Brent Schulkin, a 27-year-old Stanford grad living in San Francisco, had an idea: encourage profit-hungry companies to do good by promising to spend more money with them. But he wouldn't be making all the purchases himself; he'd bring a mob.
That was the inspiration for Carrotmob, his loosely organized group of conscious consumers. The goal was to make an environmentally friendly store.
Schulkin visited 23 liquor stores in his Mission District neighborhood, and asked each one how much money they'd be willing to set aside for energy efficiency improvements from the profits of Carrotmob's spending. The bidding started at 10%, and increased slightly until K&D Market offered the winning bid of 23%.
Next experts came in to inspect K&D and to offer suggestions for energy improvements. And then the day of the mob came, and Schulkin wondered if anyone would show.
Hundreds of people turned out and spent over $9000 at K&D. (You can see footage from the event on Carrotmob.org and it's worth watching just for the spoof hip hop video they filmed inside the store). With the profits made, which were double what K&D had anticipated, the store owners will be able to completely redo their lighting system. Plus lots of goods were donated to the San Francisco Food Bank.
This initial Carrotmob campaign had an environmental bent, but Schulkin plans to expand. He said, "The goal for this particular campaign was to test out the concept of harnessing consumer power to make a business more environmentally friendly, but I hope someday to use this model to make improvements on all sorts of issues."
Schulkin has been busy with his day job (a game developer) and answering e-mails, but he says he's been following K&D's progress.
As for future Carrotmob events, Schulkin says there is major interest and he's looking forward to the next one: "It's a very exciting time for Carrotmob! There is a great deal of interest in the concept, and I'm spending a lot of time talking to a lot of smart people about what we should do next. I'm interested in running more campaigns here in the SF Bay Area, but at the same time I want to encourage the development of campaigns in other regions around the world. Furthermore, the sooner we start turning our attention to larger companies, the greater environmental impact we can have."
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