OWNERS: Donald and Anna Russell
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 6 months
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: One half-time
WHAT THEY SELL: Free classified advertising, free display ads for non-profits, paid display ads for businesses
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: To promote events, products, and services at the community level
Donald Russell and his wife, Anna, are eager to help local residents, non-profits, and businesses get the word out to the community. Their online community-based bulletin board has something for everyone. Whether you’re a community member looking to sell something, a non-profit seeking ways to promote an event, or a business wanting to market a new product, Donald and Anna want to help you reach more people.
Donald, when and why did you decide to start your business? Fourteen years ago, before the internet was as widely used as it is today, our dog went out on the street and was picked up by a stranger who thought she was lost. I wanted to put an ad in the newspaper to try to find her, but it was a Friday, and the paper wasn’t able to publish my ad until Monday. I’m a computer programmer, and I thought to myself, “There must be a way to use the internet to help reach people quicker and easier for such upsetting events as losing your dog.” It was then that I thought of an instant electronic Community Bulletin Board. I registered the name and have been sitting on it for 14 years until I felt I was able to create and promote the website. [The happy ending to the lost dog story is that a woman responded to the newspaper ad on Monday and returned the dog.]
By 2014, I had the time and the money to launch the Community Bulletin Board. Nine months before the actual launch date, I hired a web designer to create the website. The CBB was officially launched this May at a Salem Chamber of Commerce event called “Showbiz”. It’s a big annual event at the state fairgrounds that draws about 3,000 people.
Tell us more about your services. We offer free classified ads including job postings and free display ads for non-profits. All classified ads are free for individuals and businesses with no limits for photos or the number of classified ads placed. There is a special classified category created for businesses called Sales and Store Coupons. Businesses also have the option to buy display ads at very nominal rates. Placing display ads support the websites and demonstrates a business’s interest in supporting the community-based web services. The Community Bulletin Board is physically based in Corvallis, but it’s a state-wide venue and is only available in Oregon at this time. Currently, we cover cities from Eugene to Portland and will soon cover all of Oregon.
CBB is similar to Craig’s list, and it can be used in addition to Craig’s list. The difference is that we have no personals, social networking, or blogging. Most importantly, we’re community-based rather than internet-based. Another unique attribute is that you can post items and events at the city level. For example, you can post just for Corvallis – and we even created a section that’s devoted to community sustainability called “Corvallis (green)”. So if you want to reach the sustainability community in Corvallis, you can place ads and events in this section. Eventually, the website will be searchable at the college campus level and even at the neighborhood level in larger cities, making it easier to find items or houses in a specific area without having to scroll through hundreds of ads spread out over a wide area.
When we get to a certain level of profitability, we’ll give a portion of our proceeds back to the community. We’ll return dollars to the local community where the display ads are posted so there’s a feedback loop. All of the revenue will not go out of state or to one central location, draining income from local businesses and communities. We’ll also create a way for non-profits and special fund raising campaigns to collect donations on the site.
What does being featured as the Local Business of the Week mean to you? It allows us to increase our visibility to the business community. Hopefully, it will encourage people to become aware of CommunityBulletinBoard.com and use the website.
Does your business fill an unusual niche? Why should people patronize your business? The Community Bulletin Board is unique in a couple of important ways. Craigslist doesn’t allow display advertising, but we do. That’s significant because businesses are looking for places to advertise since newspaper use and effectiveness is decreasing. Also, we’re community-based. We want to help build community through our business.
What challenges have you faced as an independent local business owner?
(Donald) Our biggest challenge is marketing. We’ve received assistance and mentoring from the Small Business Development Center in Salem, and they’ve been very helpful. We’re looking for additional resources to help with marketing. Perhaps someone in CIBA offers marketing services or knows of someone who does.
(Anna) People ask me, “Why should we use the Community Bulletin Board and not just Craigslist?” They need to understand that CBB gives them another opportunity. Businesses and non-profits need to promote wherever they can. And our website is local, not national. We believe in the “Buy Local First” campaign, and we want to encourage people to look at local businesses and events instead of going outside the community.
What do you feel is the impact of local independent businesses on Corvallis, and what does the future look like for the local independents? Locally owned independent businesses make for a stronger community and keeps income here. With people ordering so much on line, the dynamics are changing so fast it is hard to know how viable small businesses will be in the future. Internet sales really hurt small local businesses. On the other hand, I know small businesses in McMinnville and Corvallis that are also selling on line. Local specialized niches will also be more viable and important for survival. In general, we want to support local businesses because the more local businesses there are in a city, the more stable and healthy the community will be. I notice that I have changed my buying patterns to buy more locally to support the small independent stores and local providers of goods and services.
What do you enjoy most about owning a local, independent business in Corvallis?
(Anna) When I go to meetings and talk to people, they say, “This [the Community Bulletin Board] is a great idea!” Their eyes widen. It’s very encouraging.
(Donald) What I enjoy most is meeting new people, networking, and being involved with the business community.
(Anna) It feels good to be able to help the community.
What is your relationship to the community? We belong to both CIBA and the Sustainability Coalition. We are becoming regulars at the Farmer Market. We also donate to the Heartland Humane Society and other organizations like OPB.
How important is sustainability to you and your business?
(Anna) Sustainability IS our business!
(Donald) The Community Bulletin Board is part of a healthy feedback loop. It helps people communicate, sell things locally, and share things locally, encouraging reuse of materials. Also, we’re hoping our business will be able to hire a staff and create decent paying jobs in the Corvallis area. That’s an important part of sustainability.
Please give us your one-sentence take-away message about your business. CommunityBulletinBoard.com is here to help all of us communicate freely and connect at the community level for the exchange of goods and services, job postings and events and activities from the convenience of our homes or offices.
(Interview and article by Annette Mills – September 2, 2014)
The Local Business of the Week program is designed to help the Corvallis community identify our locally owned independent businesses by featuring one business each week. The program is part of the Buy Local First campaign co-sponsored by the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition and the Community Independent Business Alliance (CIBA).