Union County is one of those places that embraces local commerce. It’s a place full of makers, artists, harvesters and generally welcoming folks who understand the importance of supporting one another.

Many businesses and organizations in Union County not only shop local, they talk local. They’re able to stay social with one another both online and in-person. They utilize their shareable resources and provide soft referrals by encouraging their individual audiences to participate with other businesses and organization.

Michelle Sirles, vice president of Rendleman Orchards, has become a gateway to all things Union County. While developing an online presence that very accurately depicts life in the orchards, Sirles has been successful at incorporating other local businesses and organizations into the stories she shares with the world.

The online relationships established and showcased to audiences often evolve into fruitful face-to-face activities offline. Such is the case with their Fall Market event, where dozens of local vendors organized to showcase their offerings at Rendleman Orchards. The local vendors, ranging from small gifts to local foods, were able to use their collective voices to reach tens of thousands of people online. Their willingness to talk local resulted in a steady stream of visitors throughout the day, hundreds at a time, who chose to shop local.

Steve Grimmer of Alto Clay Works is one of seven potters who organize another local event, the Shawnee Hills Pottery Trail. These potters have created value for one another by sharing resources, such as their contact lists, and keeping their talk local.

Grimmer says that all of the potters involved in the Shawnee Hills Pottery Trail brought together their mailing lists, both email and postal, to reach as many of their established consumers as possible.

“Including people doesn’t make you cut the pie into more pieces. It makes the pie bigger,” Grimmer said. “We marketed through Facebook and through email. The seven of us combined our contact lists so we did a post card mailing. … We have a Facebook page and a website. Between all of those we try to get the word out best we can.”

Thanks to the success of this strategy the potters have been able to increase their efforts for this event, even adding another potter to their trail.

It’s not just established businesses who see the value in keeping their talk local. Jerri Schaefer of Havisham House has been successful because of the extended voice she has through her Union County community.

“Everyone helps everyone. It’s amazing. The people that have shared my posts on Facebook, really, it’s almost like I have people working for me,” says Shaefer. “They are just so good at extending that generosity by sharing my information with their guests, and their customers and their friends on social media and in return I try do the same for them. [We] want people to see what Southern Illinois has to offer.”

For Schaefer, these local conversations have led to even greater meaning than expected, providing value for community members who have personal connections to the property that has become her new business.

“People have such a better way to connect because of social media therefore I’m learning things about that house that I would have never known,” Schaefer said of her property. “As it spread on social media I would have private messages come through and people telling me their stories of how they were connected to Alto Pass and that house specifically. That has helped me build a small timeline and history of the home.”

These stories go to show that you never know what is possible until you decide to share your voice with others. There are positive outcomes to be had when sharing your digital resources with other local entities. Investing a small amount of your time to keeping talk local with other businesses, organizations, and community members can have an exponential payoff for your local community down the road.

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