Third Anniversary for 'Winnebago Buy Local'

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WINNEBAGO (WIFR) -- A local organization that promotes small businesses is celebrating its third anniversary tonight. Winnebago Buy Local gives business owners a chance to network, and learn from others in the trade.

Mary Johnson revs up her massive printer to create one of her many commissioned signs for the day. Johnson has been operating A-Sign Designs out her home since 2000. She says she gets most of her business by networking with other business owners

"Mostly local businesses. We do on occasion do things for franchises, but mostly people that are opening up independent shops," Mary said.

Johnson is one of more than a hundred small business owners in Winnebago County part of Winnebago Buy Local. Crystal Douglas opened Wired Cafe in 2010, and says the organization helped her get her business up and running.

"It's just a good group of people. We're all like-minded. You know, we're all fighting the same struggles. And it's just nice to know that there's somebody out there like you,” said Douglas.

The main mission of Winnebago Buy Local is to encourage shoppers to spend their money at a small businesses.

"Small businesses and local businesses are the heartbeat of a community. So we would be losing our unique imprint and impact into this community if we were to lose all of that. It's the people of Rockford, and the businesses of Rockford, that make Rockford great and special,” said Gregg Giamalva.

Winnebago Buy Local says each time money is spent at a locally owned business, more of that money stays in the community than at a non-locally owned retailer.

Winnebago Buy Local offers its members the chance to cross-promote one another by advertising for other businesses within their stores. Members also meet once a month to hear a guest speaker talk about best business practices.

If you’re interested in learning more about Winnebago Buy Local, you can stop by the event at Giovanni’s from 6:00-8:00 p.m. tonight. For more information visit

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