportland card to gain rewards points for visiting a participating local business.
Whenever this Portlander visits a business with a Supportland sticker in its window, it's second verse, same as the first-she gets points for supporting a local business, whether it's a pastry shop, specialty fabric store, dentist, or mechanic. And when the points accumulate, they're good for rewards from any local business using the Supportland network.
"[The points system] is broad, so people use it more," said Gina Cadenasso, owner of Bolt Neighborhood Fabric Boutique and a partner at Modern Domestic, both on Alberta Street. "It's not like getting a coupon for something you aren't going to use anyway."
A Tech Start-Up With a Huge Community Piece
Gina Cadenasso, owner of Bolt in Concordia, is a member of Supportland.
Katrina and Michael Scotto di Carlo launched Supportland August 4 to provide local, independent business owners with electronic means for tracking customer purchases and rewards points, all with the aim to bolster the local business community.
The tech start-up has 44 member businesses who pay $49 per month to use Supportland's software, and about 350 are waiting to join. Within its first month of operation, 6,000 Supportland cards went into circulation, racking up more than 25,000 sales transactions at local businesses.
A consumer can get up to five points daily for visiting Supportland member businesses, plus 15 points for each swipe at a business visited for the first time.
A Supportland iPhone application for member businesses is near-completion and awaiting approval from Apple, Katrina Scotto di Carlo said. Consumer apps for the iPhone and Droid are also in the works, and would allow customers to track Supportland points on their phones in lieu of cards.
"It seemed like a really powerful, well thought out program," Cadenasso said. "It kind of walks the line of an alternative currency, but not to a point where it's going to become a legal issue."
Power in Numbers
The Supportland window sticker. Look for it in your neighborhood!
The Supportland software network doesn't track customers' personal information, Katrina Scotto di Carlo said, but it does provide local businesses with collective sales data.
"The metrics don't have to do with personal information, just with keeping money in the local economy," she said.
For Jessie Burke, use of Supportland cards has given a clearer idea of how many customers her Posies Cafe serves in North Portland. Posies went through its first 100 cards in less than a week and now has about 350 in circulation, she said.
Cadenasso found that the Supportland software helped her learn about customer patterns among the network's members.
"If we have a high percentage of shared customers, then we know we can do some collaboration," such as joint advertising and events, she said. "It's huge because all of these local businesses typically have a few people running them and it's hard to get out and network."
Good Riddance, Punch Cards
Posies Cafe in Kenton.
The Scotto di Carlos' services to member businesses include virtual coupon capability, sales incentive programs, and the ability to contact customers electronically with sales offers. But its most popular use seems to be its replacement of the paper punch card.
"You could have several punch cards on one of our cards," Katrina Scotto di Carlo said. "Good riddance, all those paper punch cards."
For Burke, electronic punch cards were a key selling point in the program.
"I was sold because it justified the monthly expense" of $49, she said. "We go through about 1,000 paper stamp cards every two months, so the cost of printing those was going to be more than just having these reusable cards."
The Expansion Paradox
Supportland founders Katrina and Michael Scotto di Carlo,
in front of member Reading Frenzy.
Most of Supportland's member businesses lie near the company's home base in North Portland, but its waiting list includes businesses throughout the city. The waiting list also includes a handful of businesses from Vancouver, Milwaukee and Beaverton, highlighting the Scotto di Carlos' challenge-to stay true to their original intent of local support while expanding their company's reach.
"We're unwavering in our commitment to local businesses. But we'll go where businesses want us to go," Katrina Scotto di Carlo said. She added that the company doesn't have a sales team and that nearly all its members have come via word of mouth.
While it sounds like an oxymoron, the couple have a broad vision of their localcentric work, and hope to take it to small networks of independent business owners outside Portland.
"We want to hand off the network to a buy-local group, a government organization, a community bank, or an individual who really gets it," Katrina Scotto di Carlo said.
From there, the software would be redesigned and rebranded by designers from the new network's local area, she said. Its local operators would receive revenue from members' monthly fees, and would likely pay Supportland for use of the technology.
Katrina Scotto di Carlo said she's not sure whether this type of business plan would lead the company to become a franchisor-the very type of business that Supportland typically excludes from its membership.*
How do YOU define local?
All this shines the light on the often-nebulous definition of the term "local business."
"We're not going to be the intellectual front for what is local," Katrina Scotto di Carlo said. "But it seems like a lot of big questions are being asked now."
Supportland's current member businesses have at least 51 percent of their ownership based in the Portland Metro area. In line with guidelines of the Sustainable Business Network of Portland, member businesses must be privately held, hold registered headquarters in the local metro area, be able to make business decisions independently, and pay all business expenses without corporate assistance.
If a business is Portland-based with locations outside the metro area, an outlying location cannot operate the Supportland software until a new Supportland network develops in that area, she said.
Likewise, Portland business owners running a franchise of a larger business based elsewhere cannot join Supportland, she said.
"There's an emotional response sometimes from franchise owners because they don't qualify as locally owned," she said. "We're here to support the people who don't get support from an umbrella organization."
While the ideal would be to spend money solely at locally and independently owned businesses that offer locally sourced and manufactured products, independent Portland business owners see the value in growing a business beyond a mom-and-pop shop.
"I think New Seasons is as much a local business as I am," Burke said. "Every business owner hopes that there is a great enough demand for their product [so] that opening more than one location proves beneficial to both parties [business and consumer]."
*Portland-based franchisors that meet all other membership criteria can use Supportland at their locations in the Portland Metro area. But a franchisee that is supported by a franchisor based outside the Portland Metro area cannot become a member.
- Charity Thompson
Radosta swiped the card and got 15 points for the first time he used it at the Cellar Door. The points can be used at any of the local businesses in the Supportland network, currently numbering 36 and growing by the day.
Radosta, 38-year-old freelance writer, said he read about Supportland on Facebook. "It seemed like a great idea because I believe that consumers have a lot of buying power and if they can keep money in the community, I'm all for it," he said.
Supportland is the brainchild of Katrina and Michael Scotto di Carlo of St. Johns.
The card allows shoppers to acquire credit points and cash them in at local businesses. The Cellar Door, for example, offers a "cup of Joe" for 25 points. The card replaces punch cards and other bonus systems. It's more like the reward cards used by big box retailers. And for businesses, it's both a marketing tool and a way to tap into consumer's desire to spend money locally.
"I think what's really interesting, is it takes a concept people understand, reward cards, and mixes in punch cards, and mixes in a desire to support local businesses," said Jeremy Adams, owner of the Cellar Door. "It's getting something while doing the right thing."
Adams said it is easy to get into. All he needed was a web connection, which he acquired with a $40 computer purchase.
Katrina Scotto di Carlo said about 700 people have gotten the card since the couple launched the system earlier this month.
Thirty-six businesses have registered, but there are more than 300 in the cue to be registered, Scotto di Carlo said. "The slowest part of the process is I have to meet with everyone, one on one," she said.
Michael Scotto di Carlo has a technical background, and recently gave up his tenured position as a professor of computer technology at Clark College to work full time on the program.
"He comes up with business ideas all the time, and so to shut him up, I said don't tell me a plan unless you can do it for 20 years, we can do it together, we don't have to work other jobs, and it makes the world better," Katrina Scotto di Carlo said. "This was the first idea that passed the test."
Katrina Scotto di Carlo has an arts background and designed the Supportland points card, which features Kenton's Paul Bunyan straddling a log and knitting, roses, beavers, a coffee-drinking raccoon and a snow-packed mountain in the distance.
The couple worked on the concept for about three years.
"I think the story is more about how rad it is that locally-owned businesses have stepped up to work together, sharing customers." Scotto di Carlo said. "People can get points in one place and spend it somewhere else."
The card is free to consumers, but businesses pay $49 a month to be in the network.
So far, businesses that have signed up seem excited about it.
"I think it's a great idea," said Tony Fuentes, owner of Milagros Boutique in Northeast Portland, a children's clothing store.
"Anything that helps incentivize buying local and shopping local is a good thing," Fuentes said. "The beauty of it from the consumer side is it's very simple," he said. "One card. No separate cards for separate businesses."
One of the big advantages for businesses is the ability to attract customers from other participating businesses, Fuentes said. "It allows you to leverage a customer base you may not have had access to before."
"If someone is shopping for shoes, or adult fashions, and wants to deal with a local boutique for the children's clothes, it gives them a way to know we exist and another reason to come in and try it out," he said.
Fuentes said his store has "given out probably over a hundred cards in the last ten days." And instead of only using the points toward immediate purchases, customers also have the option to cash in 200 points for a $20 gift certificate.
At Common Ground Wellness Cooperative in Northeast Portland, cardholders can get a one-hour soak and a sauna for 140 points.
Bob New, development coordinator, said the idea may eventually turn into an alternative currency system.
At Java Bead & Trade in Irvington, a sign greets shoppers at the front door saying "Good Bye Bonus Cards, Hello Supportland!"
Amber Traeden, store manager, said they have given out about 200 of the cards so far. The incentive they offer is free time in their metal-smithing studio, three hours for 25 points.
The Scotto di Carlos hope is to expand the idea locally, and then link up with similar efforts elsewhere.
"We like to imagine stepping off a plane in Italy and using our Supportland account to find the true-local among the faux-local. With big-box technology in the hands of the little guys, anything is possible," the Supportland website says.
"So, the goal is a huge network that really rock the economy," Scotto di Carlo said.
- James Mayer
Enter Supportland LLC, a Web-based rewards card accepted at a network of locally owned businesses. Currently in beta testing, the program will be formally introduced to consumers across Portland this spring.
The company is the effort of the husband-and-wife team of Michael and Katrina Scotto di Carlo of North Portland. The concept was hatched a few years ago, while Michael Scotto di Carlo was a tenured professor at Clark College. As the idea progressed, Scotto di Carlo left his teaching position to work on Supportland full time. The couple have bootstrapped the project thus far.
Supportland is a local currency - one that complements legal tender and seeks to encourage local spending by offering a regionally exclusive trade medium. In order to participate, businesses must meet criteria established by Portland's Sustainable Business Network. Implications include being locally owned, and adhering to the values of sustainable business as defined by the network.
There is no physical backing of the currency. Like traditional reward cards, the exchange occurs electronically in the form of "points." The rewards points work in two directions: business to consumer and consumer to business. A business can offer points when a specific item or service is purchased. In addition, a business can offer an item or service in exchange for points. Points are introduced through new businesses that sign up with Supportland. The system is closed, so points hold no monetary value.
For businesses, membership consists of the following elements:
-$49 monthly membership
-Simple USB card swiper
-Online tracking software and marketing tools
Consumers can also join the program and get access to the following amenities:
-Free card and membership
-Smartphone app with proximity map
The program's software was designed from the ground up by the Scotto di Carlos' and a team of volunteers. Although similar to other local currencies - such as the BerkShares in Massachusetts - the Scotto di Carlos said the Supportland program is not directly influenced by any preceding initiatives.
Revenue is derived from the monthly business membership. Additional features, such as expanded research and marketing tools, will be available as add-ons in the future. After the launch, they hope to bring on as many as a dozen employees, including managerial and development teams. If successful in Portland, the team plans to adapt the program model for other communities.
Supportland is currently accepting pre-registration on their Web site for businesses and individuals. The Scotto di Carlos anticipate a city-wide launch in April.
- Mason Walker
social networking with a unique customer rewards card. Scheduled to launch in mid March, they have developed a card system where customers can gain points at one local business and spend them at another local business. All participating businesses will be listed on a map enabled I-phone app so Supportland card holders will know where they can earn points and spend them.
A specialty of the card is that a business can decide on the fly to run a special today for an hour or more and it will immediately ding all the iphone users with in 1/2 mile that have subscribed to the blitz list, plus broadcast it on facebook, twitter and on the Supportland website.
The free card is getting a lot of interest from businesses and consumers and anyone interested in learning more can go to Supportland.com to pre register or see a short video of how the Supportland system works.
- Susan Place
Rewards card to stimulate local economy
Supportland is kind of like those rewards cards you get at stores like Fred Meyer, except it is used for multiple local businesses. And shockingly enough, it seems like a good system.
Support the economy by supporting local businesses, and if that was not enough of a reward for you, do not fear: The businesses do promotions via the card so that loyal customers can also benefit. Seems like a win-win all around.
Let's face it. Who does not like rewards? And getting the card itself is also free. That is a beautiful price to anyone, but especially college students who are broke anyway and spend way too much money on overpriced classes and textbooks.
Supportland is a point system. Each business on the Supportland network will have at least one incentive for customers who acquire points and one incentive for using those points. Cardholders get these points by making specific purchases at participating businesses.
Each of these businesses will also have specific products that one can buy with the points that they rack up. There is a plethora of ways to figure out just what products cardholders can buy with points. The Supportland Web site is a great resource and you can find Supportland through Facebook, Twitter or even an iPhone application.
This is a new, innovative and great way to get Portland's economy going again. Although Supportland will not solve Portland's economic crisis alone, it will certainly help to revamp it.
With Supportland, the money you spend stays local. And money that is spent in the area then circulates to other local businesses. That money then helps support local businesses, which helps supports local jobs and goes towards local taxes, and so forth.
Unfortunately, now that you are all excited about this exciting new way to support Portland's economy, you will have to wait approximately a month for the card to be released, as they are still in the beta launch phase.
However, according to the website, once Portland is covered, the plan is to attack the greater Portland-Metro area with Supportland-including Southwest Washington.
So hopefully by the end of 2010, one can be supporting local businesses in neighboring communities rather than just the immediate city of Portland.
The key for this to work is Portlanders-we have to make it work. The support of the card will support the local economy. The beauty of this system is that the cardholder knows where their money is going, what it is supporting and if they are a frequent shopper, they very likely know the people and the jobs that they are supporting.
This whole idea is much better than those rewards cards that support big businesses like Fred Meyer, because Supportland is backing local business. Thus, it is helping the local economy. Our economy. And everyone knows that our economy needs help.
- Meaghan Daniels
Cardholders earn and spend incentive points by shopping at businesses throughout the network. The card lets consumers earn points at one location and spend them network-wide.
The idea, owners Katrina and Michael Scotto di Carlo say, is to create a web of homegrown businesses that gives mom-and-pop shops the power to compete with big-box stores.
Michael Scotto di Carlo left his job teaching technology courses at Clark College to design the system. The cards also generate sales feedback to businesses. Supportland anonymously tracks sales and spending patterns at members stores to provide owners with the type of information that large corporations use to determine spending and marketing campaigns. Business owners pay a monthly fee to participate, but the card is free to consumers.
About 50 North Portland businesses participated in the launch. The Scotto di Carlos hope to go city-wide by the end of 2010 and eventually take the plan nationwide.
Later this year, Supportland will introduce an iPhone application that lets users search and map participating stores and track their points.
Cards are available online at supportland.com.
- Holly Goodman
Portland, Ore. - December 18, 2009 -
This unique system is based on Supportland points. Consumers can acquire points from local businesses and spend points for products and services by using the Supportland Card or iPhone app. The type of products and services offered will vary as greatly as the Supportland network itself, which has been designed to serve everyone from individual tutors to large local grocery stores. To expedite the consumer experience, all incentives will be automatically filtered with location-based technology via the website or iPhone app.
The Supportland Card is free and can be picked up at any participating businesses or ordered online at Supportland.com. Consumers can immediately start using the card at any businesses displaying a Supportland window sticker, or they can register their card through the Supportland website or iPhone app to get real-time and web-exclusive incentives.
"We're still a few months from a city-wide launch and already the enthusiasm is palpable," says Supportland owner Katrina Scotto di Carlo. "Small businesses are excited to have a level playing field with the huge chains, and Portlanders are stoked that buying local will be easier. We have so much technology around us, it's about time it was affordable to everyone."
The beta launch is set for January 1, 2010, and will focus primarily on local businesses in the St. Johns neighborhood. Supportland will soon expand the incentive program to businesses throughout Portland and the surrounding area. Local businesses that sign up prior to the beta launch will receive select perks.
Consumers and business owners can now go to Supportland.com to read Twitter feed, get a sneak peak of the site's woodsy design featuring Kenton neighborhood's Paul Bunyan, and view a short video that explains the Supportland system. This network is designed to benefit both consumers and business owners by incentivizing local consumption and solidifying a local customer base. It promises to bring local consumers and local businesses together in an unprecedented way, building on the dedication to localism and community that already pervades Portland.
Supportland is owned and operated by Katrina and Michael Scotto di Carlo. The Scotto di Carlos founded Supportland out of a common desire to see the local business community thrive. They combined their talents in design and programming with the talents of many volunteers, to create a service that embodies the unique spirit of Portland. They are committed to preserving and cultivating that spirit.